March 20, 2014 (ISN) – The road to Rugby World Cup 2015 continues this weekend with Uruguay hosting USA in Montevideo in the first leg of a home-and-away play-off that will deliver the winner to Pool B of the Game’s pinnacle tournament.
Hot on the heels of Georgia and Romania’s qualification through the European region, the battle of the Americas promises to be a mouth-watering encounter, with both teams vying to be named Americas 2 and join Canada from that part of the world in England next year.
The winner over the two legs will join 1995 and 2007 champions South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and the top Asian qualifier at Rugby’s showcase event.
For the loser, the dream remains alive but qualification will be achieved the hard way as they will need to progress through the repechage system by first taking on the runner-up of the Asian 5 Nations with a place in Pool A eventually up for grabs.
Going into this tie, USA probably hold the tag of slight favourites as they currently occupy 18th position in the IRB World Rankings compared to 20th-placed Uruguay.
And in previous Rugby World Cup qualifiers and in the Pan-American Championship, USA certainly have had the best of history, winning 11 times since 1989 to Uruguay’s solitary victory. The last time the two teams met was in 2009, at a similar stage of qualification for Rugby World Cup 2011 with USA winning both legs. In Montevideo, it was very close with the Eagles edging a hard-fought game 27-22 but a week later in Lauderhill, Florida, it was more comfortable with USA taking the match 27-6 to book their place in New Zealand.
You have to go back to 2002 for the last time Uruguay have emerged victorious against USA, when they took the honours by a single point, 10-9, in River Plate Stadium, Montevideo, during the RWC 2003 qualification process.
If the USA wins the first leg by more than 15 points in Montevideo on Saturday, they will climb above Romania into 17th place while Uruguay would drop one place to 21st, below Spain. But Uruguay can climb above Russia into 19th position with a win by more than 15 points so there is plenty of rankings action for both teams to play for.
With the exception of 1995 in South Africa, USA have been ever-present at the Rugby World Cup since its inception in 1987. By contrast, Uruguay have only been to two tournaments, when they qualified to do so in 1999 and 2003.
Rugby World Cup Limited Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The road to Rugby World Cup may be about winning and it is delivering eight teams to join the 12 automatic qualifiers who will compete for the sport’s biggest prize, the Webb Ellis Cup, but above all it is about participation, friendship and camaraderie and spreading Rugby’s values around the globe. Therefore, every player in this process is a champion.”
“Over the three-year qualification period, more than 3,000 players from 83 nations across all six IRB regions are participating in 203 matches in a process that involves well-established and popular regional tournaments. There have already been a few surprises along the way and I am sure that there will be more on what is a fascinating journey. On that note, I’d like to wish both teams all the best over these two legs in Uruguay and the United States. May the better team win.”