Rugby World Cup Pedigree:
The USA have played at every single Rugby World Cup except the 1995 tournament for which they did not qualify, after being invited to take part in the first tournament back in 1987. They have traditionally qualified for the tournament as one of the two representative sides from the Americas, though this has changed in recent tournaments due to Argentina’s success of making the knockout stages.
They have never qualified from the group stages, with their best finish coming in 1987 when the finished third out of four teams in Pool A. Their only wins have come against Japan, in 1987 and 2003, although they did run Fiji close in 2003 as well as giving England a torrid time in the first match of their pool in the 2007 tournament. For their population and excellent athletic facilities across the country however, expecting for the USA to have put in more credible performances at Rugby World Cups is far from unreasonable. 2011 could be the year where one win turns into two.
Best Rugby World Cup moment:
Although it came in a defeat, Takudza Ngwenya’s try for the Eagles was one of the tournament’s best efforts. Starting from an interception by inspirational captain Todd Clever, the USA burst up the field with South Africa back-pedalling. The ball came to pivot Mike Hercus, who threw a huge pass out right to the Biarritz flyer Ngwenya. What followed stunned everyone, as Ngwenya tore round notorious speedster Bryan Habana and touched down from the half-way line. A champagne moment for USA Rugby.
Biggest Rugby World Cup win: 39-26 v Japan (October 27, 2003)
Biggest Rugby World Cup defeat: 15-64 v South Africa (September 30, 2007)
It’s hard to look past the captain Todd Clever when looking around for genuine world class players in the Eagles squad. The first American to play Super Rugby, Clever currently plays for the Suntory club in Japan, but impressed when playing for the Lions in the Super 14 a couple of years back. The rugby version of Captain America, Clever is easily recognised by his long hair and ferocious playing style on the field, leading from the front. A real favourite with the fans:
One to watch:
Chris Wyles is arguably the most successful American rugby player to have plied his trade in England, with the utility back becoming a key member of Saracens championship winning side last season. He appears on first glance to be the senior figure in an exciting backline alongside the likes of Ngwenya, Tim Usasz and James Paterson, so expect him to play a big part in the Eagles attacking game.
Rugby World Cup Fixtures:
v Ireland (September 11, 07:00)
v Russia (September 15, 08:30)
v Australia (September 23, 09:30)
v Italy (September 27, 07:30)
Nothing like a Cold War clash to stir the fires between the USA and Russia. The Russians are one of most improved teams in World Rugby, but the represent the USA’s best chance of a third win in Rugby World Cup history.
Odds: An optimistic, and potentially fruitful 1000/1 on to win outright. Worth a flutter?
USA coach Eddie O’Sullivan says:
“I want them to go there and of course compete at the World Cup and put our best foot forward and put in four great performances. But I want them to enjoy the whole experience of being in that particularly special environment. New Zealand is a rugby country but an actual World Cup in New Zealand is extra special and I think that it is important to get that experience because it will stay with you for the rest of your lives.”
USA captain Todd Clever says:
“You’ve got to go into it with team goals of how you are going to do. Our first game is against Ireland on September the 11th. That’s going to mean a lot for the guys and we really want to put in a good show of how we are going to come and how we are wanting to play.”
I would expect the USA to beat Russia, and possibly scare Italy. But taking on Australia and Ireland is a step too far for this developing side.
Position: 4th in the pool.
by Ben Coles