Either USA or Canada are 80 minutes away from qualification for Rugby World Cup 2019 and the other is the same time away from despair. The first leg in Hamilton, Ontario, was unable to separate these two fierce rivals as this great North American derby ended in a 28-28 draw for only the second time in history.
The simple equation now is that the winner on Saturday will qualify for Japan as Americas 1 and will join England, France, Argentina and Oceania 2 in Pool C. The loser faces the uncertainty of a two-leg play-off against a resurgent Uruguay for the right to qualify as Americas 2 and slot in to Pool D with Australia, Wales, Georgia and Oceania 2.
The teams will feel they left something out on Tim Horton’s Field last Saturday, both having late opportunities to win. And the respective coaches, John Mitchell (USA) and Mark Anscombe (Canada), will not have to do much in the way of motivation for what is the biggest game of their year in San Diego’s Torero Stadium on 1 July.
This will be the 58th time USA and Canada have met at international level, with currently the Canucks leading the Eagles 38-17 with two draws. The win ratio for Canada is even more impressive in Rugby World Cup qualifiers as it currently stands at 15-4 with one draw. But, crucially, USA have not lost to Canada in the last six match-ups and that, along with home advantage, surely makes Todd Clever’s team – in what will be his final test – favourites this time around.
Before the game, a moment’s silence will be observed in memory of former Canada coach Ric Suggitt, who passed away suddenly during the week. During his illustrious career, Suggitt coached the Canada men’s and women’s senior teams as well as the men’s sevens team. He also coached the USA women’s sevens team for several years, meaning he will be sadly missed by players and supporters on both sides of the border as well as by countless friends and admirers he made throughout the global rugby family.