Heading into their third and final match of the round-robin series, the USA Men’s Eagles are prepared and eager to play one final match to determine their future in this Rugby World Cup cycle.
After dominant early round performances from both the USA and Portugal, both teams head into Friday with immense momentum as two squads nearly tied in the world rankings and dead set on punching their ticket to next year’s Rugby World Cup in France. Head Coach Gary Gold has selected his match day 23 for the penultimate match, with a few slight changes from last week. When it boils down to it, this match is simply a win or go home scenario. A challenge the United States have prepared for over the last 8 weeks and enter Friday with a full steam of confidence. USA vs Portugal kicks off Friday, November 18 at 10:30 AM ET, LIVE on The Rugby Network.
Having gone 2-0 in the first two rounds of the series, the United States and Portugal are tied at 10 points each with the Portuguese leading in point differential after their 85-0 win over Kenya last week. In the event of a tie, Portugal would qualify on differential, however neither team expects a draw come final whistle this Friday in Dubai. The USA will look to avoid only their second missed Rugby World Cup in the history of the tournament, while Portugal are in search of their second ever appearance. The USA have shown to be strong in the forward pack, both offensively, at scrum time and in the rolling maul – while Portugal have a back four making waves in World Rugby with their speed and power. Sitting #18 (Portugal) and #19 (USA) in the world rankings, with the USA just ahead after last week’s victory, these two teams are excitingly well paired and offer a grand finale to the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification series as a whole.
While not where Head Coach Gary Gold and staff would have hoped or expected to be back in the fall of 2021 when facing Uruguay in the Americas 1 series, this team has embraced the challenge and implication of the Final Qualification Tournament and performed at a level the coaches and players would agree is first class. At this point it is all about execution. The team has confidently been in assembly for some time now, building their systems on the pitch, and importantly off it as well. With the entirety of the USA Rugby community behind them in support, the Eagles are ready to fly.
Some notable achievements are in line for a few USA Eagles as well, as Cam Dolan will play in his 63 international test match, passing Luke Gross for the third most all time in Men’s Eagles history. Winning Player of the Match last week against Hong Kong and wearing the #5 jersey this Friday, Dolan will again look to lead the strong forward performance. New York City native, Chris Mattina will also look to make his USA debut off the bench, named to his first test match roster. Already a USA Eagle with the Men’s Sevens, Mattina has progressed on Gary Gold’s radar with strong performances in the last few seasons with MLR. Benjamin Bonasso also slides into the match day 23 for his first appearance this series.
As the two part tour and qualification process nears an end, the Major League Rugby season will kick off in February with a wave of optimism off the back of locking in a place at Rugby World Cup 2023. With the success of the Men’s National Team being key to the growth of the league, MLR has supported the extended team assembly and preparatory competition with some key funding and additional resources to the Eagles program.
USA Rugby CEO, Ross Young added, “Assembly time and suitable preparation is always an important factor to the success of a team over 80 short minutes of game time, so we’re very grateful of the backing we have received from MLR during this all-important last two months. We collectively understand the significance of competing in France next year, and improving on the international stage in the future so working in partnership during this project has already reaped rewards. USA Rugby along with MLR are enthusiastic to support the Eagles this weekend in Dubai as we know they’ll give their all in representing the whole rugby US rugby community’
Comments from Head Coach Gary Gold as heading into round two:
“First and foremost, I’m incredibly proud of this team and the performances they have put forth over the last two months, since first assembling in Colorado. We continue to improve, both on and off the pitch, and the results are a reflection of the team’s positivity. We understand the implications this match brings, however that challenge has the group excited to compete and we remain confident in our preparation.
Portugal have shown to be a formidable team, they have earned their spot in this final game, just as we have. Both sides have worked incredibly hard to get to this point, so I think we can expect an inspiring 80 minutes of world class rugby on Friday.”
USA MEN’S EAGLES ROSTER | USA vs PORTUGAL
|1. David Ainu'u||Toulouse (FRA)||19|
|2. Kapeli Pifeleti||Saracens (ENG)||9|
|3. Paul Mullen||Utah Warriors||29|
|4. Greg Peterson||Newcastle Falcons (ENG)||38|
|5. Cam Dolan||NOLA Gold||62|
|6. Viliami Helu||Rugby ATL||2|
|7. Cory Daniel||Old Glory DC||2|
|8. Jamason Fa'anana-Schultz||Old Glory DC||8|
|9. Ruben De Haas||Saracens (ENG)||27|
|10. AJ MacGinty (C)||Bristol Bears||34|
|11. Nate Augspurger||San Diego Legion||35|
|12. Paul Lasike||Utah Warriors||21|
|13. Bryce Campbell||MLR||43|
|14. Christian Dyer||Houston SaberCats||10|
|15. Mitch Wilson||New England Free Jacks||2|
|16. Mikey Sosene-Feagai||Agen (FRA)||8|
|17. Jack Iscaro||Old Glory DC||1|
|18. Nate Sylvia||San Diego Legion||2|
|19. Benjamin Bonasso||Rugby New York||4|
|20. Tesimoni Tonga'uiha||NOLA Gold||5|
|21. Chris Mattina||MLR||Yet to debut|
|22. Luke Carty||MLR||10|
|23. Tavite Lopeti||Seattle Seawolves||7|
USA MEN’S EAGLES STAFF
Head Coach | Gary Gold
Assistant Coach | Mario Ledesma
Assistant Coach | Steve Brett
Assistant Coach | John Plumtree
Head Strength & Conditioning Coach | Huw Bevan
Strength & Conditioning Coach | Calvin Morris
Analyst | Jimmy Harrison
Head Physiotherapist | Kristen Douhan
Physiotherapist | Ron Klingensmith
Sports Massage Therapist | Daliah Hurwitz
Team Doctor | Marc Kowalsky
Team Manager | Oscar Alvarez
USA MEN’S EAGLES MATCH SCHEDULE
USA vs Kenya
Sunday, Nov 6 | (W) 68-14
Live replay on The Rugby Network
USA vs Hong Kong
Saturday, Nov 12 | (W)
Live replay on The Rugby Network
USA vs Portugal
Friday, Nov 18 | 10:30 AM ET
Live on The Rugby Network