Quelling Chile’s emotion and silencing the Santiago crowd will be the key to success for the USA in the first leg of their Rugby World Cup 2023 Americas 2 play-off against Los Condores, according to Martin Iosefo.
The teams face each other at Estadio Santa Laura Universidad SEK in the Chilean capital this Saturday before meeting again at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado a week later.
The winner on aggregate over the two legs will secure a place in Pool D alongside England, Argentina, Japan and Samoa, while the loser gets one last shot at redemption through the Final Qualification Tournament later this year.
Iosefo was a member of the Eagles’ squad that went to Japan for the last tournament and having experienced “the time of his life”, the sevens convert wants another piece of the game’s marquee event.
However, Los Condores are closer than they have ever been to playing at a Rugby World Cup and the 32-year-old from Hawaii knows they will also be well up for the occasion with history in their grasp.
“Watching them, especially at home, they play with a lot of emotion and pride, they’re a very passionate team, and that’s what you want from a squad. It is going to require everything for us to match that energy and more,” said the two-time Olympian.
Match Alert | USA vs Chile at Infinity Park in Glendale is nearly sold out, if you’re still hoping to secure tickets, do so today before they’re gone.— USA Rugby (@USARugby) July 5, 2022
Getting the job done
By contrast, the US Eagles are no strangers to the Rugby World Cup having played in every tournament bar one – South Africa in 1995.
To miss out this time around would be a huge blow, especially with the Eagles due to host the tournament in 2031 and 2033, in the men’s and women’s events.
“We don’t want to create too much pressure around that. I feel it is about us growing as a team and doing the right things so we can get to where we want to be.
“A lot of the guys were involved (in previous play-offs) and know the feeling of what is at stake so having that experience is going to be great because we know what we are up against.
“Coming in after an MLR season, there is a lot of confidence around, guys have got a lot of games under their belts. The energy and standard has been great so far.
“There are guys in the squad who I have played with before and some new faces from the MLR and they’re the ones who, I believe, can get us through this qualifier and get the job done.”
Back in 15s
Iosefo is best-known for his line-busting breaks on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series but comes into the qualifiers fresh from a full season of 15s with Seattle Seawolves.
While the Seawolves came up just short of adding a third MLR Shield to their honours board, losing 30-15 in the final to Rugby New York, Iosefo enjoyed the experience.
“With all the experience that Seattle have in their squad, it’s been a really fun year. Any athlete in any sport wants to be in finals every year and I was fortunate to be in one in my first year. It was amazing to play in the final, especially at the Red Bull Arena.
Iosefo is used to the big occasion having played for the US Eagles Sevens at two Olympics, Rio and Tokyo, but in terms of career highlights, the player of Samoan descent admits playing at the Rugby World Cup is hard to beat.
“It was one of my best moments in rugby,” said Iosefo, who became a first-time father a few months ago following the birth of his son, Mika.
“Japan did a really good job of hosting. Being in those packed stadiums and embracing the whole Japanese culture and playing against some of the world’s top players, it is like nothing I have ever experienced before on the World Series.
“It is a full month or two of rugby going to different cities and I had the time of my life.”