Eagles seek advantage in Rugby World Cup 2019 Qualifier opener north of the border

UPDATE | June 22

Ryan Matyas has been ruled out of Saturday’s qualifier due to illness. Mike Te’o will replace him on the wing, Ben Cima moves to full back, and Will Magie has been called in to the reserves.

HAMILTON, Ontario – The Rugby World Cup 2019 Qualifiers that will determine the Americas 1 representative in Japan in two years begin this Saturday, June 24, as Todd Clever leads the USA Men’s Eagles against Canada at Tim Hortons Field.

The first match of the two-game series features an experienced U.S. side with 200 caps, led by the all-time record holder in Clever. Head Coach John Mitchell’s squad welcomes the return of recent debutant Paddy Ryan to the front row for a second cap, while the young back line that combined for four tries in a 51-34 defeat of the border rival earlier this year accounts for 31 appearances.

The Eagles, winners of the second annual Americas Rugby Championship in the spring, finished the Emirates Airline Summer Series 0-2 against Ireland and Georgia. The first leg of the Qualifier will be broadcast live on The Rugby Channel to viewers in the United States, scheduled to kick off at 3 p.m. ET north of the border.

“Both of our summer contests have been really good for us,” Mitchell said. “Ireland provided a lot of variety in attack and Georgia were big and strong in the set piece. We’ve been stressed enough to be able to understand what we’ll need to bring in the next 10 days. Playing third- and 12th-ranked teams in the world has been ideal preparation for us and I am sure Georgia dominates just about every scrum they come up against including the All Blacks at Rugby World Cup 2015.”

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Chris Baumann and Tony Lamborn were unavailable for selection this week following injuries sustained in the June 17 defeat to Georgia at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University. Hooker James Hilterbrand and Tony Purpura maintain their places in the starting XV alongside Ryan, however, while Nick Civetta comes back into the side to partner Ben Landry in the second row. Clever, who will be retiring from international rugby following the return fixture in San Diego July 1, will start in his 18th test against Canada with a try-scoring record of four tries in the previous two matchups under his belt. No. 8 Cam Dolan and flanker John Quill round out the pack.

Vice captain Nate Augspurger returns to the No. 9 jersey after a try-scoring campaign on the wing in Georgia last weekend, with AJ MacGinty also swapping shirts to start at fly half. Matai Leuta kept play alive for the Eagles’ final try in the 21-17 loss, while Ryan Matyas already has one try to his name during the current assembly. The pair will patrol the wings outside Marcel Brache and Bryce Campbell. Mike Te’o recorded a hat trick against Canada in February from the full back position and will cover the backs from the same position Saturday.

Professionals Andrew Durutalo and David Tameilau are available to Mitchell in the reserves, along with one of last weekend’s try-scorers in Matt Jensen in a forward-heavy bench. Ben Cima and Shaun Davies are the backs in the six-two split.

“We are really excited for this series, as you wait four years for this and you do not want to miss it, especially since it has never been achieved in USA Eagles RWC-Qualifying history which gives you an indication of the enormity of the task,” Mitchell said. “The lads have put in a tremendous amount of quality work and have realized there is healthy competition for places dictated by a focus on nailing our key skills to improve our chance to win.

“It’s also difficult to leave out outstanding squad members with the likes of Nate Brakeley and Will Magie because of the way our team mix has been selected. Injuries are always part of the game and we are very fortunate to have very good depth at this point in the series. We still have a lot of work to do between now and July 1.”

While the Eagles head into the Qualifier series on a two-match winless streak, they hold a five-game win streak over the Canadians, who have been on the winning side of a score line just once in 10 matches dating back to last June. Canada holds home-field advantage for the first leg before the teams head to University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium for the July 1 second leg.

“It’s going to be a tremendous challenge for us,” Mitchell said. “We are preparing well daily with our last main session Thursday with everyone doing their job whether selected or not selected to give us the best preparation and hopefully we can match them, if not better them.”

Viewers in the United States unable to make the trip to Ontario can watch the match live from 3 p.m. ET on The Rugby Channel with a subscription.

Men’s Eagles | v. Canada

1. Tony Purpura

2. James Hilterbrand

3. Paddy Ryan

4. Ben Landry

5. Nick Civetta

6. Todd Clever (C)

7. John Quill

8. Cam Dolan

9. Nate Augspurger

10. AJ MacGinty

11. Matai Leuta

12. Marcel Brache

13. Bryce Campbell

14. Mike Te’o

15. Ben Cima

Men’s Eagles | Reserves

16. Peter Malcolm

17. Ben Tarr

18. Dino Waldren

19. Matthew Jensen

20. David Tameilau

21. Andrew Durutalo

22. Shaun Davies

23. Will Magie

Canada | v. USA

1. Djustice Sears-Duru

2. Ray Barkwill

3. Jake Ilnicki

4. Brett Beukeboom (C)

5. Evan Olmstead

6. Admir Cejvanovic

7. Matt Heaton

8. Tyler Ardron

9. Phil Mack

10. Shane O’Leary

11. Taylor Paris

12. Connor Braid

13. DTH van der Merwe

14. Andrew Coe

15. Ciaran Hearn

Canada | Reserves

16. Benoit Piffero

17. Anthony Luca

18. Matt Tierney

19. Kyle Baillie

20. Aaron Carpenter

21. Gordon McRorie

22. Nick Blevins

23. Dan Moor

USA Men’s Eagles | Summer 2017 Schedule

v. Ireland (Emirates Airline Summer Series) – L 55-19

v. Georgia (Emirates Airline Summer Series) – L 21-17

v. Canada (Rugby World Cup 2019 Qualifier) – Saturday, June 24 @ 3 p.m. ET – Tim Hortons Field

v. Canada (Rugby World Cup 2019 Qualifier) – Saturday, July 1 @ 6 p.m. ET – Torero Stadium