By Alan Dymock
INSURMOUNTABLE IT ain’t, but the USA Eagles have a tough task ahead, overcoming the odds and qualifying outright for Rugby World Cup 2015 after losing 27-9 to Canada in the first leg of their playoff.
Both teams now head to Toronto for the deciding match and Canada are heavy favourites to maintain or add to their 18-point advantage and qualify as the America 1 entrant into RWC Pool D with France, Ireland and Italy. In order to still make it to the RWC in England, the loser will have to win in another two-match playoff with Uruguay in order to qualify as the Americas 2 entrant to Pool B with South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and the winner of the Asia 1 qualifier, which is expected to be Japan.
Last Saturday strong performances from winger DTH Van Der Merwe, James Pritchard and Harry Jones did enough to ensure victory for Canada, while USA could only reply with kicks from Saracens full-back Chris Wyles.
Talking to the Saracens.com after the game Wyles said: “Canada were more clinical in the important areas and fed off of our mistakes. They do that often, so fair play to Canada – we’ve got to work on our execution and our basics, things like our kicking, our passing, retaining ball and performing as a team.”
On the other side, Canada captain Aaron Carpenter said: “The game didn’t go exactly to plan for either side, but we came out on top with physicality and that’s what the game comes down to in the end.”
It will take more than just good ball retention for USA to win by 19 points or more and a modest Canada must be hopeful that they can execute at Toronto’s BMO Stadium. It all comes down to Saturday.
The Eagles’ may be celebrating a sell-out for the first fixture in Charleston, NC and the continued improvements in “the country’s fastest growing team sport,” but it all counts for little if they do not topple Canada, winning for the first time since July 4, 2009.