Friday, February 26, 2016

Preview: Eagles Make Maiden Trip To Brazil

Like their match against Chile last week the Eagles are expected to not only beat Brazil on Saturday but to win big. The goal heading into the Chile match was to be as efficient as possible. In the first half the Eagles left some chances out there but a very clinical second half had to please the coaching staff. They are going to want even more this week as they face a Brazilian side coming into the Americas Rugby Championship as the lowest ranked team by far and the only team without a win.

All of that is not to say that Brazil haven't been competitive. In their opening match they nearly beat Chile only to fall three points short. The next week against Uruguay they were only four points short of beating Uruguay. Last week they finally collapsed a bit as Canada beat them 52-25. That similar to what the U.S. are expecting except that they won't want to give up 25 points.

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The U.S. has a real shot of winning the ARC in what would be a first win in a major competition. They sit one point ahead of Argentina meaning that if they take away the full points from both their match against Brazil and Uruguay next week that they win the whole thing. With that in mind expect them to come out firing against Brazil. However, it is the first time the Eagles have gone on the road this year and with three matches under their belt Brazil could be more difficult than would appear on paper.

The match is 6:00 p.m. et/3:00 p.m. pt and can be see on ESPN3. This will be the first time the U.S. has every faced Brazil.

The Team

Head coach John Mitchell has made a number of changes to the starting line-up. There is experience with the likes of Ollie Kilifi and Andrew Suniula on the roster but by and large it's young. James King, a player that has Super Rugby experience and could be a big get for the Eagles, and Aladdin Schirmer will get their first caps. Cam Falcon and Hanco Germishuys could also gain their first caps if they come off the bench.

Because they are so young it's going to be interesting to watch how the team does in certain phases of the game. Brodie Orth and Ben Landry were good in the lineout and should be again. Demecus Beach, Joe Taufete'e, and Kilifi will be asked to do big things in the forwards.

In the backs there is plenty of speed and Andrew Durutalo is going to help out. Having James Bird and Niku Kruger paired together should payoff benefits, especially kicking. We're really looking forward to seeing how Jake Anderson fares in this match.

Forwards: Demecus Beach, Joe Taufete'e, Ollie Kilifi (C), Brodie Orth, Ben Landry, James King, Aladdin Schirmer, David Tameilau

Backs: Niku Kruger, James Bird, Ryan Matyas, Andrew Suniula, Mike Garrity, Kingsley McGowan, Jake Anderson

Bench: Cam Falcon, Eric Fry, Mike Sosene-Feagai, Hanco Germishuys, Mike Te'o, JP Eloff, Tim Stanfill, Chad London

The Opponents

To be honest we don't know a lot about the Brazilian team. They have made several changes from the side that lost to Canada and they are missing David Harvey, a key player for them in the first few weeks. Only a few players play outside of Brazil, including Yan Rosetti (Argentina) and Luiz Vieira (Oyonnax)

 Wilton Rebolo, Yan Rosetti, Lucas Abud, Lucas Piero, Luiz Vieira, André Arruda,  João Luiz das Ros (C), Nick Smith

Backs: Lucas Duque, Moisés Duque, Laurent Bourda-Couhet, Martin Schaefer, Felipe Sancery, Stefano Giantorno, Daniel Sancery

Bench: Daniel Danielewicz, Caique Silva, Jonatas Paulo, Diego López, Gabriel Paganini, Guilherme Coghetto, Beukes Cremer, Robert Tenório

The Keys to the Match

Clinical: As we saw last week against Chile the U.S. left a few too many chances wanting in the first part of the match. That's somewhat expected as the visiting team is going to come out firing trying to put their all into the match before fading but the U.S. still needed to clean it up. What the U.S. wants to see is more of what the second half against Chile showed.

Defense: Brazil haven't given up the most points in the competition, that belongs to Chile, but they likely won't have the defense to prevent the U.S. from scoring for tries. On the flip side, the U.S. come into the match with statistically the best defense. Brazil have scored 22, 29, and 25 points in each of their respective matches but the Eagles will be aiming for a 0 like they did against Chile.

Kicking: The U.S. has had some shaky outings in this department while at the same time have some players show they have a boot. Brazil are going to try and take a lot of points through kicks and the U.S. needs to match not only with penalties but also in field position.

Depth: The whole point of the ARC is to build depth, whether that is Brazil trying to build a first team or the U.S. looking for depth ahead of the next World Cup cycle. The U.S. is once again going to trot out a list of new players and it will be up to them to make an impact.

The Takeaway

On paper this should be the biggest win for the Eagles. However, the amount of turnover in the team and the fact that they've had to travel thousands of miles for this match make it more difficult. Having said that, the U.S. will still win this won comfortably, setting up the big match against Uruguay. 

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