Not much time until the USA plays Uruguay in the final round of the Americas Rugby Championship.
The USA Selects are a bit battered – captain Cam Dolan was at the tournament press conference today but after leaving Tuesday’s game injured, he is still doubtful to play.
Head Coach Mike Tolkin has to be looking for back rowers, any back rowers, if John Quill is suspended for his hair tackle on Canada wing Jordan Wilson-Ross. He has to be hoping Taylor Mokate returns to the form he showed in June, rather than a somewhat scatterbrained outing on Tuesday that saw him sin-binned, and then trying to make up for it with a quick tap on a penalty that resulted in a turnover.
With a forward pack in flux, the USA will face a Uruguay team that was really very effective against a bigger and more athletic Argentina team Tuesday (losing 21-10).
In that game, Uruguay tackled fearlessly, slowed the ball in the rucks with great expertise, and got an excellent game from nifty flyhalf Rodrigo Silva.
Meanwhile the USA got little snatches of brilliants. Their best player on Tuesday was probably Arkansas State University product Dean Gericke. He had a couple of impressive runs and his defense worried the Canadians a bit and stopped a few almost sure tries. His midfield partner, the supremely circumspect Jack Tracy, was dangerous, too.
“I am just trying to do the best I can to help the team,” said Tracy after we dragged a comment out of him. “I know I still have a lot to work on.”
But will those backs be able to get something going if their forwards can’t win ball? Worrying also for the USA pack is that Uruguay’s scrum is as good as Canada’s and almost as good as that of Argentina. Their lineout, too, gave Argentina fits. Without set piece ball, the Americans can look forward to another long night of playing defense.
“With Uruguay ahead of us – they are always very aggressive to the ball and they will punish you with their foot,” offered USA Head Coach Mike Tolkin. “They are very good counter attackers. They are very motivated coming into this game as well. They are certainly seeking a win.”
We have had a couple of rough matches since last Friday,” added Dolan. “But we will fix a few mistakes we have made and hopefully we can have a better outcome.”
Dolan provided one of the more impressive athletic plays of Tuesday night, diving full-length to get to a restart that was sailing into touch on the full. Had the ball landed, it would have been a scrum center for Canada, and a prime attacking opportunity. Dolan got to the ball, knocking it back infield. It was still a knock-on, but in a much more defensible position. Several players loudly thanked him for his play, but that was a rare moment of unity on a team that lost their composure as the game wore on.
Against a Uruguayan team that will try to get under their skin, composure is crucial. Uruguay will have it.
“Our game against the USA will be important for us as we are coming off two games with a lot of injuries,” said Uruguay Coach and former Teros star Pablo Lamoine. “The injuries have been very hard for us as a team. We recognize that the US team is much stronger team technically and physically but we will do our best to put up a brave game this Saturday.”
“They will do their best to use this game to advance their skills in order to be at a higher level,” added captain Arturo Avalo.
The USA kicks off against Uruguay Saturday at 5:30pm PT (8:30pm ET). The match will be streamed online at www.sportscanada.tv/RugbyCanada .