Up and Under is a weekly feature on Americas Rugby News which reviews the best and worst from games involving the Americas teams over the previous week.
For the second year in a row Brazil made history in the Americas Rugby Championship. In 2016 the USA fell in São Paulo while on Friday Canada suffered the same fate at the Estádio do Pacaembu. The 24-23 win was again thanks to Moisés Duque. The inside center calmly converted a Lucas Tranquez try in the 79th minute of play to give Brazil the lead. In his post match interview Duque was unable to hold back his emotions. His years of hard work have seen him experience it all.
Uruguay ended their 2017 Americas Rugby Championship on a high as they defeated Chile by 45-14 at the Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo on Saturday. Riding a wave of confidence following the defeat of Canada in Maldonado, Los Teros ran in six tries to one as they stormed home to finish third overall. The win takes Uruguay to 3rd in the Americas Rankings and sets up an interesting list of test matches in May and June.
Diego Magno is now officially the most capped Uruguayan player of all time. Aged just 27, Magno earned his 68th cap for Los Teros on Saturday against Chile. He overtook Teros prop Rodrigo Sánchez, who until last week held his country’s record for test appearances. Magno can now look ahead to the upcoming Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifiers. Los Teros will head into the South American matches as the favorite to advance. The winner of Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay will face either Canada or the USA over home-and-away matches. With Uruguay now boasting wins over both Canada and the USA over the past 12 months the North Americans must perform at their best to avoid further disappointment.
What a weekend it was for USA Rugby! On Saturday the Eagles claimed the 2017 Americas Rugby Championship title with a stirring come-from-behind draw against the Argentina XV in Patagonia. On the same day the Women’s 7s side earned a highly respectable 4th place finish in Las Vegas while providing great entertainment for the fans. On Sunday it was the Men’s 7s who put on a show, losing narrowly to eventual champions South Africa in the Semi Final before defeating New Zealand in dramatic fashion to win the Bronze Final. Many years from now we may look back on this weekend as a pivotal moment in American rugby.
Las Vegas 7s
The Wellington 7s is likely to be relocated, possibly to another country altogether. In the USA there is no such danger. The 2017 Las Vegas 7s was yet again another tremendously successful event. It remains highly popular with fans who are paying much higher rates than that of the struggling Wellington event. With Vancouver next up North America is to again give World Rugby a strong event.
Canada Women’s 7s
Canada defeated the USA 31-7 to claim the Bronze Final in Las Vegas. It was just rewards for a team who again proved to be one of the best in the world. Australia proved too much in the Semi Final, but the Canadians will take some comfort in knowing that with minor adjustments and a little more hard work the next meeting could tell a different story. It’s a shame they now have to wait until Kitakyushu on April 22 to get back in action. Surely World Rugby must switch Canada’s stop from the paltry location of Langford to Vancouver next season. It would add to what is quickly becoming the most anticipated two-leg section of the HSBC Sevens Series.
St. Lucia are the latest country to play for the first time since Americas Rankings started. The Caribbean island nation played host to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and came out on top. The 48-19 victory sees St. Lucia are now 18th in the Americas, one place ahead of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Both countries are expected to be announced as competing in the 2017 Rugby Americas North Championship. Details of the tournament are expected to be released shortly. Mexico won in 2016.
10,017 home fans were on hand to see Castres down Clermont on Saturday. Uruguay’s weekend was made even more significant having contributed the captain. Rodrigo Capó Ortega had a fine evening, leading the Tarns to a 26-16 victory. Former Pumas Horacio Agulla and Benjamín Urdapilleta were both also involved. The latter kicked five points. With the win Castres move into third spot in the Top 14.
Canada are now ranked 4th in the Americas and 23rd in the World Rankings following their shock defeat in São Paulo, their lowest point since the advent of the official rankings in 2003. The North Americans have gone from being a regular in the Top 15 in the world to now targeting a return to the Top 20. Highly demanding home internationals are next for the Canadians. They host Romania and Georgia in June before facing the USA in a home-and-away World CUp qualifier series. The winner books their ticket to Japan 2019, the loser will have to face a South American opponent in 2018, no longer a guaranteed victory. Canada is very much entering the qualifiers as underdogs. This represents a complete reversal of previous qualifying campaigns.
Canadian Rugby Championship
The Canadian Rugby Championship has announced their schedule for the 2017 season and it is not a long read. A shortfall in funding has seen the regional competition reduced to just eight games in total, with each team playing just one game before a three-match tournament in Calgary in a format similar to the abbreviated schedule used in 2015 prior to the Rugby World Cup. The loss of two major revenue sources – title sponsors Johnsonville and World Rugby – has left Rugby Canada with limited financial resources to fund the program. Such a limited schedule leaves a gaping hole in the domestic calendar and severely cripples the player pathway to international rugby, problems that have become sorely evident in the wake of Canada’s losses to first Uruguay and now Brazil.
The snow in Canada ultimately caused the Argentina XV to finish second. Had the conditions not have been so extreme then claiming a four-try bonus point would have been the likely result. As it stands the Argentina XV blew as 12 point lead against the Eagles to finish in a draw on the weekend. Were it not for the final second try then the trophy would have been lifted by the home side in Patagonia. It was a bitter ending to the tournament for a team who had until then looked a class apart from the rest.
Los Jaguares fell short against the Stormers, losing 32-25 this afternoon in Cape Town. A poor first half from the Argentine side and two yellow cards ultimately prevented a winning result. Next up is a home match in Buenos Aires against the Lions. In terms of player development there was good news from the match. Tomás Lezana very much stood out above the rest. The Santiago del Estero flanker had a blinder of a performance – setting up two of his team’s three tries.
Pumas and Overseas Player Rule
Debuting for Lyon this weekend was Facundo Isa. The Argentine no8 played flanker in the 16-3 home win over Montpellier. Isa is no longer eligible for Los Pumas despite being voted Argentina’s best player in 2016. The existing UAR policy blocks any player from playing for Los Pumas who does not play in Argentina. The only exceptions are when an individual has permission from the union to play abroad. This past week South Africa joined Australia in introducing a cap rule for foreign-based players. Those with 60 can still be picked for the Wallabies, those with 30 can still be Springboks. A similar limit would enable Marcos Ayerza, Marcelo Bosch, Mariano Galarza, Juan Imhoff, and Manuel Carizza to qualify. Both Juan Figallo and Facundo Isa have 24 caps. Is there no room for exceptions? The disappointing results of 2016 without overseas stars suggests the policy should be reconsidered.