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Friday, February 9, 2018

Preview: Surging U.S. Face Struggling Canada

Photo: Connie Hatfield
Last week was nearly perfect for the Eagles. They faced down a tough side in Argentina XV and came away with the win. They had never beaten the side before and now with a win they have a clear pathway to the repeating as Americas Rugby Championship title holders. Last week's win doesn't guarantee anything but it was a great start. All of that said, if there is a slip-up game it's this weekend against Canada. The Canadians have been struggling recently dropping both of their World Cup qualifying matches against Uruguay. They have also had their fair share of injuries which hasn't helped. Still, they have plenty of talent and coming off their disappointing losses and their repeated losses to the U.S. recently they will be hungry for a win.

The fact that the U.S. has only made one change to their starting line-up and that there European professionals on the roster is a strong indicator the U.S. will be heavy favorites in the match. Confidence is high amongst the Eagles. They had a some setbacks in the summer and the fall but they also have several comfortable victories. They won the ARC, beat Canada twice to qualify for the World Cup, and smoked Germany in the fall like they were supposed to. They have roughly kept the same group together for awhile and they seem to be on the right page. In fact, this might be one of the best stretches of play the Eagles have had in the last twenty years. All in all that should mean a win against Canada.

Take the jump to read more.
The match will be shown live from Sacramento on The Rugby Channel at 6:00 p.m. et/3:00 p.m. pt.

The Team

As mentioned the U.S. has only made one change with Dylan Audsley coming in for the injured Marcel Brache. Josh Whippy comes into the bench after being out last week. Everyone else remains the same after strong performances last week. Everyone did their role well and now with a week of chemistry they should be even better.

Forwards: Titi Lamositele, Joe Taufete'e, Dino Waldren, Nate Brakeley, Nick Civetta, Hanco Germishuys, Tony Lamborn, Cam Dolan

Backs: Nate Augspurger, Will Magie, Ryan Matyas, Bryce Campbell, Dylan Audsley, Blaine Scully (C), Mike Te'o

Bench: James Hilterbrand, Huluholo Moungaloa, Angus MacLellan, Ben Landry, Andrew Durutalo, Shaun Davies, Will Hooley, Josh Whippy

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The Opponents

Canada have made a few changes to the team that lost to Uruguay in South America. They still have plenty of veteran talent but also look like they may struggle in other areas. Players to watch for include the timeless Phil Mack and DTH van der Merwe. Djustice Sears-Duru and the rest of their frontline are solid as well. 

Forwards: Djustice Sears-Duru, Ray Barkwill, Jake Ilnicki, Josh Larsen, Kyle Baillie, Lucas Rumball, Matt Heaton, Luke Campbell

Backs: Phil Mack, Shane O'Leary, DTH vsn der Merwe, Nick Blevins, Guiseppe du Toit, Brock Staller, Pat Parfrey

Bench: Martial Lagain, Anthony Luca, Cole Keith, Conor Keys, Dustin Dobravsky, Gordon McRorie, Robbie Povey, Cole Davis

Keys to the Game

Keep on Keepin' On: As mentioned the Eagles are on a roll. They are doing most things well and the energy is there. If they play the same way they've done the last few weeks they should be alright. 

Physicality: Canada hasn't had the answers for the U.S. physicality recently, especially late in matches. Just look back at the qualifying series to see what kind of impact players like Andrew Durutalo had off the bench. Durutalo is once again on the bench with big bodies like Josh Whippy. Canada should be in trouble once again. 

Continued Defensive Effort: The U.S. defensive effort against Argentina was strong. They really limited what Argentina wanted to do. It should be even easier to accomplish that against Canada but only if they concentrate. 

Score: The U.S. found ways to score last week when they needed thanks to a strong kicking day but multiple times they had the opportunity in the green zone only to come up empty. They need to score early and often against Canada. 

The Takeaway

This is a match the U.S. should win and should pick up the full points on offer. Uruguay was the only team to take five points away from their opener and if the U.S. doesn't want to put themselves in a difficult situation as the tournament progresses they need to take five points away from Canada. Given the difficulties that Canada has faced and the fact that the U.S. has now been in camp for two weeks we think that the U.S. will pick up a victory at the end of the day. 

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