Friday, April 4, 2014

June Internationals: Americas RWC teams


Photo BBC
Scotland will play three tests
in the Americas in June
Three countries from the Americas will play in Rugby World Cup 2015. The prequalified Argentina was joined in 2013 by Canada whom qualified as Americas 1 and last weekend the USA was confirmed as Americas 2. All three will play in different pools with only Pool A currently lacking a team from the Americas. This could yet change as Uruguay remains in contention and will play in repercharge matches at yet to be determined dates this year. All four countries will be playing test match rugby in June.  

Argentina
The strongest rugby nation from the Americas will be under strength in June. Similar to the home test matches in 2012 against Italy and France and 2013 against England and Georgia Argentina will be missing European based players who will play in the Rugby Championship. Without them depth will again be tested with the visiting sides having greater access to their players and quite likely to play their strongest possible sides.

Argentina´s home record against Ireland will be questioned. To date Ireland has never won a test match in Argentina. The rivalry between the countries has been so close that the home side has always won. The matches that have occurred at Rugby World Cups have also been close with Argentina eliminating Ireland in 1999 and 2007 and being eliminated by the Irish in 2003.

Argentina has performed better against Scotland overall but last time Scotland played in Argentina the Northern European nation won a two match series 2-0. Argentina had beaten Scotland in the previous November and would win the Rugby World Cup pool match the following year but the series defeat against Scotland remains unforgotten.

June 7 Argentina v Ireland, Resistencia
June 14 Argentina v Ireland, Tucumán
June 21 Argentina v Scotland, Córdoba

Argentina´s official A side, Los Jaguares, will also be involved in international competition in June. The team is to play in the IRB Tbilisi Cup in Georgia in a tournament featuring four teams. The host nation will be joined by Los Jaguares, Spain and Emerging Italy. Although the matches will not be capped the players involved will become capped by that nation. In other words no player involved can subsequently play for a rival nation like what happened in 2013 with Tommaso Allan representing Scotland and junior level before being capped by Italy.

June 14 Emerging Italy v Argentina Jaguares, Tbilisi 
June 18 Georgia v Argentina Jaguares, Tbilisi
June 22 Spain v Argentina Jaguares, Tbilisi

Canada
Like Argentina, Canada is likely to be missing a number of players in June. Clermont second-rower Jamie Cudmore will again not be involved in the June test matches. Others are expected to miss out too with players needing rest after a long European club season. With it being the final season before Rugby World Cup 2015 some of those already confirmed as being set to play in the tournament will be rested.

Also like Argentina Canada is to host Scotland. The Scots are to play both countries in addition to the USA and South Africa. For Canada it is a winnable test and one in which the players and administrators will be feeling good about. It is to be at the unofficial home of Canadian rugby, BMO Field in Toronto. Canada will also host Japan with the match being played in the Greater Vancouver area. It has been frustrating for the province of British Columbia as tests mave been increasingly played in Ontario.

The fixture against Japan will be a home match in the 2014 Pacific Nations Cup. The new format for this year´s tournament will see the tournament split into a north and south format and, as such, Canada and the USA will not face any of Fiji, Samoa or Tonga. Having hosted the USA last year Canada will play in the USA this year.

June 7 Canada v Japan, Burnaby
June 14 Canada v Scotland, Toronto
June 21 USA v Canada, Sacramento

USA
Having seen off the threat of Uruguay the USA can now prepare for Rugby World Cup 2015 knowing that it has a favorable draw. Despite being Americas 2 the USA arguably has a better set of opponents than does Canada. The USA will only have one strong opponnent - South Africa. The three others are all matches that the USA can be said to have a chance of winning. Samoa and Scotland will likely be joined by Japan. Canada, on the other hand, will have two strong sides in France and Ireland and will also face Italy. Romania is, therefore, the only match in which many will give Canada a chance.

June will be of great interest to all five Pool B nations for the fact that the USA will be hosting two of them. The USA Eagles will host Scotland in Houston and also face Japan in Honolulu. Both are matches that the USA can push for a victory. That is, if, the North Americans are at full strength. With there being questions over a possible USA v New Zealand match in October it is very possible that the USA will have to sacrifice top players for one or even more June tests to establish an agreement for player release in October.

June 7 USA v Scotland, Houston
June 14 USA v Japan, Honolulu
June 21 USA v Canada, Sacramento

Uruguay
Having played well but failed to win a test match against the USA in the home and away series in March there is new found respect for Los Teros. The second best South American rugby nation was ranked as high as 14th in the IRB rankings at one stage but has been unable to qualify for the previous two Rugby World Cups. 

Uruguay has a realistic opportunity to secure qualification for Rugby World Cup 2015 via repercharge. In losing against the USA on aggregate Uruguay was confirmed as Americas 3 and will host Asia 2 on a yet to be determined date to determine who reaches the repercharge final against the winner of Europe 3 v Africa 2. 

At this point in time it is not known who the three other regional qualifiers for the repercharge will be. Russia is expected to be Europe 3 and Hong Kong and Madagascar could well be Asia 2 and Africa 2. This being the case then Uruguay is likely to face Russia in the final in November with the winner qualifying as the Play-Off Winner for Rugby World Cup 2015 and facing Australia, England, Wales and Oceania 1. 

Uruguay´s June participation in the IRB Nations Cup is therefore of vital importance. The annual tournament will again be hosted by Romania with matches being played on June 13, 18 and 22. Uruguay is to face Romania, Emerging Ireland and Russia. The matches against Russia will therefore serve as a dress rehersal ahead of the Rugby World Cup qualifying series in November. 

June 13 Romania v Uruguay, Bucharest
June 18 Emerging Ireland v Uruguay, Bucharest
June 22 Russia v Uruguay, Bucharest

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