Saturday, March 29, 2014

RWC Qualifier: USA Qualifies for Rugby World Cup 2015

Photo USA Rugby
The USA will play at Rugby World Cup 2015. In qualifying the North Americans were confirmed as the fourth team in Pool B and will face South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and the Asian 1 qualifier which will be confirmed in May with the winner of the 2014 Asian Five Nations securing qualification. The USA will play matches in Brighton, Leeds, London and Gloucester and have a similar match schedule to that of Rugby World Cup 2011 as the team will very likely opt to field reserve players against the Springboks due to the tournament organizers having failed to give the USA sufficient recovery time between playing South Africa and Asia 1. 

Unfriendly playing conditions greeted the players in Atlanta as heavy rain came down before the match started and it continued to do so throughout the entire first half. The sun came out in the second half and with it the USA turned the match around to complete a notable comeback and secure victory. 

Uruguay had been leading 13-3 at half time and deservedly so. Los Teros scored the only try of the half with mid-fielder Joaquín Prada backed up from scoring in Montevideo by also going over for the first try of the match in Atlanta. The try came with the USA down to thirteen men following the yellow carding of centre Andrew Suniula and replacement loosehead prop Nick Wallace. 

The USA had been under severe pressure from the Teros scrum which resulted in the referee going to his pocket. Uruguay was awarded three consecutive penalties from the same scrum before Wallace was given his marching orders. Uruguay took the opportunity with Prada scoring a centre´s try after linking with a well directed pass. 

Uruguay, however, would not score another try. It would, nonetheless, go ahead 13-3 at the interval with the USA appearing to be in grave danger. The first half was a very even battle overall. The USA was superior in the lineouts and Uruguay in the scrums but the clear difference was execution as Uruguay was able to turn opportunities into points and work to its strengths unlike the home side. 

The USA was guilty of going for a try and not kicking for goal in the first half on multiple occasions. It raised questions of the USA not making the correct decisions as regardless of which team is regarded as being superior it was a Rugby World Cup qualifying match and a failure to win would have sent the USA down the dangerous path of repercharge. 

Todd Clever was hurt in the first half but stayed on the field. Doctors told the Eagles captain that he had indeed fractured a rib but was able to keep playing as it would not impact his lung. The Japanese based back-rower played through the pain and celebrated the victory with his colleagues. He is now on target to be at his fourth Rugby World Cup and will be surrounded by a superior calibre of players than those from the tournaments in 2003, 2007 and 2011. 

The USA will be aiming for two wins and looking to perform strongly in three of the four. The match against South Africa will see a B team on the park as it is to be a mere four days before the USA faces Asia 1. The opening two fixtures are friendlier with the USA playing Samoa on September 20 and Scotland on September 27. 

Should the USA play rugby similar to that of the second half in Atlanta then the team could certainly knock-over both Japan and Samoa and, possibly also, Scotland. The second half performance featured four tries with zero points conceded as the USA completed a 32-13 victory. Tighthead prop Eric Fry went over from close ranges while scrum-half Mike Petri, replacement fly half Shalom Suniula and his brother Andrew also all scored.

Uruguay´s second half showcased a fatigued team but a team, nonetheless, capable of playing in the Rugby World Cup. Uruguay will now enter repercharge and face Asia 2 followed by the winner of Africa 2 v Europe 3. Put differently in order to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2015 Uruguay will now need to defeat unconfirmed teams that are quite likely to be Hong Kong and Russia.
USA Match Schedule

September 20 Samoa v USA, Brighton (Community Stadium)
September 27 Scotland v USA, Leeds (Elland Road)
October 7 South Africa v USA, London (Olympic Stadium)
October 11 Asia 1 v USA, Gloucester (Kingsholm)

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