SPORTS

Rugby World Cup on hand for Canada qualifier against United States

08/16/2013 04:28 EDT | Updated 10/16/2013 05:12 EDT
Canada and the U.S. Eagles will see firsthand Saturday what they are ultimately chasing in their bid to become the first direct qualifier to the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The Webb Ellis Cup will be on hand at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, S.C., in the opening leg of their two-match total-points series. The championship trophy will also be at Toronto's BMO Field for the rematch Aug. 24.

The series winner will join 12 countries who qualified automatically for the 20-team tournament in England, slotting in Pool D alongside France, Ireland, Italy and the Europe 2 qualifier.

The loser will face Uruguay in another home-and-away series with that winner joining South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and the Asian qualifier, likely Japan, in Pool B.

There is one more chance to get to England for the loser of that series, via a repechage tournament.

"The earlier we can get into the Rugby World Cup the better," American coach Mike Tolkin said in a statement. "It allows you more preparation time, lessens the amount of time we would have to get professionals back, and it secures us into the tournament – you never want to keep going through many qualification rounds."

Canada, ranked 15th in the world to No. 18 for the U.S., has traditionally held the upper hand over the U.S. Saturday's game marks the 50th meeting between the North American rivals with Canada leading the series 36-12-1.

The U.S., meanwhile, has lost its last five matches in 2013 including a 16-9 defeat in May at the hands of Canada in Edmonton.

But the U.S., under Tolkin and CEO Nigel Melville, boasts some star power in captain Todd Clever (NTT Shining Arcs, Japan), fellow forwards Samu Manoa (Northampton, England) and Scott LaValla (Stade Francais, France), winger Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz, France), and fullback Chris Wyles (Saracens, England).

All are in the starting lineup Saturday when Clever, whose rugby resume includes a stint with Super Rugby's Lions, will mark his 51st cap.

The six-foot-six, 268-pound Manoa turned heads with a crunching tackle on Ireland's Peter O'Mahony earlier this summer. The hulking forward of Tongan descent wasted little time making an impact in England, earning a three-year contract extension six months into his stay.

"Hitting people is what I like," he told a British newspaper in May. "I don't really mean to hurt them but whoever is in front of me I'm going to give you what I've got.

Manoa was voted Northampton's player of the season by both the fans and his teammates.

The Americans have been rebuilding their program, looking to add promising athletes from other sports.

Canada and the U.S. have carried over their rivalry into the sevens version of the game with the Americans placing 11th and the Canadians 12th in the HSBC World Series.

The U.S. lost 15-12 to a touring Irish side shorn of many of its stars, who were on tour Down Under with the British and Irish Lions. The Irish rallied a week later to thump Canada 40-14.

The Americans defeated Canada 12-6 four years ago in a similar qualifier in Charleston. The Canadian men rallied to win the second leg 41-18 in Edmonton to win the series. The U.S. subsequently defeated Uruguay 27-22 and 27-6 to join the Canadian men at the World Cup in New Zealand.

Of the 23 players in the American's matchday squad Saturday, eight took part in that 2009 win over Canada.

Canada, under coach Kieran Crowley, will be missing injured backs Conor Trainer, Liam Underwood and Jeff Hassler, as well as prop Hubert Buydens, who is playing professionally in New Zealand.

Veteran American back Paul Emerick, 33, announced his retirement in August after 53 caps.

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Canada

Andrew Tiedemann, Castaway Wanderers, St. Albert, Alta.; Ryan Hamilton, Capilano RFC, Vancouver; Jason Marshall, Atlantique Stade Rochelais (France), Vancouver; Jebb Sinclair, London Irish (England), Fredericton; Jamie Cudmore, ASM Clermont Auvergne (France), Squamish, B.C.; Tyler Ardron, Ospreys (Wales), Lakefield, Ont.; John Moonlight, James Bay AA, Pickering, Ont.; Aaron Carpenter (capt.), Cornish Pirates (England), Brantford, Ont.; Phil Mack, Uvic Vikes, Victoria; Harry Jones, Capilano RFC, West Vancouver; DTH van der Merwe, Glasgow Warriors (Scotland), Regina; Nick Blevins, Calgary Hornets, Calgary; Ciaran Hearn, Castaway Wanderers, Conception Bay, N.L.; Matt Evans, Cornish Pirates (England), Maple Bay, B.C.; James Pritchard, Bedford Blues (England), Parkes, Australia.

Reserves

Ray Barkwill, Niagara Wasps RFC, Niagara Falls, Ont.; Tom Dolezel, London St. George's, London, Ont.; Doug Wooldridge, Lindsay RFC, Lindsay, Ont.; Tyler Hotson, London Scottish (England), Vancouver; Nanyak Dala, Castaway Wanderers RFC, Saskatoon; Sean White, James Bay AA, Victoria; Nathan Hirayama, UVIC Vikes, Richmond, B.C.; Phil Mackenzie, Sale Sharks (England), Oakville, Ont.

U.S. Eagles

Shawn Pittman, Chris Biller, Eric Fry, Louis Stanfill, Samu Manoa, Scott LaVall, Peter Dahl, Todd Clever (capt.), Mike Petri, Toby L'Estrange, Blaine Scully, Andrew Suniula, Seamus Kelly, Takudzwa Ngwenya, Chris Wyles.

Reserves

Zachary Fenoglio, Titi Lamositele, Phil Thiel, Brian Doyle, Cameron Dolan, Robbie Shaw, Folau Niua, Roland Suniula.

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