The fourth edition of the Americas Rugby Championship (ARC) will kick-off this weekend, providing a vital platform for the best teams in South and North America to showcase their growing presence in international rugby.
The six-team round-robin competition features Argentina XV and the national teams of Brazil, Chile, Canada, Uruguay and USA and will be played over five weekends from 2 February to 9 March. In a new addition for 2019 the competition will feature a bye week to assist in player recovery and overall welfare.
The US Eagles, currently ranked 12th in the world after an outstanding 2018 season of test rugby, will be aiming to claim their third successive ARC title.
Staged for the first time in a Rugby World Cup (RWC) year, the Americas Rugby Championship takes on added significance for RWC qualified nations Argentina, Uruguay, USA and Canada, who will be looking to build on their preparations towards Japan 2019. Meanwhile Brazil and Chile will be determined to improve on past results and continue their development.
Chile will host the USA in the first game of the tournament on 2 February in Santiago, while Argentina XV take on Brazil and Uruguay host Canada in the other round one fixtures.
Agustín Pichot, Rugby Americas President and World Rugby Vice-Chairman said: "This being a Rugby World Cup year, teams and players are putting their energy into ensuring they reach Japan in peak condition.
"The ever-growing Americas Rugby Championship plays a large role in the players and staff preparation and I’m confident this will be the most competitive edition of the three previous competitions.
"Year-on-year the tournament grows in awareness and delivers on the goal of increasing the level of play and development within the region, while also growing the overall brand of the Americas Rugby Championship.
"Rugby Americas is investing heavily in this, our marquee tournament, to ensure we continue to play a role in utilising the international game to grow the sport of rugby throughout the Americas region."
Canada secured the final berth for Japan 2019 at last November’s Repechage tournament and coach Kingsley Jones knows the work done in the ARC will be crucial for Japan 2019: "The squad we have selected has a good mix of experience and youth. With less than nine months until the Rugby World Cup, the ARC allows us the opportunity to give some players who played very well in 2018 but missed out on tough selection in November, while it is important we have also selected experienced players to help maintain continuity and confidence gained in the recent run of positive performances and victories."
In the second round, the two-time champion USA Eagles will travel to Argentina’s Patagonia region to take on inaugural winners Argentina XV in what has traditionally been the competition's title decider. The fixture has so far produced two draws and a seven-point win for the Eagles in 2018.
For both sets of players, the chance to go to Rugby World Cup 2019 is a real prospect if they perform well over the coming weeks.
USA Eagles coach Gary Gold fully understands the importance of the ARC and has brought former Springboks Rugby World Cup winner Jaque Fourie to his staff as defence coach.
Fourie said: "I am so excited to be a part of the USA Eagles coaching staff and the team in 2019. They have grown so much in the last year. After playing in three Rugby World Cups myself, I know what a massive honour and privilege it is to be part of one of the biggest sporting events in the world. To do that with this team and as a coach will be amazing."
Via: World Rugby