Friday, March 21, 2014

RWC Qualifier: Q&A with Hedley Lagrand

Hedley Lagrand
Editor in Chief
A Rugby Life
The sport of rugby is well placed right now in the USA. The governing body, USA Rugby, is recording growing playing numbers, growing attendances for home internationals and improved results on the international stage. The USA is coming off wins in Europe against Georgia and Russia last November and is now on the verge of qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2015 as Americas 2. Argentina 2023 caught up with Hedley Lagrand to get his views on how the USA is placed ahead of the Rugby World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay.

PT: The USA impressed last November against Georgia and Russia. How is the team placed to take on Uruguay?

HL: If you look at the current World Rankings, USA is 18th with Georgia above at 16th and Russia and Uruguay below at 19th and 20th respectively.  The Fall tests helped put the USA where there are and I think it safe to say they are favorites going into these qualifiers.

PT: Does the USA feel than Uruguay is as much of a threat as it was in previous Rugby World Cup qualification tournaments? With all professional players being made available?

HL: Certainly on paper, the Eagles look the stronger side based on recent results and the sheer number of pro players available to play.  However, as we have seen, the positive impact of having domestically based players in National teams can make a difference sometimes.  Mike Tolken has openly acknowledged that the Eagles are working on getting in sync and is a work in progress.  That along with Uruguay having the home advantage, it would be foolish for anyone to under estimate the Los Teros.  

PT: Will the USA Eagles therefore be at full strength or are there players out injured?

HL: Pretty much.  The usual suspects like Clever, Scully, Wyles, Petri, Manoa, LaValla, to name a few, are all in Montevideo.  Injury-wise, two domestic based players, Adam Siddall and Shaun Pittman, are confirmed out for this game.  Overall, I think Tolken's selection makes for an impressive traveling squad.   

PT: With a luxury of talent in the back-row what should Mike Tolkin do with the six of Clever, Dolan, LaValla, Manoa, Quill and Stanfill?

HL: I think Clever and LaValla are a given when it comes to starting, probably along with Stanfill and Manoa with possibly Dolan on the bench.  Quill unfortunately didn't make the squad for this leg.

PT: What is your prediction for this Saturday´s game in Montevideo?

HL: I think its going to be close.  Although my heart says Eagles, my gut feeling is Uruguay might just nudge out the win for the first leg.  For the 2nd leg, I think that will be entirely different story!

PT:  Despite Canada qualifying as Americas 1 ahead of the USA last August it will arguably face a tougher task than Americas 2. Canada has France, Ireland, Italy and Romania while Americas 2 will face South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and Asia 1 (Japan). Is this a blessing for the USA?

HL: When it comes to the RWC pools, for the lower tier Nations it's always going to be tough going up against any of the top 10 teams.  However, as we have seen plenty of times in the past, upsets do happen (Wales knows this all too well!)

PT: Should Argentina host Rugby World Cup 2023? 

HL: I don't see why not!  As a subject you have written formatively on, Argentina is well prepared to host it.  Hopefully, the IRB agrees.

Thank you so much for your time Hedley. 

Hedley Lagrand grew up in the rugby rich county of Cornwall and had the opportunity to play for and to coach a number of clubs in places including Wales, Denmark and the USA. He has also been a referee in the USA. Lagrand founded a rugby life in 2009 and is the host for podcasts and the You Tube show, State of the Union.He can be followed on twitter at @arugbylife 

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