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Rugby World Cup 2015
Canada close in on World Cup berth
ESPN Staff
August 18, 2013
Canada's Harry Jones crossed for what could be a crucial try against USA in Charleston © Getty Images
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Canada took a big step towards the 2015 Rugby World Cup with a 27-9 victory over USA in the first leg of their qualification showdown with USA in Charleston, South Carolina on Saturday.

The Canadians will now take an 18-point advantage into the second match in Toronto on August 24 where the winner on aggregate will qualify as Americas 1 and join France, Ireland, Italy and Europe 2 in Pool D.

The iconic Webb Ellis Cup accompanied IRB vice chairman Oregan Hoskins to Charleston for what was a compelling match played in front of a near-capacity audience. The Canadians had won the previous five encounters, including May's 16-9 IRB Pacific Nations Cup encounter and again the visitors led from start to finish.

Scrum-half Phil Mack set the tone with the first of three tries almost immediately from the kick-off and James Pritchard's kicking worked Canada into a 13-0 lead at the interval. After the break, the Eagles upped the intensity with a Chris Wyles penalty, but tries from Harry Jones and DHT Van Der Merwe and good kicking from Pritchard made sure of the result for the visitors.

With USA finishing the stronger, two late Wyles penalties ensured hope for his side going into the second leg next week. A win by 19 points or more is now the target for Mike Tolkin's team.

The loser over the two legs can still qualify for RWC 2015, but they will need to do it the hard way, playing Uruguay home and away for the right to qualify as Americas 2.

Despite the result for the home side, a near-full house in Carolina demonstrated continued growth in appeal throughout the States, where one million adults and children are participating in the country's fastest-growing team sport.

Hoskins said: "This match was about much more than the result. It was a statement about Rugby in the USA and north America, its increasing popularity and ambitions. This is a country with great potential and USA Rugby has achieved great progress in attracting unprecedented players and fans to fall in love with Rugby.

"The scene is set for an intriguing second leg in Toronto as USA will have to go for it and it will be fascinating to see who will be the first direct qualifier for England 2015."

The Webb Ellis Cup will now travel to Toronto where fans will be able to see the famous trophy at a number of public events ahead of the decisive match at the BMO Field.

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