This weekend sees the next step in the Americas qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2023, with the first matches in the home-and-away series between USA and Uruguay and Canada and Chile taking place in Glendale and Langford, respectively.
What’s at stake?
The team with the best points difference on aggregate over the two matches between USA and Uruguay will progress to Rugby World Cup 2023 as Americas 1 alongside New Zealand, France, Italy and the winner of the Africa Cup 2022.
USA qualified as the top Americas team for the first time when they defeated Canada over the course of two legs in the RWC 2019 qualification process.
The loser of the Americas 1 play-off will still have another opportunity to make it to France, as they will face the winner of the home-and-away series between Canada and Chile, in a straight head to head, for the prize of the Americas 2 place in Pool D along with England, Japan, Argentina and Samoa.
How did we get to this point?
USA beat Canada 59-50 in the Rugby Americas North (RAN) 1 play-off in September to reach this play-off. They lost the first leg 34-21 in St John’s but triumphed 38-16 in Glendale.
Meanwhile, Uruguay overcame Brazil (39-13) and Chile (15-10) in the Sudamérica Rugby 3 Naciones in July.
Chile booked their place in the play-off against RAN 1 losers Canada by finishing as runner-up to Uruguay in the Sudamérica Rugby 3 Naciones in July. They beat Brazil 23-13 and lost 15-10 to Uruguay
When and where are the matches taking place?
USA v Uruguay is at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado and kicks off at 18:00 local time on Saturday 2 October (01:00 BST on Sunday).
The second leg will be at Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo on 9 October.
Canada v Chile is at the Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia and kicks off at 17:00 local time on Saturday 2 October (03:00 BST).
The second leg takes place in Valparaiso on 9 October.
Where can I watch it?
In the United States, FloRugby will be showing USA v Uruguay live while ESPN will broadcast it in South America and the Caribbean.
For fans outside of this region, World Rugby will be streaming the match live at www.rugbyworldcup.com/2023/watch-live
Are they lucky home grounds?
USA have won four of the five tests they have played at Infinity Park, their only defeat coming at the hands of Canada, 27-7 in August 2011.
Uruguay’s only previous outing there ended in a 48-6 loss to Canada in the 2010 Churchill Cup.
Canada have won all three tests played at the Starlight Stadium, previously known as Westhills, with a points difference of +117. They have beaten Chile twice there, 56-0 in February 2019 and 36-15 in 2017, with a 45-5 win against Brazil in between.
Have the teams met before in Rugby World Cup qualifiers?
Yes, but USA’s game against Uruguay is historic in that they have never played off for the Americas 1 spot before.
In nine previous Rugby World Cup qualifiers, Uruguay have only won once (10-9 in August 2002) and have never beaten the Eagles on American soil. That year Uruguay qualified as Americas 2 at USA’s expense, with the latter having to come through the repechage to make it to Australia.
Canada have beaten Chile in all six previous encounters, including two Rugby World Cup qualifiers in 2002 by an aggregate of 56-17.
What happened the last time the teams met?
Fixtures between the teams became more commonplace outside of Rugby World Cup qualification campaigns after the current format Americas Rugby Championship (ARC) was introduced in 2016.
And Uruguay beat USA for only the third time in history the last time the competition was played in 2019, coming away from Seattle with a 32-25 win. It is the only time Los Teros have beaten the Eagles away from home.
Meanwhile, Chile will want to banish memories of the 56-0 defeat they suffered the last time they played Canada in Langford in the ARC in 2019.
Which team has the richest Rugby World Cup history?
Canada are the only one of the four teams to have made it through to the knockout stages of the tournament, reaching the quarter-finals of Rugby World Cup 1991, and are also the only team to have competed in each of the nine previous editions.
USA have featured in every Rugby World Cup except 1995, while Uruguay are bidding to play on the game’s biggest stage for a fifth time having made it to the Rugby World Cup in 1999, 2003, 2015 and 2019.
Los Teros arguably pulled off the biggest shock result of any of the teams when they defeated Fiji 30-27 on an emotional day in Kamaishi during Rugby World Cup 2019.
Chile have never qualified for a Rugby World Cup before.
What’s the key team news?
USA are missing first-choice playmaker AJ MacGinty who injured his shoulder playing for Sale Sharks in their 31-31 draw at London Irish in the English Premiership last weekend. Will Magie steps into the number 10 jersey, while Will Hooley provides cover on the bench. Hooley has not played for the Eagles since Rugby World Cup 2019. NOLA Gold flanker Moni Tonga’uiha is in line to win his first cap off the bench.
Experienced Uruguay scrum-half Agustín Ormaechea is unavailable because of injury. The 30-year-old veteran of two Rugby World Cups and 51 caps is replaced by Santiago Arata in a team showing three personnel and positional changes from the starting XV that defeated Brazil 39-13 in July.
Facundo Gattas comes into the front-row at hooker and Felipe Etcheverry is promoted from the bench to start at full-back, with Rodrigo Silva moving to the right wing in place of Gaston Mieres. Mieres will win his 70th cap on the left wing as Nicolas Freitas shifts to outside centre. Inside centre Andrea Vilaseca will again lead los Teros out.
After naming an unchanged starting XV for the two Rugby Americas North 1 qualifiers against USA, Canada head coach Kingsley Jones has made three changes to his forward pack. Eric Howard and Tyler Rowland come into the front-row, at hooker and tight-head respectively, while Kyle Bailey is handed the number five jersey. Lucas Rumball captains the side from blindside.
Chile have also made three changes to the forward pack that started last time out in the 15-10 defeat to Uruguay. Clemente Saavedra joins his twin brother and outside Domingo Saavedra in the team, while the other changes come at prop and on the openside, with Vittorio Lastra and Raimundo Martinez getting their first run-outs since 2019.
What they say …
USA Eagles head coach Gary Gold: “While there is still excitement and enthusiasm from our win over Canada, we have a much different and hugely challenging task ahead with Uruguay.
“Everyone has seen what this team can do in the way they defeated Fiji at Rugby World Cup and even looking back to the last time we played them in 2018 for the ARC.
“This is a very talented, well-coached and experienced South American side and we have to bring that same physicality and energy that we had a few weeks ago in order to play to our strengths. If we start to make little mistakes and move away from our playing DNA, we will put ourselves behind.
“It’s been a great week of training with a few more sessions to go and I am confident this group will put in the work necessary to be prepared come Saturday.”
Uruguay back-row Santiago Civetta: “With the arrival of the players from Europe, the team is full (complete), which is good because have become a family and that is what gives us strength. Uruguay will want to attack, be present and will fight for every ball as it fights for qualification.”
Canada head coach Kingsley Jones: “We were obviously disappointed in the outcome of our previous match versus the USA, and I know the players are looking forward to running out at our home stadium and putting in another good shift on Canadian soil.”
Photo: Tom Corno