RWU Friend Ray’s Rugby is back with previews of the second matchday of the ARC, courtesy of his blog.
LANGFORD, BC – Welcome to the second matchday of Americas Rugby Championship Matchday Previews. The goal of the ARC is to provide a tournament for player development of non-first choice/foreign based players that play at the highest domestic level for the nations of Argentina, Canada, United States and Uruguay. Now that we have clarified that, lets look at the tonight’s match-ups for matchday 2 aka rivalry day as neighbors go toe-to-toe:
Argentina v Uruguay (#ArgvUru): Argentina and Uruguay renew their friendly neighborhood rivalry in the second round of the Americas Rugby Championship early Wednesday evening. Uruguay have never beaten Argentina at senior level, hardly a surprising statistic considering Argentina have an extra forty years of history behind them and more importantly around 15 times the number of players to choose from. Last year’s spread was 34 points but only two years ago it was only 11, so it would not be unprecedented for this to be closer than expected, but guarded optimism might be more appropriate.
As expected it’s all change for Los Jaguares, retaining only four players who started against the Americans on Saturday. A whole new front row comes in, led by promising hooker Julián Montoya. Paris-based second row Juan Cruz Guillemaín is an aerial specialist, and into the back row come experienced Francisco Panessi and u20 standout Tomás Lezana.
Gonzalo Bertranou partners teenager Ignacio Albornoz in a new-look halfback combination. Albornoz is another tall, rangy flyhalf who is also comfortable in the outside backs. A real danger man will be Juan Ignacio Brex in the midfield. The powerful runner has been a standout at every level thus far and will be looking to cement his name into the side against Canada on Saturday.
Uruguay have been bolstered with the addition of five members of the squad that beat Russia on Saturday, with the three reservists thrown straight into the starting lineup. Juan de Freitas adds his pace to a very quick back row that also includes Gabriel Puig, and stocky Leandro Leivas moves into the midfield. Alejo Durán enters at scrumhalf and will pair with untested Manuel Blengio at flyhalf, with Matias Arocena moving to fullback.
Pedro Dolsan, previously an age-grade international for Argentina, starts at inside centre, with Rodrigo Bocking bumped onto the left wing. Mateo Sanguinetti and Juan Etcheverría are fresh legs in the front row, though Sanguinetti will be conceding an enormous amount of weight to rotund opposite Lucas Martínez. Matías Beer makes way for Fernando Bascou in the second row, which adds a little strength but sacrifices lineout height.
When these two sides last met in May it was a 54 point blowout. Granted only handful from each side took part, but there isn’t much difference in terms of relative strength. Both sides are experimental, especially at the crucial flyhalf position, so it will be interesting to see how the opposing younsters perform. Ultimately Argentina have far too much talent to let this one slide. Look for Los Jaguares to hit their stride late in the first half and take this home in a similar fashion to last year. Argentina by 30.
ARGENTINA JAGUARS vs URUGUAY ‘A’
Wednesday, October 15, 18:00 PST, Langford
Canada v USA (#CanvUSA) : Canada will be out for redemption after dropping this very same fixture a year ago today. On paper this looks by far the closest match of the tournament. Though the USA come in with one loss and Canada a win, both sides had their struggles in the opening match and there isn’t much to choose from on form. Head coaches Kieran Crowley and Mike Tolkin have resisted making changes, tinkering only slightly from the sides that ran out on Saturday.
Given Canada’s relative depth in the forwards it’s a surprise that Nanyak Dala is the only addition to the pack. Kyle Baillie, who impressed against Uruguay, is the one to drop out, with Evan Olmstead moving into the second row. Crowley is clearly intent on getting the upper hand right away before bringing on the subs early in the second half.
The most intriguing decision, or non-decision depending on how you look at it, is the retention of Gordon McRorie at flyhalf. His combination with Jamie Mackenzie was one of the weak points from the Uruguay match and the swapping of Derek Daypuck with Patrick Parfrey isn’t likely to change much in terms of options. Jordan Wilson-Ross has been called into the reserves after a weekend in the Gold Coast and could move into the midfield if things go awry.
Also arriving from down under are Zack Test, Folau Niua, and Andrew Durutalo, with all three taking up places on the Selects bench. The trio could make a big splash off the bench, but they’ll need the get the ball in their hands to do it. The only changes to the run-on side are Brian Doyle for Graham Harriman, and speedster Tim Stanfill taking over from heavyweight Lemoto Filikitonga. The wings didn’t see much action against Argentina so Stanfill’s speed is more likely to be seen on the kick chase, though there could be opportunities against a less fleet-of-foot Dan Moor should he be given the opportunity.
Phil Thiel has been handed the captaincy for the match in a move that probably indicates an early rest for Louis Stanfill. Thiel and his front row mates will again be under pressure from a strong Canadian unit who have played together on numerous occasions over the past few years. It’s a clear advantage for the home side, and combined with the strength of the replacements one that’s likely to make the difference in the end.
If the Americans can be more accurate at the set piece and get their exit strategies right on the restarts, they could turn this one into a real dogfight. Canada will look to get on the front foot early and establish dominance in tight, but if they don’t turn pressure into points it will be anyone’s game in the second half. It’s as close to a coin toss as you get in this tournament, but you have to give the slight edge to the Canadian tight five, and their four quality replacements. This should be an exciting game with the home side just edging it by 3.
CANADA ‘A’ vs USA SELECT XV
Wednesday, October 15, 20:00 PST, Langford
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