Friday, March 2, 2018

Preview: Eagles. Uruguay Square Off For ARC Title

The Eagles can make history on Saturday if they can secure a positive result against Uruguay in their Americas Rugby Championship finale. That's easier said than done. Uruguay are on a very impressive 15 game test winning streak and they have always done well at home. Playing in Montevideo hasn't always been good for the Eagles and the last time the two teams met in Uruguay the Eagles didn't get the win. However, the Eagles have been playing really well as of late, even with having to chop and change their line-up. They are the form team in the ARC and with a trophy on the line we should expect their best performance.

So here is what needs to happen. The Eagles lead the ARC standings with 19 points. Uruguay have 14 which means as long as the Eagles pick up a bonus point they will top Uruguay in the standings. However, Argentina XV are the second place team and they have 16 points. With Argentina taking on Brazil the assumption should be that they are going to take the full five points out of the match. Factoring that in the Eagles can win the ARC title with just a simple win. If they draw then they will need at least one bonus point, two to be sure.

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There is every expectation that the Eagles can do it. As mentioned, they are in great form at the moment and are playing with plenty of confidence. Gary Gold seems to have picked off right where John Mitchell left off. The players are executing in key moments and overall they seem to be showing more rugby awareness.

Those wanting to watch the match live can tune into The Rugby Channel at 1:30 p.m. et/10:30 a.m. pt.

The Team

Gold has elected/been forced to make just a few changes to the team. One of the big changes is Brendan Daly getting the start in place of the suspended Nick Civetta. He'll partner up with Ben Landry in the locks. The other change in the forwards has Tony Lamborn starting once again alongside Hanco Germishuys and Cam Dolan. The front-row of Huluholo Moungaloa, Dylan Fawsitt, and Chris Baumann stays intact.

In the backs there are some swapping from the starting line-up but mostly there is a shuffling of players. Paul Lasike will start this week while Josh Whippy moves to the bench. Instead of starting on the wing Lasike is in the centers with Bryce Campbell. Dylan Audsley moves to fullback while Mike Te'o shifts to the wing. Overall, it's a combination that could payoff big. We've wanted to see Audsley at fullback. We think he's kicking ability and decision making is solid for fullback. Lasike should provide a lot of power in the centers.

Like many teams in the past this U.S. team has power coming off the bench once again. We shouldn't expect Uruguay to tire like Chile, Canada, or Brazil so the bench is going to need to be particularly sharp.

Forwards: Huluholo Moungaloa, Dylan Fawsitt, Chris Baumann, Brendan Daly, Ben Landry, Hanco Germishuys, Tony Lamborn, Cam Dolan

Backs: Shaun Davies, Will  Magie, Nate Augspurger (C), Paul Lasike, Bryce Campbell, Mike Te'o, Dylan Audsley

Bench: Peter Malcolm, Tony Purpura, Dino Waldren, Matt Jensen, Psalm Wooching, Ruben de Haas, Ben Cima, Josh Whippy

The Opponents

The Uruguayans are riding high at the moment. They had a setback against Argentina but beyond that they have not only been beating North American competition but they have done well against European teams. They have a lot of experience on their roster for this match with the likes of German Kessler (32 caps but only 23 years old!) Mario Sagario, Mateo Sanguinetti, Diego Magno, Juan Manuel Gaminara, and Leandro Leivas all with a number of caps. They easily have more caps than the Eagles and that experience could play a big role.

Forwards: Mateo Sanguinetti, German Kessler, Juan Echeverria, Ignacio Dotti, Rodolfo Garese, Juan Manuel Gaminara (C), Ormaechea, Manuel Diana

Backs: Santiago Arata, German Albanell, Nicolas Freitas, Andres Vilaseca, Juan Manuel Cat, Leandro Leivas, Silva

Bench: Matias Benitez, Carlos Pombo, Inciarte, Ayala, Diego Magno, Joaquin Prada, Inciarte, Gaston Mieres

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Keys to the Match

Bench: As we mentioned above the bench is going to be key for the Eagles. The bench has delivered them a lot of wins over the last couple of years and it needs to do so this weekend. The U.S. has developed a lot of depth recently and it shows. The likes of Dino Waldren, Matt Jensen, and Josh Whippy need to come up big. 

Kicking: Uruguay love to kick. Not only are they adept at kicking for territory but they will take the chance to go for points. The Eagles need to be equally as ruthless. The move of Audsley to fullback should pay off. If there is a bright side is that the ARC has caused the U.S. to be a better kicking team than in years past. 

Scrum: It needs to be mentioned against Uruguay. The U.S. scrum have had their ups and downs so far during the ARC. It should be said that in comparison to this time four years ago the Eagles scrum is leaps and bounds better. The fact that Chris Baumann and Dino Waldren are available for this match is important. If the Eagles scrum gets into trouble then they will lose the match. 

The Takeaway

It's all on the line for the Eagles. They could become the first team to win back to back ARC titles. It would also the second major championship for the U.S. since they won Olympic gold a century ago. For a program that has been short on results it would be a major accomplishment. Everything is in their favor at the moment. Uruguay will be motivated to get the win as they are still in contention but with four matches under their belt we think the Eagles should be able to do enough to win. 

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