3/18/14 Miami Airport – Avianca to Montevideo
On Saturday, March 22nd, the USA and Uruguay national rugby sides will repeat what is becoming an every 4 year event. Four years ago the USA returned from Uruguay with a 27-22 victory in the first leg of their World Cup qualifying match. They secured the America 2 spot to the 2011 World Cup by outscoring Uruguay 27-6 a week later. The USA are once again favored to win.
A cautious prediction would be one that predicts the obvious with the cautious addendum: The Eagles should not take Uruguay lightly. If the USA team that lost to Canada (27-9) in Charleston in August shows up in Montevideo, Los Teros might have the opening they need to squeeze out a win that would inspire them to an exceptional effort in Atlanta on March 29th. The Eagles could then be chasing the last World Cup play-off spot in Pool A (Australia, England, Wales, Fiji). To catch that last spot they would need to win a match with the Asian runner-up (somebody like Kazakhstan) to get to a home and away series with the winner of Russia and the African runner-up (somebody like Namibia).
But this is not a cautious prediction. The Eagles are a year into a new level of professionalism. Four years ago there were 9 members of the side playing professional rugby. This year the Eagle traveling squad of 26 has 16 professionals. They have an overwhelming advantage in international experience. They will win in Montevideo by 4 tries.
And … as the America 2 team in Pool B there is even a shimmer of hope of a World Cup quarterfinal match. Here is the shimmer I see in the distance. It’s September 20th, 2015. In the beachside town of Brighton the Eagles score the first upset of the World Cup by beating Samoa 21-12. On the 27th they beat Scotland in Leeds by 1 point. On October 7th in a sold out Olympic Stadium in London they play valiantly against South Africa in a losing effort. Four days later they face the Mighty Blossoms of Japan. A win will send them into the Quarterfinals.
Stranger things have happened. France was beaten by both Tonga and New Zealand in 2011 World Cup pool play and came back to play the All Blacks in the final.