Beat South Africa today, and then Japan on Sunday. That’s the task ahead for the United States Eagles in the Rugby World Cup if they want to assure themselves a place in the 2019 tournament in Japan.
Advancing through Pool B to the quarter finals is now out of reach for the Eagles, but getting a RWC win and saving face is still possible for the U.S.
Knocking off the Springboks is a tall order although it’s been done. Japan surprised South Africa and the world by doing so in the first weekend of the tournament. But since then South Africa has shown they have moved beyond that loss, defeating Samoa and Scotland convincingly.
U.S. Coach Mike Tolkin has made several changes in his lineup. He may be resting his best players for the Japan game on Sunday, the last game before the quarter finals start the next weekend.
Tolkin said after the loss to Scotland that he still thought the U.S. could win games in the tournament. We’ll see.
Most of the pools have been sorted out for what teams will advance to the knock-out rounds. But there are still some games this weekend that will have a big impact on what comes next:
Pool B: Samoa vs. Scotland on Saturday. The Scots would love to have this win and a bonus point for scoring four tries. It’s their last game of pool play and they trail South Africa 11-10 in the standings. Whichever team goes out the winner will play the runner up in Pool A.
Pool A: Australia vs. Wales on Saturday. Right now they are tied in the standings with 13 points a piece. Going out as the pool winner would probably mean meeting Scotland in the quarter finals instead of South Africa. That would be my choice.
Pool C: New Zealand plays Tonga and Argentina plays Namibia. Barring an even bigger surprise than Japan over South Africa, the All Blacks and the Pumas will win and go out 1-2.
Pool D: Italy vs. Romania on Sunday will probably determined who takes third place in the pool and wins a guaranteed trip to the 2019 RWC. The stakes are higher for this time around in the game between France and Ireland on Sunday. They are tied with 14 points apiece, and the pool winner will likely face Argentina in the quarters, much preferable to taking on New Zealand.
USA vs. South Africa starts in an hour and 15 minutes.