Eagles can soar on the back of major league success

As part of a series looking at Tier 2 teams competing at Rugby World Cup 2019, a guide to the strengths and weaknesses of USA.

TOKYO, 25 Sep - Analysis of USA, who are in Pool C with England, France, Argentina and Tonga. They play England in their opening game of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Kobe Misaki Stadium on Thursday.

Overview 

  • Sleeping giants lead the way for Tier 2 nations with their possession stats. They score the third most tries of any nation
  • In 2018 the US beat everyone they faced for the first nine matches only losing to Ireland in Dublin to end their year
  • Victims of Uruguayan resurgence; 61-19 winners in Montevideo in 2018, 32-25 losers in Seattle in 2019. 

Strengths

The presence of a professional league in the US has helped the team’s progression enormously. Tier 2 teams tend to fade in the second half of games because they do not have the same fitness level as Tier 1 sides. The reason for this is fairly simple; if you are working a job and playing at the same time your fitness level will suffer compared to fully professional athletes. A sentence I’m sure many people can relate to. Ten of the 31 players play in Major League Rugby, six feature, or recently featured, in the English Premiership. A remaining handful appear in professional leagues around the world. Expect to see the US hang-on later into games.

Hooker Joe Taufete'e's 20 tries in 23 games are already a record for hookers. Taufete'e, above, is a wrecking ball who the US will hope to wind up and watch crash through defences. He is not just one dimensional though, in their final warm-up game against Canada he launched a lineout throw 40m to set-up an attack in midfield. Expect to see more of the same at the World Cup from the record breaker.

The US might not have elite players across the pitch but they do have them in key positions. AJ MacGinty will boss the forwards and backs from the fly-half position and Harelquins’s centre Paul Lasike will assist. That experience is crucial.

Weaknesses

The US have made strides recently winning handsomely against teams they play regularly. However, they have not faced Tonga since 2016 and have not beaten them since 1999. They have not played France since 2004 and last won in 1924. England and Argentina have never been beaten and were last played in 2007 and 2003 respectively. The US know they can beat the teams they regularly play and the styles they are familiar with but this will be a step into the unknown.

The US style is quite structured. They do not pass frequently, tend to play lots of one-out rugby and kick the ball away when it’s clear they will not advance up the pitch. England, France and Argentina will be very happy for USA to do this. Those teams will absorb the hits and then counter-attack when they receive a kick.

Say this to Impress your Friends

"The US team have brought in some players from the sevens circuit. Expect to see them throw some surprises into an otherwise predictable game plan."    

Vital Statistics (All Test Matches 2018)

World Ranking: 13th 

Average Minutes of Possession Per Game: 19m 3s (3rd) 

Scrum Success: 90% (12th)

Lineout Success: 95% (1st)

Goal Kicking Success: 72% (18th)

Average Tries Scored: 5.0 (3rd)

Average Tries Conceded: 3.0 (12th)

Seconds per Pass/Ruck/Kick: 8.1 (17th)/11.8 (11th)/54.4 (9th)

Passes per Ruck: 1.5 (18th)

 RNS sl/sdg/ajr