By Tom Crosby
DeepSouthRugby.Net attended the qualifying match between the USA and Canada in Charleston on July 4th. I’m sure readers have heard the USA won that one (12-6) and then lost in Edmonton (41- 18) and now has to battle Uruguay home and away in (probably) November for a World Cup slot. If they lose the aggregate point total in the Uruguayan matches they will still have one more chance at a spot. To get the last spot they will need to beat first whomever emerges runner-up of the 2010 Asian 5 Nations Cup. (Japan will probably win so runner-up would be someone like Hong Kong, Arab Nations, or Kazakhstan. Yes, we might need to get past Borat.) After winning that, we would need to beat (home and away) the winner of a European-African play-off system. The African play-offs are down to a final between Namibia and Tunisia. The winner of that match-up in November will go to the World Cup and the loser will face the team that emerges out of a multi-tiered European play-off system – probably Georgia. Odds seem to be favorable for us to ease past Uruguay as we did to get a spot in the 2007 World Cup and avoid the Asian clash to get to the winner of the Africa-Europe match-up.
The USA v Canada match in Charleston was excellent. DeepSouth.Net publisher (Fran “The Man” Thompson) and I sprang for the VIP tickets (only $104). The tickets came with buffet and free drinks prior to the match. We got to the grounds early to find the area relatively deserted, so we got Fran’s incredible wife, Michelle, to drop us a couple of miles away at a bar where there seemed to be some rugby activity. While there we met up with DC area (West Potomac RFC) rugger John Kimmer and family. John and I shared stories and our passion for experiencing World Cup rugby in the country where it is happening. The Kimmer’s gave us a lift to the pitch and eventually back to our hotel in Charleston, and we looked forward to meeting up again in New Zealand in 2011.
The US certainly showed up to play and my only complaint is the match seemed to end way too soon. The official report was there were 3,800 fans there. We heard the capacity of the stadium which is home to a pro-soccer side was 4,000. It was no where near half full, so it would be interesting how they came up with the 3800 number. The VIP ticket let you have your pick of seats along mid-field and Fran said he had never had such a great seat for a match at this level. He was right behind the Eagle bench and could smell the sweat and feel the players’ determination as the Eagles defeated the Canadians for the first time since June 2005. I wandered between the press room (which was practically empty with one Canadian journalist, one guy from a Charleston paper who had never seen a rugby match before, and a couple of USA Rugby folks) and the clubhouse where the soccer oriented bar crew kept me well lubricated as we watched the match on television and I explained what was happening.
Thoughts from Fran:
“I wrote a report to Battleship about the Atlanta Renegade guys we met who were waiting on an order of “What Would Major Dan’ do?” shirts. I’d be interested to know if there was a post game party under the tent. My other great memory was of the bunch beside me on the 40 yard line lower section. About 80 of ’em were on their feet screaming the entire match. Their repeated E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles chant reminded me of my Philly football roots. Great stuff.
I thought the fitness level of the players was definitely at the International level. The pace was incredible, especially considering the 100 degree weather and 100% humidity. The Canadian scribe you mentioned referred to the level of play as sloppy. But I saw great defense on our part and crushing contact throughout the match. It was probably the best seat I’ve ever had for any sporting event. But the section was only about 25 percent full even though nobody was collecting tickets. You are right. It went by way too fast, especially since we hightailed it out of there so quickly, even though I had a cooler of perfectly cold beer in John’s trunk.”
I recall a few months back there were complaints about the USA not bidding to host the 2015 World Cup (which England will host) or the 2019 World Cup (which Japan will host), but if we can’t get more than a couple thousand people out to watch our own national team in a World Cup qualifier we have a long way to go before we are ready to host the Big Show. I’m aware that the Cape Fears 7s tournie up I-95 was a conflict and a tough choice for many ruggers and fans, but I still contend that the Charleston turn-out indicates the decision to not invest energy in bidding on the World Cup was the right one.
About a year ago I wrote semi-promising regular reports about rugby development in Honduras where I had just started a teaching job. There wasn’t much to report. I reffed one middle school touch match which seriously inflamed my plantar fasciitis. The kids borrowed my ball a few more times. As far as I know that was all the rugby played in the country. Currently I am back in Honduras with my rugby ball next to my emergency bag ready to high tail it to the Guatemalan border if the political situation deteriorates much more. If I leave it will place serious financial strains on my intention to take September-December off in 2011, but the wife and I were able to put $10,000 aside this year for our New Zealand World Cup Fund, and we should be able to find something to keep us in pupusas and ceviche until our flight leaves for Auckland .
Any Deep South Rugger, Hugger, or fan interested in info on tours to New Zealand World Cup, email firstname.lastname@example.org