The Eagles are going for three wins in three as they take on Canada in Vancouver and Saturday. Recently history is on the side of the U.S. as they have a four match win streak over their rivals but those four wins have involved different kinds of teams and they ARC group needs to prove themselves all over again. The Eagles have maintained good continuing over the first three weeks with only one player on the roster gaining his first cap and only two playing in this year's ARC for the first time. That kind of continuity can't be undersold. It's not a long tournament and the U.S. haven't had much time together so being able to come together for three weeks with a core group has them primed for something good.
The underlying theme throughout this weekend's match is going to be World Cup qualifying. Although it's not planned that a majority of the players on either team will be starters in June for the two match series you never know what can happen and proof of depth at the ARC is only going to help confidence moving forward. The Eagles and Canada have played each other a lot (nearly 25% of the Eagles matches have come against Canada) and they often have the most similarities. That is what has made World Cup qualifying so compelling over the last few cycles but also what makes the result so important. If the Eagles can register a win over a team similar to them it should give them confidence going forward.
Take the jump to read more.
The match will be shown live on The Rugby Channel at 8:00 p.m. et/5:00 p.m. pt.
Head coach John Mitchell hasn't made too many changes to his team and only one player could earn his first cap for the team. The most changes happened in the forwards. The entire front-row was swapped out with Tony Purpura and Chris Baumann returning as the props. They did well against Uruguay and then in the second half against Brazil. Peter Malcolm comes in at hooker. He's been very impressive so far during the ARC. Also changed in the forwards is Todd Clever and Cam Dolan coming in on the back-row and Tony Lamborn keeping his place. Also keeping their places are Nate Brakeley and Nick Civetta. Dolan should inject a lot energy.
The backs only have one change with Ryan Matyas starting on the win in place of Spike Davis who moves to the bench. The backs had a strong second half against Brazil. Nate Augspurger seemed to work out well on the wing and will get another chance. Will Magie and Shaun Davies will also be able to run the ship as the halfbacks. Overall, it's a strong team that should give the Eagles a good chance to have a strong scrum and get out and attack. After two wins, why change what's working.
Forwards: Tony Purpura, Peter Malcolm, Chris Baumann, Nate Brakeley, Nick Civetta, Todd Clever (C), Tony Lamborn, Cam Dolan
Backs: Shaun Davies, Will Magie, Nate Augspurger, JP Eloff, Bryce Campbell, Ryan Matyas, Mike Te'o
Bench: James Hilterbrand, Dino Waldren, Ben Tarr, Siaosi Mahoni, John Quill, David Tameilau, Ben Cima, Spike Davis
Canada have brought in several veterans to amplify their squad this week. Ray Barkwill brings a lot of experience at hooker and will captain the team. Phil Mack, Taylor Paris, and Nick Blevins bolster the backs. Mack has been an Eagle killer in the past and having him steady the ship is going to help Canada move forward. Where Canada can really hurt the Eagles is through Taylor Paris. He is an extremely underrated player and if Canada can find their backs they can poise a lot of problems.
Once again Canada are taking the opportunity to work in some younger players. Several of the forwards are short on experience as are the backs. That said, players like Guiseppe Du Toit and Brock Staller are seen as having a lot of promise.
Forwards: Rob Brouwer, Ray Barkwill, Matt Tierney, Conor Keys, Reegan O'Gorman, Lucas Rumball, Ollie Nott, Admir Cejvanovic
Backs: Phil Mack, Robbie Povey, Taylor Paris, Guiseppe Du Toit, Nick Blevins, Dan Moor, Brock Staller
Bench: Benoit Piffero, Djustice Sears-Duru, Cole Keith, Liam Chisholm, Lucas Albornoz, Gord McRorie, Gradyn Bowd, George Barton
Keys to the Match
Scrum: We will go on and on about this until the Eagles are one of the best teams around at this. Like in every match almost everything the Eagles want to do comes from having a steady scrum. It helps them keep possession and it prevents costly penalties from stacking up. Canada have struggled nearly as much in the scrum as the Eagles recently so if the Eagles can have the upper hand throughout then it will be a huge boost.
Continue the 2-4-2 Split: For more on this we recommend you read Derek Sagehorn's analysis of how the Eagles used the new system against Brazil. This is allowing the Eagles addition channels of attack and employing their loose forwards, some of their best players.
Confident but not Overconfident: The Eagles have a nice streak going against Canada with wins over the last four. Two of those wins came in Canada, including Swangard Stadium. It would be easy for some to think the Eagles have an upper hand but they can't relax against Canada. They should play like they know they can win but they can't take the small things for granted.
The Eagles have a great chance to go 3-0 and ensure a winning record before they head down to South America. It would be a great start for the Eagles to the year and would help them lead up to their big match against Argentina and the summer series. Even more, it will help push the win streak to five ahead of World Cup qualifying in the summer. That kind of momentum is vital even if many of the players taking the pitch on Saturday aren't on the team in the summer. It's there for the taking for the Eagles and we think they win but this is going to be the hardest they'll have to work yet.