Friday, February 23, 2018

Preview: Eagles Head To Brazil

Photo: Connie Hatfield

Coming off a perfect home stand in which the Eagles dispatched Argentina XV, Canada, and Chile, all in impressive fashion, the team now heads to South America where they will take on Brazil. Like last week against Chile this is a match the U.S. should easily win on paper. However, all we have to do is look a few years back when the U.S. found themselves similarly unbeaten on their way to South America only to lose embarrassingly to Brazil. A repeat of that situation doesn't seem likely but Brazil is a team that is consistently improving and if the U.S. aren't careful they could be bitten.

While a win is never guaranteed the U.S. needs to be focused not just on beating Brazil this week but picking up the maximum number of bonus points. If they do and results go there way in other matches the U.S. could seal up the Americas Rugby Championship title for the second year in a row, and with a game to play. In order to do that the U.S. would need the maximum five points and for both Canada and Chile to get surprise results.

In all likelihood the U.S. need the maximum five points to give themselves a cushion heading into Uruguay next week. Argentina XV did the U.S. a favor by beating Uruguay last week but if the U.S. slip up against Brazil by not taking away maximum points and they fail to pick up points next week against Uruguay then Argentina could claim the title. In the end it comes down to making the most out of the match against Brazil.

Take the jump to read more.
The match will be at 3:40 p.m. et/12:40 p.m. pt and will be shown live on the Rugby Channel and then on delay on ESPN3/WatchESPN later.

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The Team

Head coach Gary Gold hasn't been known to make many changes to his team but this week he's made a few. A few surprises are into the team from Europe with Chris Baumann being released from Leicester to play in the match and Nick Civetta being made available once again. That's the type of experienced the Eagles will need to avoid a let down. Returning starters from last week include Huluholo Moungalo, Ben Landry, Psalm Wooching, Cam Dolan, Will Magie, Josh Whippy, Bryce Campbell, Dylan Audsley, Nate Augspurger, and Mike Te'o. Of all of those players only Augspurger gets a position shift as he moves from scrumhalf, where Shaun Davies will get an opportunity, to the wing. Augspurger has shown on multiple occasions that he can be effective on the wing. Look at his performance against Argentina XV last year.

The team will be missing some key players that had success the previous few weeks, including Tony Lamborn and Ryan Matyas. Overall, the U.S. has experience while also blending in some new names. The bench has plenty of power and fitness on it so as Brazil begins to tire the Eagles should be able to pull away.

Forwards: Huluholo Moungaloa, Dylan Fawsitt, Chris Baumann, Ben Landry, Nick Civetta, Psalm Wooching, Hanco Germishuys, Cam Dolan

Backs: Shaun Davies, Will Magie, Josh Whippy, Bryce Campbell, Dylan Audsley, Nate Augspurger, Mike Te'o

Bench: Peter Malcolm, Tony Purpura, Angus MacLellan, Matt Jensen, Tony Lamborn, Ruben de Haas, Ben Cima, Paul Lasike

The Opponents

Had this match been three years ago most of the Brazilian team wouldn't have much international experience. Now, after two and a half years of the ARC and an increased profile there are a number of Brazilian players with experience. Players like Lucas Piero, Yan Rosetti, Moises Duque, and Felipe Sancery all have 25 caps or more. There are a few newcomers to the team but they aren't green. The Eagles in particular need to watch Duque and Sancery. Where the U.S. should have an advantage is in the forwards.

Forwards: Michel Gomes, Yan Rosetti, Jardel Vettorato, Lucas Piero, Cleber Dias, Artur Bergo, Matheus Daniel, Andre Arruda

Backs: Laurent Bourda-Couhet, Josh Reeves, Robert Tenorio, Moises Duque, Felipe Sancery, Stefano Giantorno, Lucas Tranquez

Bench: Angelo Marcucci, Lucas Abud, Matheus Rocha, Diego Lopez, Michael Moraes, Daniel Lima, Ariel Rodrigues, De Wet van Niekerk

Keys to the Match

Start Strong: The Eagles didn't off to the first half they would have liked last week against Chile and it made the game closer than it should have been early on. This week they need to come out flying against Brazil. They have the horses off the bench to pile it on so while not expend yourself early?

Kicking: Brazil are going to want to kick and the U.S. need to be up to task to respond. Look for Mike Te'o to have a big game. To his credit he has really settled in as a fullback with more time in the position and is looking good.

Finish: Matches like this are the perfect opportunity to gain confidence finishing. Being clinical here leads to confidence in converting chances against better teams.

The Takeaway

This is a match the Eagles should win. It may not be easy, especially on the road, but it is one in which they should win by 40-50 points. They definitely need to take away a bonus point and doing it in the first half would be a plus. We think that the Eagles win and that they jump out by three tries early.

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