The Rugby World Cup 2023 Americas 2 play-off is delicately poised heading into the second leg in Colorado on Saturday.
Following a rain-soaked opening match in Santiago last weekend, the USA hold a slender 22-21 advantage for the return but will know they cannot discount opponents Chile.
Santiago Videla’s late try, and even later conversion, at Estadio Santa Laura Universidad SEK ensured that the Chilean Cóndores travelled north to Colorado with hope despite defeat.
They know that victory by two points or more at Infinity Park this weekend will seal Rugby World Cup qualification for the very first time.
They say you can’t play running rugby in wet conditions… 😮— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) July 10, 2022
They were wrong.pic.twitter.com/uYRGW21jgi
However, Chile have yet to beat the USA away from home in three attempts, losing 45-13 on their most recent visit during the Americas Rugby Championship 2018.
For the USA, the equation is simpler. All the Eagles need to do to secure their place in Pool D at RWC 2023 is to avoid defeat in the second leg on Saturday.
Gary Gold’s USA will be keen to extend their proud tournament record, having appeared at every men’s Rugby World Cup bar the 1995 edition in South Africa.
RWC 2019 finalists England, Japan, Argentina and Samoa await the winner of the Americas 2 play-off in France next year.
RWC 2023 ambitions will not be extinguished entirely for the team that loses on aggregate following Saturday’s second leg, however.
The runners-up will enter the Final Qualification Tournament in November, alongside Kenya, Portugal and the Asia/Pacific play-off loser.
With so much on the line, it should come as little surprise that the second leg has caught the attention of fans in the USA.
Earlier this week the sold-out signs went up at Infinity Park in Glendale after USA Rugby released an extra 100 tickets to cope with demand.
The hosts have a good record at the stadium, having lost only one of the six full tests they have played in Glendale, beating both Canada and Uruguay there last year.
Uruguay ultimately overturned their 19-16 defeat at Infinity Park in October to win the Americas 1 play-off and the home fans will hope the Eagles will be able to get over the line this time, against a fast-improving Chile side.
Chile’s journey to a potential Rugby World Cup debut started 12 months ago when they beat Brazil 23-13 to set up a play-off against Uruguay.
Los Teros won that match narrowly, 15-10, but Chile kept their dream alive with a 54-46 aggregate defeat of Canada, having lost the first leg 22-21.
Although the first leg against Canada was away rather than at home, Chile fans will hope that it proves a good omen as they attempt to overturn a one-point deficit once again.
Last Saturday’s match in Santiago was the seventh test contested by the sides, the USA winning their sixth match against Chile.
Victory was not enough to move the Eagles up from 17th in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini, but defeat ensured Chile slipped below Namibia to 24th.