It’s 0-0 and all to play for. That’s the verdict of USA captain Bryce Campbell as his team prepare to take on Uruguay in the second leg of the play-off for the Americas 1 spot at Rugby World Cup 2023.
USA won 19-16 when the sides met in Glendale last weekend but Campbell, who lines up at inside centre, says the three-point advantage counts for nothing in Montevideo this Saturday.
“We’re just going out to win the game. Whatever that takes, we are going to do. Depending on the situation, we may go for the posts or we may go for the corner but, for us at this stage, it is 0-0,” he said.
“The biggest thing for us is to stick to the game plan and just do it a bit better. It’s not a complicated game and the simpler we make it, the easier it will be for us to execute.”
USA opened up a 19-3 lead on home soil but Uruguay responded with a run of 13 unanswered points in the last quarter to leave the tie hanging in the balance.
ready for the big dance in Montevideo— USA Rugby (@USARugby) October 7, 2021
“Anyone can win”
Uruguay are equally clear in their focus, according to 24-year-old scrum-half Tomás Inciarte.
“This game is a final for us,” he said. “We have everything focused to win it. We want to go to Rugby World Cup 2023 as Americas 1, and we are not thinking beyond this game. We want to win.
“The difference in the final score in Glendale is fair. The game is now open for either team.”
Echoing the thoughts of Campbell, Inciarte says Uruguay will stay flexible in their approach.
“How we play depends a lot on momentum, the number of phases, which player is in possession. It will start as a final and then the plan will modify according to how the game flows.
“The way the (first) game finished, we were attacking and they couldn’t sustain a comfortable difference which puts us in a good mindset. But it is a very open series, and anyone can win.
“USA were the team we knew and expected – strong, solid, very physical, with good set-pieces. We are expecting the same in Montevideo.”
Making the nation proud
Meanwhile, Eagles head coach Gary Gold has praised his team for the way they have responded to their opening leg defeat in the Rugby Americas North 1 play-off against Canada, to remain in the hunt for a place in Pool A with New Zealand, France, Italy and the Africa Cup 2022 winners at Rugby World Cup 2023.
“There are so many areas over the last couple of weeks that have affected us that potentially other groups would use as excuses but we have just cracked on with it,” he said.
“Obviously it wasn’t ideal to lose AJ (MacGinty) after the Canada series, again, obviously we lost him in the summer as well and that’s one example, and there have been other bits of adversity. The COVID challenge has been very, very difficult to overcome.
“This group just keeps showing character, keeps showing the ability to bounce back and they really want to make the nation proud.
“We may not always win rugby games and every now and again we may put in performances but I don’t think you can ever look at this team and say they give up.
“They are an amazing group of players and an amazing group of men and I am very proud to be working with them.
“These guys give 100 per cent of themselves for 100 per cent of the time, and as a coach, that is all you can really ask for.”
Gold has made two changes of personnel to his match-day 23 for the rematch with Los Teros. In-form Hanco Germishuys is out due to family commitments and Jamason Fa'anana-Schultz comes into the back-row, at openside, with Andrew Guerra shifting across to fill the vacated blindside spot
Connecticut-born, Argentina-raised loose forward Benjamin Bonasso could make his national team debut from the bench.
Canada add experience
While the winner of the series can look forward to competing at Rugby World Cup 2023 in two years’ time, the loser will still have a chance to qualify, either as Americas 2 or through the Final Qualification Tournament.
A straight shootout with the winner of the Canada v Chile series is the consolation prize for the side that fails to make it to France as Americas 1.
The situation in that series is even more delicately balanced with Canada only taking a one-point advantage down to Valparaiso after Robbie Povey’s late penalty handed them a 22-21 victory.
Povey has to settle for a place on the bench again, as cover for Peter Nelson, despite rescuing Canada from a first-ever defeat to the Chileans.
Head coach Kingsley Jones has made two changes to his starting line-up for the rematch with Chile, adding 70 caps of experience.
Former captain Tyler Ardron comes in for Matt Heaton at blindside flanker while Patrick Parfrey slots in for Cooper Coats at full-back for Saturday’s game.
Photo: Travis Prior/USA Rugby