Friday, February 2, 2018

U.S. vs. Argentina XV: Eagles Kick Off ARC

For the first time in nearly a hundred years the Eagles enter a major tournament as defending champions. Last year's Americas Rugby Championship was special capped off by a late comeback in Argentina to secure a draw and the tournament. This year is a different tournament but there is most definitely a target on the back of the Americans. That has to be especially true for Argentina XV who lost their title last year. No one is going to take the Eagles lightly and every team is going to target the U.S. for their best match this year. That's a good position to be in if you are Gary Gold. It puts the right kind of pressure on your young players and even though this tournament isn't specifically designated as a development tournament but that's what it is in many ways. If you are a coach you want players like Will Magie or Dino Waldren making tough decisions against a motivated opponent.

If the U.S. want to repeat as champions they are going to need a result against Argentina XV. The good news is that they have never lost to Argentina XV in ARC play. The bad news is that they haven't won either. Both teams the teams have come together they have played to thrilling draws. We don't think that is going to happen this year but this match should be close. If the U.S. can win or at least pick up a couple of bonus points then they stand a good chance of repeating.

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The Team

As expected the U.S. have named their strongest line-up. Overseas pros like Titi Lamositele, Joe Taufete'e, Dino Waldren, Nick Civetta, Tony Lamborn, Marcel Brache, and Blaine Scully are all on the roster. Their experience in Europe could be key in a tight situation. Overall the U.S. team looks very physical. The tight five provides a lot of power and the back-row should be a handful at the breakdown.

In the backs, Nate Augspurger will get a chance to play scrumhalf while Will Magie starts and flyhalf. This is a big opportunity for both players. Augspurger has been battling with Shaun Davies for the starting scrumhalf role and with AJ MacGinty out this is Will Magie's opportunity to put his hand up as the back-up flyhalf. The other spot to keep an eye is fullback. Mike Te'o has shown how valuable he has been in the open field but Argentina will kick a lot and Te'o has struggled with that at times.

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

Bench: Nate Augspurger, Will Magie, Ryan Matyas, Bryce Campbell, Marcel Brache, Blaine Scully, Mike Te'o

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

The Opponents

There are just over 20 caps in the Argentina larger squad and Tomas de la Vega represents more than half of those. He's not even in the line-up for Saturday. In contrast Blaine Scully has more caps than all of the Argentina XV. However, don't be misled, this Argentina team is strong. Several of the players are contracted to the Jaguares and every single one has high-level experience in the top Argentina league. They are going to be strong in the scrum and they are going to love to kick.

Forwards: Francisco Ferronato, Gaspar Baldunciel, Benjamin Espinal, Jeronimo Ureta, Ignacio Larrague, Rodrigo Bruni, Lautaro Bavaro (C), Santiago Montagner

Bench: Luca Magnasco, Juan Cruz Gonzalez, Rodrigo Etchart, Juan Cappiello, Juan Cruz Mallia, German Schulz, Gaston Arias

Bench: Diego Fortuny, Javier Diaz, Santiago Medrano, Santiago Portillo, Francisco Gorrisen, Facundo Noguera, Tomas Granola, Tomas Malanos

Keys to the Match

Second Half Physicality: One of the main reasons the U.S. won last year was their fitness late in the game. A lot of that was due to the influence of PRO Rugby and other ventures to get the U.S. strong late in the game. This year should be even better and with big bodies like Ben Landry and Andrew Durutalo on the bench they could start to take control late.

Kicking: Any time you play and Argentinian team they are going to love to kick. We don't think that will be any different tomorrow. Te'o can do some wonderful things with the ball in hand but it's also about making the right decision which he needs to do a better job.

Take The Points: The opportunity for points may not come very often. It's going to be up to Will Magie to get the scoreboard moving. If he can't there might be an early substitution.

The Takeaway

Repeating as champions is a tough task. Just ask Argentina. It's hard to say that an opening match is going to define the tournament but this one definitely is. Looking at the remaining opponents Uruguay looks like the toughest on the schedule so if the U.S. can pull out a result they could possibly win out. We're not so sure that happens this time. The Eagles are strong but still also coming together under a new coach. We think the Argentina XV come focused and pick up the win. 

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