The final round of the 2019 Americas Rugby Championship begins in Seattle on Sunday evening when the USA hosts Canada at Starfire Stadium. This was originally assigned as a home game to the Canadians, but with all of Rugby Canada’s available resources poured into the financially rewarding Vancouver Sevens, this was the best alternative.
It’s been a long time since Canada have beaten the USA. Closing in on six years in fact. Three players in the starting roster – Phil Mack, Ciaran Hearn, and Nick Blevins – were in the lineup on that day in Toronto on August 24, 2013. Hubert Buydens and Patrick Parfrey have also played in winning test matches against the Eagles. The other 18 have only known defeat if they have faced them at all.
Mack makes his first appearance of the competition, his return at scrumhalf one of two changes to the run-on side that fell short against the Argentina XV. The other sees Luke Campbell returning from a knee injury suffered against Brazil to take his spot at the back of the scrum. Dustin Dobravsky and Jamie Mackenzie move to the bench as a result.
Gary Gold has made four alterations to the team that lost to Uruguay, one enforced. Ben Landry takes over from Nate Brakeley in the second row and John Quill is recalled on the flank in place of David Tameilau. Greg Peterson has arrived from France to cover lock while Malon Al-Jiboori is set to make his second test appearance as a loose forward replacement.
Regular starter Shaun Davies is back to play scrumhalf with Ruben de Haas dropping to the bench. Will Hooley is left out due to HIA protocol so Marcel Brache moves to fullback and Mike Te’o is restored on the left wing. Tadhg Leader provides flyhalf cover as Dylan Audsley makes way in the reserves.
Both sides have now been defeated by Los Teros in this competition and both will come away disappointed by the results regardless of the outcome of this match. For each it’s a chance to end on a high, however, and for some players this represents the last chance to impress selectors in test rugby before World Cup deliberations begin. For those without professional contracts, this may be their only opportunity period.
The stakes are also rising given the likelihood that World Rugby Rankings will play a part in a new international calendar, whatever the result of ongoing discussions regarding the proposed World League might be. That consideration will be secondary but will creep into their consciousness during the build-up.
On paper it’s clear that the Eagles are the favorites. While home field advantage is mitigated given the proximity to Vancouver, the crowd will lean strongly towards the USA. By virtually every other metric the Eagles are simply a stronger team. Given they are also closer to full strength than the Canadians, look for the USA to extend their unbeaten streak against their northern neighbors to ten games by a safe but not entirely comfortable margin.
Kickoff is set for 7:10pm local time, 10:10pm Eastern. Live broadcasts will be available on ESPN in South America, FloRugby in the USA, and TSN.ca in Canada. A one-hour delayed broadcast will be available on TSN 3. Those located outside the Americas can watch on the World Rugby stream.
1 David Ainu’u, 2 Joe Taufete’e, 3 Paul Mullen, 4 Ben Landry, 5 Nick Civetta, 6 John Quill, 7 Hanco Germishuys, 8 Cam Dolan, 9 Shaun Davies, 10 Will Magie, 11 Mike Te’o, 12 Paul Lasike, 13 Bryce Campbell, 14 Blaine Scully (capt.), 15 Marcel Brache
Replacements: 16 Kapeli Pifeleti, 17 Olive Kilifi, 18 Dino Waldren, 19 Greg Peterson, 20 Malon Al-Jiboori, 21 Ruben de Haas, 22 Tadhg Leader, 23 Gannon Moore
1 Hubert Buydens, 2 Benoît Pifféro, 3 Cole Keith, 4 Conor Keys, 5 Kyle Baillie, 6 Justin Blanchet, 7 Lucas Rumball (capt.), 8 Luke Campbell, 9 Phil Mack, 10 Gordon McRorie, 11 Kainoa Lloyd, 12 Ciaran Hearn, 13 Nick Blevins, 14 Andrew Coe, 15 Theo Sauder
Replacements: 16 Jordan Olsen, 17 Noah Barker, 18 Ryan Kotlewski, 19 Josh Larsen, 20 Dustin Dobravsky, 21 Jamie Mackenzie, 22 Patrick Parfrey, 23 Doug Fraser
Date: Friday, March 8
Venue: Starfire Stadium, Seattle
Kickoff: 19:10 local (22:10 Eastern)
Referee: Pali Deluca (UAR)
Assistants: Scott Green (USAR) & Denny Russell (USAR)
Broadcasts: ESPN 3 (South America), FloRugby (USA), TSN.ca (Canada), World Rugby