It seems apt that shortly after a somewhat cynical blog about other American sports, the U.S. rugby team should qualify for the Rugby World Cup.
In a tense, closely fought contest over two legs, The Eagles came out on top of Uruguay national side Los Teros. After a 27-27 draw in the first leg in Montevideo, USA overcame a shaky start in the second leg in Atlanta. Coming back from a 3-13 half-time deficit, The Eagles eventually won by some margin, running in four unanswered second-half tries for a closing scoreline of 32-13. Final aggregate score for Mike Tolkin’s men over the two legs: 59-40.
Nice gallery of images from Atlanta-base sports photographer Andrew Snook here.
As the Americas 2 qualifier in Pool B, The Eagles will face a tough challenge. They meet Samoa in Brighton, face Scotland at Elland Road and have the joy of playing South Africa at the Olympic Stadium, before rounding off their Pool against Asia 1 at Kingsholm. Even Asia 1 – most likely Japan – will be above them in the international pecking order, though Japan is at least one of the (two) countries they’ve beaten in the Rugby World Cup. The USA’s first ever RWC fixture was a 21-18 defeat of Japan, with the result repeated in 2003. The other victory was against Russia in 2011.
Now 18th on the IRB world rankings, the prowess of USA rugby is on the up with a number of players plying their trade in the top echelons of the sport. Saracens full-back Chris Wyles put in an accurate kicking display for 12 of the side’s points in Atlanta, while winger Blaine Scully is in his first season at the Leicester Tigers, lock Samu Manoa has been a regular wrecking ball for Northampton for a few seasons now and no.8 Cam Dolan signed for the Saints in December.
One step down the rugby ladder in the Championship, second row Eric Fry plays for London Scottish fly-half and Toby L’Estrange recently signed for London Welsh.
Further afield, flanker Scott LaValla plays for Stade Francais and Eagles captain Todd Clever has joined the likes of Shane Williams and Sonny Bill Williams by playing in the Japanese top flight as it continues to attract top players from around the world.
And in case you’d forgotten, Sevens phenomenon Carlin Isles has just signed a deal that will see him try his hand at the 15-a-side verison with Glasgow Warriors.
Is there more to come from our American friends?