|Photo: Colleen McCloskey|
Easily the most embarrassing defeat in U.S. history was the loss to Brazil last year in the Americas Rugby Championship. Brazil were the weakest team in the competition but the U.S. showed that doesn't matter as they struggled to even put basic phases together against them. This year the Eagles will be wanting to correct that wrong and come away with a win against Os Tupis.
This year they should have the tools to come away with the win. The team still has several of their overseas players available (just not Blaine Scully and AJ MacGinty but they have Cam Dolan) and they are playing at home. Brazil are still one of the weakest teams in the competition but are no longer as inexperienced as they once were. Brazil have made a lot of strides over the last year and will be more prepared to take on the Eagles but the U.S. are still favored in any category.
The U.S. can claim a lot of momentum if they come away with the win. Uruguay were going to be one of the toughest challenges of the tournament while Brazil is one of the easiest. Still, closing out the home portion of your schedule and heading to Canada and South America with two wins and a chance to pick up a couple more is only a good thing. Still, as last year's match showed, if you don't take things seriously you can get caught out.
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Head coach John Mitchell has made a few changes to his team from the week before. Mainly he's swapped out his front-row bringing in experienced hooker James Hilterbrand and lesser experienced props Ben Tarr and Dino Waldren. The other big moves are in the backs where Shaun Davies comes in at scrumhalf and Will Magie comes in at fly-half. The wings had to be shuffled out with Blaine Scully going back to his club and Zack Test picking up an injury. Nate Augspurger keeps his place on the team but moves to the wing in what should be an interesting move. Spike Davis also starts on the wing in what is a high anticipated debut.
This is a great week for Mitchell to experiment, especially with younger props. Brazil are a team that the Eagles should be beating no matter what player combination so why not try some new things out? Brazil are also probably the weakest scrummaging team so why not try out Tarr and Waldren? At the same time the Eagles can continue to try a playmaking 12 with JP Eloff in the line-up.
Forwards: Ben Tarr, James Hilterbrand (C), Dino Waldren, Nate Brakeley, Nick Civetta, John Quill, Tony Lamborn, Al McFarland
Backs: Shaun Davies, Will Magie, Nate Augspurger, JP Eloff, Bryce Campbell, Spike Davis, Mike Te'o
Bench: Peter Malcolm, Chris Baumann, Tony Purpura, Cam Dolan, Todd Clever, Ben Cima, Peter Tiberio, Deion Mikesell
Brazil have kept a core group together for awhile over several tournaments. Players like Moises Duque are veterans but there are also some relative newcomers to the team. Much of the action will center around Jacobus De Wet VanNiekerk and Felipe Sancery. If the Eagles can contain them they should be alright.
Forwards: Jonatas Paulo, Yan Rosetti, Wilton Rebolo, Luiz Vieira, Lucas Piero, João Luiz da Ros, André Arruda, Nick Smith (C),
Backs: Matheus Cruz, Josh Reeves, Stefano Giantorno, Moisés Duque, Felipe Sancery, De Wet van Niekerk, Daniel Sancery
Bench: Daniel Danielewicz, Caíque Silva, Pedro Bengaló, Diego López, Arthur Bergo, Beukes Cremer, Luan Smanio, Guilherme Coghetto
Keys to the Match
Play Their Game: This is a match in which the Eagles should gain confidence. Brazil are not only beatable but they are beatable in such as way that the Eagles can gain confidence and momentum going forward. That all comes from executing early and often.
Kicking: We talk about this all the time but the U.S. need to work on this every time out. We're not just talking from the tee (they were good last week) but kicking from hand. Brazil are going to want to try and out kick the U.S. for territory so Mike Te'o and the rest of the backs need to be on their game.
Scrum: Along the confidence lines this is a good match for the Eagles to gain confidence in the scrum. It can also got the opposite way. If the Eagles aren't good in the scrum then it could shatter them mentally for the rest of the tournament.
Score Tries: This is an area the Eagles could use improvement. You have to score tries if you are going to win matches and scoring only two or three a match isn't going to cut it against top teams. They need to punch in five or six against Brazil.
As we've touched on multiple times the Eagles are heavy favorites to beat Brazil. Everything is going in their favor this go around and if they slip up again to Brazil it would be worse than last year's defeat. Not only should the Eagles beat Brazil but they should beat them by a wide margin. Sure, the U.S. would take a tight win but they shouldn't be happy with it. They need to be to the point where a team like Brazil is a mere formality and they are getting ready to consistently beat Tier II countries and possibly knock off a Tier I country. That means crushing Brazil.