The World Rugby Americas Pacific Challenge returns to the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo this Friday, five years after it was first introduced into the rugby calendar.
With the majority of the players involved aged 23 or under, the tournament will allow future stars of the game in the Americas to develop their skills in a competitive environment against cross-border opposition.
Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about the tournament.
WHO’S INVOLVED IN THE AMERICAS PACIFIC CHALLENGE?
Following an enforced break owing to the global pandemic, the Americas Pacific Challenge returns with teams from North and South America. Previous participants Argentina XV, Uruguay A and USA Selects will be joined by three newcomers in Brazil A, Chile A and Paraguay A.
Those teams will draw on the best young players who’ve been identified as having the ability to step up into the test arena. Supporting that ambition, 23 of the 28 players in the squad must be 23 years of age or under. The remaining five players can be any age over 18 years.
29 players will represent the 🇺🇸 in the Americas Pacific Challenge 💪 pic.twitter.com/SU6YL3jjxQ— USA Rugby (@USARugby) October 13, 2021
HOW DOES THE COMPETITION WORK?
The six teams will be allocated into two pools of three with a cross-pool fixture format.
Teams in Pool A, Argentina XV, Chile A and Brazil A, will play the teams in Pool B, Uruguay A, USA Selects and Paraguay A.
The tournament winner is determined by the number of competition points accrued across the three rounds.
WHEN IS THE AMERICAS PACIFIC CHALLENGE BEING PLAYED?
Nine matches will take place on three match-days, on Friday, 22 October, Tuesday, 26 October and Saturday, 30 October.
WHERE IS IT BEING PLAYED?
At the 14,000-capacity the Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo. The ground is home to the Uruguayan national team and was the venue earlier this month when Los Teros secured qualification for Rugby World Cup 2023 as Americas 1 following victory over USA.
WHO’S WON IT?
Argentina XV won the first two editions in 2016 and 2017 with six victories out of six.
In the inaugural tournament, Argentina XV looked in danger of blowing a 17-0 lead but held on to win 27-26 in the decisive match against Fiji Warriors.
If that win was by the closest of margins, the second title came after Argentina XV won a thoroughly one-sided affair with Uruguay A, 82-7.
Felipe Contepomi’s side put on another masterclass of attacking rugby to run in 12 tries, including a first-half hat-trick for full-back Juan Cruz Mallía.
Samoa A ended Argentina XV’s dominance of the competition, inflicting a first-ever defeat on the young Los Pumas hopefuls before clinching the title with victories over Tonga A and Uruguay A.
The Americas Pacific Challenge was not staged in 2019 or 2020.
ANY FAMOUS GRADUATES?
Current US Eagles captain Bryce Campbell is a perfect example of how the Americas Pacific Challenge helped to turn relative unknowns into stars in the making. The strong-running centre got his first taste of representative rugby at the World Rugby Americas Pacific Challenge 2016, aged 22, and won the first of his 38 caps a month later.
Uruguayan number eight Manuel Diana made his test debut four months after representing the A team at the inaugural APC and has been a mainstay of Los Teros ever since. He scored a try in the famous 30-27 win over Fiji at Rugby World Cup 2019 and started both games against USA this month, which clinched qualification for France 2023.
Argentina winger Bautista Delguy is another who has made the player development pathway journey, from under-20s through to senior test honours, with his exposure to international-level rugby at the Americas Pacific Challenge an important step along the way.
Meanwhile, two of the nations not taking part this year, Canada and Fiji, have used the competition to good effect in the past.
Matt Heaton had only won a couple of caps off the bench when the Americas Pacific Challenge began and was playing lower league, semi-pro rugby in England with Darlington Mowden Park. The flanker has gone on to make 31 test appearances and become one of the most consistent performers in the Canada squad and was named co-captain on the July tour to England and Wales.
Back-row Mesulame Kunavula appeared for Fiji Warriors at the tournament as an uncapped player approaching his 21st birthday. Using the Americas Pacific Challenge as a launchpad, Kunavula lit up the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series before earning a professional pro 15s contract with Edinburgh. He then made his test debut against Georgia in the Autumn Nations Cup 2020, in his adopted home city, and started back-to-back tests against the All Blacks in July.