The USA men’s Eagles will look to continue its winning streak against local foes Canada when the two teams lock horns in the second round of fixtures in the Americas Rugby Championship on Saturday. The U. S. as won its last four contests with its nearest rivals, dating back to 2013. But a fifth successive win will be required in Austin if the Eagles are to remain in contention to land the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship, an effective second-tier Six Nations, played between the top teams in North and South America.
In the opening round of games a week ago, the U.S. played out a 35-35 draw with an Argentina XV, an inexperienced version of the world’s fifth-ranked rugby nation. There was some encouragement for New Zealander John Mitchell in what was his debut as Eagles coach after taking over following last year’s disappointing Rugby World Cup performance. Yet having led 35-28 going into the final five minutes thanks to tries from Cam Dolan and Eric Fry, there was ample disappointment, too, in failing to come away with a victory.
It will be a much-changed side that takes the field at Dell Diamond, with several of the professionals in the U.S. squad having headed back to their clubs. Dolan and Blaine Scully have returned to Cardiff Blues in Wales, Taku Ngwenya has gone back in France with Biarritz and Greg Peterson to Glasgow Warriors, while Titi Lamositele is needed at English side Saracens.
In all, there will be six changes to the side. And, with last week’s match against Argentina not being a rankings test match, a full 10 players will make their official international debuts on Saturday.
“The way we think now is actually about creating a team mix as we're not in a position where we know what our No. 1 team is,” Mitchell said, reports USA Rugby. “It's a matter of developing the depth and making sure we get to see everyone under pressure. We've got five matches [in the competition], so obviously we want people fresh in there, as well. We don't want to tailor off; we want to get better as we go–physically, mentally, and in rugby performance.”
There will also be a change in captaincy, with Todd Clever, who was stripped of the title and his place in the squad by previous coach Mike Tolkin, replacing Scully.
“We want to grow the leadership group,” Mitchell added. “It's not just about one person–he needs to be supported by others. We have some diversity in our group, as well. Shared leadership, a sort of co-captaincy, is something that suits certain groups these days and we have the right people to help the younger players through something that's new for them.”
Clever will be leading the U.S. against a Canada team that heads the Americas Rugby Championship table after securing a 33-17 win over Uruguay last week to get five points, including a bonus point for scoring at least four tries.
Unsurprisingly, Canada coach Francois Ratier has made just a single change to his lineup, with Alistair Clark coming into the starting XV of the injured Kyle Gilmour after scoring a try on his debut last week.
“We’re keen to build off of our performance against Uruguay,” Ratier said, via Rugby Canada. “Besides Kyle, the team is healthy so we had no reason to change the roster. The more they play together the more they will find their timing.”
Match time: 7 p.m. EST
TV channel: ESPN2 will re-air the match on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. EST.
Live Stream: ESPN3