HANOVER, NH – The Americas Rugby Championship has officially already started, but the bulk of the first round matches will kick off tomorrow. Last week saw Canada host Uruguay for the first game of a two-match series that will determine the Americas 2 spot for the 2019 World Cup in Japan but also doubled as an ARC match-up. This week’s competition between the two is not a part of the ARC but will be exciting also to watch as the World Cup lineup starts to consolidate. The USA comes into the Americas Rugby Championship feeling positive as the reigning ARC champions, a productive fall tour, and a new head coach in Gary Gold.
Last Week’s Recap
Uruguay wasted no time getting on the board within the first minute, but Canada responded with three consecutive tries to take a 15-7 lead. It remained a close match until the 55th minute when Uruguay punched in a try after repetitive pick and goes by the forwards to take a 35-24 lead. However, Canada showed life in the 70th minute when Nick Blevins touched down on the outside to make it 29-38, but they were unable to capitalize again in the final 10 minutes.
USA vs. Argentina XV
This was the final match-up of last year’s edition that crowned the USA as ARC champions despite the match being a tie. The Eagles and Jaguares are the favorites to walk away with the trophy this year, so this will be possibly the most important game of the ARC. Argentina XV most recently won the Americas Pacific Challenge with a commanding undefeated record and +200 point differential against the “A sides” of Canada, Uruguay, Samoa, Tonga, and the USA. The USA is coming off an autumn European tour with saw it put away Germany and put up a fight against 12th ranked Georgia in a tough 20-21 loss.
The Eagle’s 23-man squad for Saturday will have Cardiff Blues’s Blaine Scully take over the captain responsibilities. The starting 15 has plenty of caps under its belt, with the lone exception being Hanco Germishuys with only two. Keep an eye on this young South African who is a bruising runner who will likely continue to rise in prominence. In reserve is Will Hooley of the Bedford Blues in the RFU Championship and Dylan Audsley, a St. Mary’s graduate, who will be looking to earn their first caps.
Argentina XV is a hard team analyze because as a stepping stone to Los Pumas, players are often coming and going. They have experience in second-rower Ignacio Larrague and back Jan Cappiello, Rodrigo Etchart, and Germán Schulz. Despite their youth, they are the most dangerous team in the tournament.
I expect this to be a close match between the two top sides in the Americas. However, I have to give the edge to the Jaguares because they simply are too talented to bet against. The Eagles certainly can get the upset, but it will require them to come together quickly as a unite, a luxury that is difficult for the USA as players are coming in from all over the world.
Chile vs. Brazil
In a repeat of last year’s opening round, Os Tupis will be looking to improve off of last year’s surprising success which saw them defeat Chile and Canada. However, Brazil is coming off of a difficult fall series which saw them lose to Germany and Spain but get a victory against Belgium. The face of the team is Moisés Duque who will be critical in taking leadership of the squad as some senior players will be unavailable for the first match.
Chile is coming off of a busy fall series where it went 2-2 with victories against Kenya and Germany and losses to Hong Kong and Russia. Los Condores finished the ARC at the bottom last year, and I would expect them to be refocused going into this year after learning from their mistakes. Expect Juan Pablo Perrotta to be key in leading the Chilean attack and Tomás Ianiszewski to be instrumental in his kicking role.
Brazil has been a part of a number of upsets in the ARC including finishes above Canada, Chile, and the USA last two years. I would not count them out against anyone but Argentina XV. Chile and Brazil lased faced off last in May when Chile got by 15-10. I see Chile coming on top again. This will also be a competitive game, but I think that the experience of Los Condores will put them ahead.
That’s it, feel free to disagree with me or add any comments below!
P.s… The other Six Nations is taking place as well. Here’s the entertaining studio show version of that #6N Preview:
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