First-ever Americas Rugby Championship
Collin Brown ‘16
For the first time ever, the Americas have their very own Pan-American rugby tournament ready to take the world by storm. It is called the Americas Rugby Championship and consists of Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Canada, and the United States. Rugby has been growing rapidly in the Americas for awhile now with Argentina finishing fourth at the 2015 World Cup and rugby being the fastest growing team sport in the US. It is bound to be an exciting tournament.
Best of all, the tournament opens in Houston February 6 at BBVA Compass Stadium with Argentina taking on United States. Then, in Austin, the USA Eagles take on or rival Canada, then they take on our rival Canada in Austin, and play their final home game against Chile in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The United States ends the tournament facing Brazil and Uruguay with away matches down in South America. More exciting news for rugby fans: all the matches will be broadcast live with the United States’ matches being re-aired on the following Sunday. Now, how exactly will each team fare in this first ever Americas Rugby Championship?
United States: The United States is in a great position to take this tournament. They have the most professionals playing and have a ton of new players taking the field, creating a strong mix of exciting young talent and battle-hardened veterans. The Americans also have a new coach in John Mitchell who has great credentials, even being the youngest ever coach of the great All Blacks rugby team. With his expertise, he brings an edge over the less experienced coaches of Chile, Canada, Brazil, and Uruguay. The United States also has three home games, rather than two other teams have, including what is going to be the toughest game against Argentina. This edge will not be available next year, so look for the United States to take advantage of this and take the tournament.
Argentina: Los Pumas had a great showing at the World Cup and are the highest ranked team in the tournament. They have a major issue though, their best players are playing for their club, the Jaguares, in the newly designed Super Rugby Competition. Instead they are sending the Argentina XV side consisting of Argentinian club players and only three professionals giving the other teams a fighting chance. They are still the favorites to win, but it will not be a walk in the park, having to open the tournament away against the next highest ranked team, the United States of America. Expect a lot of exciting rugby from this Argentinian side.
Chile: Chilean rugby has been doing very well recently. The sport has been growing, especially at the collegiate level. Los Condores do not have a lot of experience playing top level teams, but do not count them out.
Uruguay: Uruguay played the United States for the final 2015 World Cup America 2 slot twice, tying once and losing the second match. This time will be a little bit different however. Uruguay scored the most tries in their history of the World Cup this past year and is much improved. Los Teros is very physical and will do anything to win. Watch out for these guys–they are not afraid of anyone.
Canada: The United States’ rival is ready to get revenge for their recent losses to the Eagles. Historically, Canada has beaten the US very consistently, but recently that has changed. Canada did have a good showing at the World Cup though, playing a very exciting brand of attacking rugby. Their combination of professional sevens players and amateurs make them a formidable opponent. Unfortunately, they were not able to get their professionals released from their clubs and their coach recently stepped down from his post. These are not insurmountable issues, but it does make it harder for them to win the tournament. Expect a fun team to watch, one that performs especially well against the South American opponents.
Brazil: Brazil is the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, but is expected to put up a good fight. Their home games are predicted to bring big crowds and they have a good number of young professionals. This could be their chance to move up in the rankings and continue building their fast growing rugby culture.