The USA Selects are in Uruguay ready to face the challenge posed by South American teams in the second round of the World Rugby Americas Pacific Challenge 2021.
They will play against Brazil A on Tuesday, at the Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo, at 12:00 local time.
The second round will be completed by the debut of Argentina XV in the 2021 competition, playing against Paraguay A at 15:30, and will close with the clash between home side Uruguay A against Chile A.
The North Americans were due to arrive in Montevideo a week before the start of the tournament, but due to travel problems they were forced to miss an opening round that saw the Chileans and Uruguayans win. Before arriving on Saturday, they had to stay in Miami and eventually alter their travel plans.
Argentina XV and the USA Selects split the four points on offer and both will play their first game on Tuesday.
“Finally getting here was good to acclimatise and get some rest; once we got to training it was back into our system, doing what we were doing in America and now we are ready to play rugby,” said coach Mike Tolkin.
USA Rugby has had a tough October, losing Rugby World Cup 2023's Americas 1 slot to Uruguay and the Eagles taking a big loss to the All Blacks last Saturday in Washington D.C.
Their dream of reaching France 2023 is very much alive, however, and a number of players in this APC squad will certainly be in the mix in the near future.
Simple, hard rugby
“We are expecting from the team simple, hard rugby," says Tolkin. "We are together for a short time so we don’t want to complicate it – do the simple things well.
“Some of the players here have a good opportunity to get into the World Cup; there are obviously positions up for grabs and recent performances have left some questions marks and these guys know. They have an opportunity, they see the writing on the wall and if they play well, they could get some of those spots."
The Brazilians lost in the opening game against Uruguay A last Friday, but got better as the minutes passed. With a number of players not able to play competitive rugby since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, they pushed the Uruguayans hard in the second half.
Tolkin isn't underestimating the challenges his team face on debut.
“Brazil is always strong up front; their set pieces were good. I know they hadn’t played in a while; we haven’t played in a while. There’ll be some rust so we want to keep it simple, get into our rhythm, grab some chances and let the guys have a go and have fun playing.”
His counterpart, Fernando Portugal, was confidently looking forward to the game against the USA Select XV.
“We certainly have players for the future here, as we start to prepare for the next Rugby World Cup cycle,” he said.
“With USA Selects not playing in the first round, we focused on the things we needed to work on. We were too anxious against Uruguay A and weren’t focused enough, yet there were still good things to carry with us.”
Photo credit: Frankie Deges