WORLD CUP PREVIEW: USA
POOL C SPOTLIGHT: The US Eagles have never come close to threatening an upset in seven previous visits to the Rugby World Cup, and the odds of bucking that trend in Japan are stacked against them.
A daunting pool that includes England, France and Argentina suggests the Eagles will be playing mostly for pride when their tournament kicks off against the English in Kobe on September 26.
The Eagles’ most realistic chance of securing a group stage win is likely to come in the final Group C game against Tonga on October 13.
However, while the Eagles will be firmly cast as underdogs once more, they head into the tournament on the back of a series of encouraging results.
Since a historic 30-29 win over Scotland in June last year, the Eagles have underlined their progress with two wins over Samoa.
Head coach Gary Gold’s side has often struggled to be competitive when making the step up against stronger outfits, suffering heavy defeats to Ireland, Argentina and the New Zealand Maori in the past year.
The US’ preparations were also given a reality check in their final fixture of the Pacific Nations Cup on August 10, when they were beaten 34-20 by Japan in Fiji.
South African Gold however is encouraged by the steady progress of the Eagles, which has benefited from the successful launch of a professional domestic competition Major League Rugby, over the past two years.
“We’ve shown we can be competitive against Tier 1 nations now, and Major League Rugby has played a big part in that,” Gold said.
“We now have a much bigger pool of players who are playing and training in a professional environment, and we are starting to see the effects of that.”
The senior figures in the Eagles line-up are veteran forward Cam Dolan and Joe Taufete’e, the Worcester Warriors hooker.
Sale Sharks flyhalf AJ MacGinty provides a steadying influence in the number 10 shirt, while former Cardiff Blues flyer Blaine Scully will captain from the wing.
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Player to watch:
Joe Taufete’e. The Californian, who turns 27 mid-way through the tournament, is set to feature at his second World Cup after making his Test debut four years ago. The Worcester front-row tops the list for international try scorers from hooker with 22, in front of the likes of Keith Wood and Sean Fitzpatrick.
Aim for the tournament:
“I have a lot of faith in the team. My focus is this year but I think the experience of going to the World Cup in 2019 is going to benefit this group in 2023” head coach Gary Gold.
Population: 327.2 million
Capital: Washington D.C.
Coach: Gary Gold (South Africa/January 2018)
Number of registered players: 125,000
World Rugby ranking: 13 (September 9, 2019)
World Cup past record:
1995: Did not qualify
This is about the United States of America.
And these are the 31 men who will represent it @rugbyworldcup Japan 2019.
— USA Rugby (@USARugby) September 8, 2019
Pool matches (all times GMT):
USA v England
Date: September 26
USA v France
Date: October 2
USA v Argentina
Date October 8
USA v Tonga
Date: October 13
Backs: Blaine Scully (captain, Unattached), Mike Te’o (San Diego Legion), Will Hooley (Bedford Blues); Martin Iosefo (USA Sevens), Madison Hughes (USA Sevens), Marcel Brache (Western Force), Thretton Palamo (Houston SaberCats), Gannon Moore (Utah Warriors), Paul Lasike (Harlequins), Bryce Campbell (London Irish), Will Magie (Glendale Raptors), AJ MacGinty (Sale Sharks), Ruben de Haas (Free State Cheetahs), Shaun Davies (Glendale Raptors), Nate Augspurger (San Diego Legion)
Forwards: Malon Al-Jiboori (Glendale Raptors), Cam Dolan (NOLA Gold), Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz (Houston SaberCats), Hanco Germishuys (Glendale Raptors), Tony Lamborn (Melbourne Rebels), Ben Pinkelman (USA Sevens), John Quill (Rugby United New York), Psalm Wooching (San Diego Legion), Nick Civetta (Doncaster Knights), Ben Landry (Ealing Trailfinders), Samu Manoa (Seatle Seawolves), Greg Peterson (Newcastle Falcons), David Ainuu (Toulouse), Eric Fry (Vannes), Olive Kilifi (Seattle Seawolves), Titi Lamositele (Saracens), Paul Mullen (Houston SaberCats), Paddy Ryan (Rugby United New York), Chance Wenglewski (Rugby ATL), Dylan Fawsitt (Rugby United New York), James Hilterbrand (Manly Marlins), Kapeli Pifeleti (San Diego Legion), Mike Sosene-Feagai (Auckland), Joe Taufete’e (Worcester Warriors), Nate Brakeley (Rugby United, New York)