September 1, 2021 – Over the next two weekends, another chapter in the storied rivalry between Canada and USA will be written.
Saturday marks their first match of a home-and-home aggregate series to decide the Rugby Americas North (RAN) #1 seed of Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2023 qualification. The second and final match of the series will take place at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado next Saturday, September 11th.
Held at the famous Swilers Rugby Club in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on the eastern coast of Canada, the 22ndWorld Rugby ranked home side will look to take an early series lead against 16th seeded USA, a team they have not beaten since 2013.
The series winner, titled RAN #1, is set to face off against Uruguay, who hold the Sudamerica Rugby (SAR) #1 position, on October 2nd and 10th, with the winner of that series booking their ticket to RWC 2023 in France as Americas 1.
The loser of the North American series on September 4th and 11th, deemed RAN #2, will face off against SAR #2, Chile, on October 2nd and 10th. The winner of RAN #2 versus SAR #2 will take on the loser of RAN #1 versus SAR #1 for the Americas 2 position at RWC 2023. Details for that competition in 2022 have yet to be announced.
The loser of the Americas 2 qualifier will advance to the last-chance World Rugby global repechage.
Team USA Rugby World Cup qualifiers are coming to FloRugby!
— FloRugby (@FloRugby) August 27, 2021
Canada looks to Young Guns
Canada’s Men’s Fifteens Team boasts a successful record of having competed in every RWC dating back to the tournament’s creation in 1987, including a visit to the knockout stages in 1991. Despite losing to the All Blacks in the quarter-final in Lille, France, the 29-13 loss remains a benchmark milestone in Canadian Rugby.
After a near two-year break due to COVID-19, Canada made their return to international competition in July against defending Six Nations Champions Wales and England this past July in Cardiff and London. Despite the heavy losses, many youngsters impressed while earning their first international caps, including Cooper Coats, Ross Braude and Quinn Ngawati.
On Monday, Canada Coach Kingsley Jones announced his 30-man group to compete against USA, with Major League Rugby (MLR) boasting a heavy influence.
12 members of the Toronto Arrows, Canada’s only MLR franchise, highlight the roster, including co-captains Ben LeSage and Lucas Rumball. In August, three members of the announced squad competed in the MLR Championship Final at LA Coliseum: Matt Heaton and Conor Keys of Rugby ATL and Corey Thomas of LA Giltinis.
Canada will also be boosted by the return of European-based professionals Matt Tierney and Peter Nelson.
Notably missing from the 30-man roster include French-based stars Tyler Ardron, Evan Olmstead and Will Percillier, along with all the recent Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games Sevens athletes such as Conor Trainor and Andrew Coe, who both competed at RWC 2019 on the fifteens side. Canada’s all-time leading try scorer, DTH van der Merwe helped the Giltinis lift their first-ever MLR title earlier this year but held true to his retirement and was left off the squad.
RELEASE: Rugby Canada Announce 30-Man Roster For Upcoming World Cup Qualification Pathway Series Matches
— Rugby Canada (@RugbyCanada) August 30, 2021
MacGinty Returns to lead the Eagles
USA has played in seven of eight Rugby World Cups dating back to 1987, only missing out on the 1995 event in South Africa. The team’s best result so far has been to win one game, which they accomplished in 1987, 2003 and 2011.
For the first time in the team’s history, the Eagles bested their North American counterparts in 2017 to book their place in Tokyo as the North American number one seed. That victory set the stage for an incredible run in 2018 where USA finished the year ranked 12th in World Rugby rankings, including famous first-ever victories over Scotland and Samoa and lifted back-to-back Americas Rugby Championship trophies.
The Eagles made their return to international competition since the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan in July with losses against England and Ireland as part of their European tour. 24 players from that tour will once again don the red, white and blue against their North American rivals, Canada in September.
Gary Gold’s side will be enhanced by the return of Captain and sensational flyhalf, AJ MacGinty. The 31-year-old, who plays for Sale Sharks in the English Premiership, has won 28 test caps for the Eagles and amassed 293 points, including five tries.
The 31-man recently announced roster also includes the return of Nate Augspurger, Dylan Fawsitt and Chance Wenglewski, who last featured in 2019 in Japan, and European-based internationals David Ainu’u, Gregory Peterson, Kapeliele Pifeleti and try-scoring phenom Joe Taufete’e.
23 of the 31 names on Gold’s squad recently took part in MLR’s 2021 season, with the North American competition proving invaluable for building depth and providing high quality game time compared to year’ past.
Ryan James, the only uncapped player named to the squad, earlier this month helped the LA Giltinis lift the MLR Trophy, along with fellow Eagle Luke Carty.