USA Rugby Men’s Eagles (Michael Lee/USA Rugby)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Men’s Eagles are in Northern California this week looking to reverse a recent trend of Canadian dominance on the rugby pitch.
Canada took all three of the two teams’ meetings last year, including a two-leg IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Qualifier series win in Charleston, S.C., and Toronto, Ontario. Canada won the first match of a new-look IRB Pacific Nations Cup last year in Edmonton.
The Eagles will finish their 2014 Pacific Nations Cup campaign against the border rival Saturday, June 21, at Bonney Field. The area has been kind to the team in recent years, with the Eagles winning two of their last three matches in Santa Clara and Stanford, but Canada is coming off of two close losses this summer and a seven-match unbeaten streak against the Eagles.
The Canucks could not hold onto a halftime lead against Japan in their Pacific Nations Cup opener and nearly defeated Scotland at BMO Field last weekend, but have still only won three of their last 10 matches, two of which were against the Eagles.
Ranked 16th, two spots ahead of the 18th-ranked Eagles, Canada was mostly dominated against the New Zealand Maori All Blacks last November before the Kiwis used a late try to earn a win against the Eagles in Philadelphia, Pa.
While the Eagles went on to defeat Georgia and Russia to finish their fall tour, Canada lost its match in Tbilisi and fell to Romania before ending its year with a defeat of Portugal.
Adam Kleeberger will miss Saturday’s match after sustaining an injury in Canada’s loss to Japan earlier in the month. Chauncey O’Toole will take the empty roster spot.
An improved performance from the Eagles against Japan should give the team some confidence going into the rivalry match, though injury doubts remain with Cam Dolan and Phil Thiel each requiring relief during last weekend’s match against Japan at StubHub Center.
Despite a level halftime score, Japan outlasted the Eagles to take the Asia/Pacific conference title. The coaching staff and players understand a full-match effort will be needed to overcome Canada.
“We need to put in an 80-minute performance,” Blaine Scully said. “Sometimes you’re under pressure, sometimes you’re putting them under pressure. So we need to maximize the amount of time we put them under pressure and try to nullify the pressure they put us under.
Scully will hope for a successful homecoming, as will Eric Fry and Louis Stanfill, after recording a hat trick of tries against Japan. Scully has scored one try in five career matches against the Maple Leafs, while Fry and Stanfill have played a combined 17 matches against Canada.
Coverage of the match begins Saturday, June 21, at 5:30 PM ET LIVE on Universal Sports with Bill Seward and former USA Sevens captain Brian Hightower calling the action.
Follow match updates on Twitter with @USARugby and #USAvCAN.
(From USA Rugby Press Release)