USA and Canada vie for World Cup ticket
August 11, 2013
The winner of the two-Test series between the USA and Canada will qualify for England 2015 © Getty Images
The United States and Canada are all set to go head-to-head for a place at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The North American rivals will face off in a two-Test series in the next fortnight with the winner set to become the first direct qualifier for the sport's next showpiece event that will be staged in England in a little over two years' time.
The two all-important ties will take place on August 17 in Charleston, South Carolina, and on August 24 in Toronto, Ontario. The winner on aggregate across the two legs will qualify as Americas 1 for the World Cup and be placed in Pool D with France, Ireland, Italy and the Europe 2 qualifier.
With two places available via the Americas qualification process, the loser will play off against Uruguay, the South America qualifier, for the right to claim the second berth as Americas 2. That team will join Pool B and face South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and the Asia 1 qualifier.
Currently, there is little to choose between USA and Canada in the IRB World Rankings, with the Eagles sitting in 18th position and the Canadians just two places above them in 15th place. But the Eagles have not beaten their neighbours for four years with Canada claiming a narrow 16-9 victory in their most recent clash in the Pacific Nations Cup in May.
As a result Canada, who are set to welcome lock Jamie Cudmore back for the first time since the 2011 World Cup, will enter the series as favourites having also recorded victories over Fiji - the eventual PNC champions - and Tonga this year. Kieran Crowley's side came up short against Ireland and Japan in their most recent outings but the Eagles are riding a five-game losing streak and are win-less since a victory over Romania at the end of last year.
Speaking ahead of the opening clash, USA Rugby chief executive Nigel Melville said: "We have to do well in the first leg, get a win and get some points. Then it's not a case of going up to Toronto and setting up shop, because you can't do that. They will be two competitive games.
"We know how hard it is to play against Canada, they're a great team," Melville added. "We're so close in so many ways and the results have been closer and closer over the years. No doubt this will be close; hopefully it will be in our favour."
Speaking earlier this year, Canada captain Aaron Carpenter spoke of his excitement about the showdown. "USA are the team we play the most so we know each other very well," he explained. "When that happens, the atmosphere around the games changes and it often comes down to who wants it more and who is willing to put their bodies on the line."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
It's time for those running Welsh rugby to stop trying to prevent its players heading to France and to start planning a future without them, writes Martin Williamson
Paul Eddison explains how the French sold English clubs down the river and why their domestic game will go from strength to strength
'Nothing can prepare you for the noise of the Millennium Stadium though, you just can't hear anything." Tom Hamilton talks to Cory Allen
Following a weekend where Wales suffered more heartbreak against Australia and the Aviva Premiership showed its class, the Monday Maul looks back at some of the key talking points