Eagles hoping to make home advantage count in ARC
Joint leaders USA and Uruguay, who are both on nine points, face Chile and Argentina XV respectively while Canada will host Brazil as ARC 2018 reaches the crucial third round stage. All three games are on Saturday and live streaming is available via the usual World Rugby platforms.
Preparing for their third straight game in California, the Eagles seem to have the easier task than Los Teros given past results at this level. The Eagles beat Chile 64-0 in 2016 and 57-9 last year, scoring 17 unanswered tries across the two ties.
Head coach Gary Gold has made one change to the backs and four in the forwards, in a game in which flanker Psalm Wooching will make his test debut. If called up during the game, Dylan Fawsitt, Brendan Daly, Malon Al-Jiboori and Ruben de Haas could also earn their first caps.
“A few players have gone back to their professional setup,” said USA Rugby general manager Dave Hodges. “The players who have come into the camp this week have helped energise the team and will add a positive impact to the group.”
With winger Blaine Scully back with the Cardiff Blues, scrum-half Nate Augspurger gets another opportunity to lead his country.
Chile clocking up the miles
The travel-weary Chileans travelled from the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, to Santiago on Sunday and, on Monday, they were on the road again, flying to Los Angeles via Toronto. Despite the tiring schedule, they’ve managed to settle and are hoping to continue showing progress in a tournament that has severely challenged them. They are not expected to win, only prove that they are on the right track. Coach Mark Cross has made five changes to the side that lost against Argentina on Saturday.
Uruguay go into their game against Argentina XV confident; they are defending a 13-game winning run dating back to the last time both teams met. Their last loss was a big win by Lautaro Bávaro’s team, in Bahía Blanca, with Los Teros beaten 57-12. This came after a much closer contest in the inaugural tournament at the same venue as this Saturday’s match, Campus de Maldonado.
That third round game in 2016 saw Argentina XV needing a 77th-minute penalty from replacement Pedro Mercerat to win 24-21.
The Argentines are taking no chances and have selected possibly their strongest team, with 12 changes to the side that beat Chile last Saturday. Only fly-half Juan Cruz González, second-row Diego Galeto and hooker Diego Fortuny stay put, with Bávaro taking over the captaincy in his 12th ARC appearance. Included at outside centre is Santiago Álvarez, who has been training with Super Rugby outfit Jaguares. Wing Rodrigo Etchart is the other Olympian in the squad.
Uruguay show a strong hand
Uruguay have given captain Juan Manuel Gaminara rare bench time. Not since his sixth test in 2013 has the flanker not started an international; his 51st cap will certainly be as an impact player.
Esteban Meneses has made seven changes to his starting line-up – four in the backs including the return of Germán Albanell to fly-half after playing at number nine for almost 70 minutes against Brazil.
As tournament joint-leaders, Uruguay know that they must beat Argentina XV to keep the pressure on the USA. History is against them, but recent history shows that Uruguay is the team to beat.
Brazil are confident they can repeat last year’s defeat of Canada when they face them in Langford on Saturday. Having lost here, 52-25, in their only previous visit in 2016, last year’s 24-23 last-minute win vindicated their hard work over the past couple of years. So far, in the latest edition of the ARC, they beat Chile away and dominated the Uruguayans for almost 50 minutes before giving up an 18-3 lead.
Winds of change for Canada?
Accustomed to warm weather rugby at home, the cold temperatures up north have been an issue for Os Tupis. The Canadians know though that they cannot purely rely on the climate to bring about the winds of change as they seek their first win of the ARC and only their second win in the last 15 months. Coach Kingsley Jones knows that his team need to improve their own game rather than worry about external factors.
“I guess we’ll be the favourites at home and we have to respond to that,” said the said the recently appointed Welshman, whose only success in charge of the Canucks in seven outings was against Spain in November. “Against the USA Eagles we had 14 unforced errors and you can’t play test rugby like that.”
With an eye on the future that includes playing in the Rugby World Cup 2019 final repechage tournament next November, the home game will be a good opportunity for Jones to test new players.
“We’ve made changes through injury and we are also rebuilding. We have freshened up the squad to get results,” Jones stated.
Rodolfo Ambrosio, the shrewd Brazilian coach, has made a handful of changes, including the return of veteran second-row Diego López, whose last game was the win against Canada 12 months ago. Hero a year ago, Moisés Duque will partner Felipe Sancery in midfield while the kicking responsibility stays with Josh Reeves.
Brazilian captain Yann Rossetti was involved in the previous two games against the Canadians and knows what they can expect from the men in red.
“We are confident, our game is coming on nicely and we are gaining experience in knowing how to get positive results,” Rossetti said.
“The match against Canada will be very hard, as they have a lot of strength and they will throw everything at us after a bad start to the tournament.”