USA Rugby

United States Vs. Georgia Preview: Eagles Look To Close Tour With Pride

United States Vs. Georgia Preview: Eagles Look To Close Tour With Pride

The USA Eagles Rugby team will face Georgia in a rugby test match this weekend as part of the Georgians' preparation for the Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.

Aug 18, 2023 by Philip Bendon
United States Vs. Georgia Preview: Eagles Look To Close Tour With Pride

Optimism is needed for the United States men’s national rugby team right now, and though no Rugby World Cup next month is a difficult pill to swallow, new eras and fresh faces can bring a bright future. 

One of the most important first steps toward establishing the Eagles as a force in the Americas and beyond again is by getting wins — and getting them consistently — against the proper competition. 

And as a squad that’s simultaneously trying to establish a new identity, while also giving multiple RWC teams some important warm-up matches, it’s the perfect opportunity for the Eagles to take major steps forward in their fight back toward making it to the RWC again. 

An ongoing three-game tour of Europe has been a bit of a mixed bag so far for the Americans; there was a strong opening performance mixed in with what was mostly a dud in the second match. 

In the finale, against probably the strongest opponent of the bunch, the Americans will have their hands full. It will be an important test to determine where they are in the rebuilding process. 

It’ll be a long road back to the RWC for the Eagles over the next four years, but putting the building blocks in place can't start too early — even as soon as this weekend. 

Here’s a look at the final match of the Eagles' three-game tour of Europe. It will be Saturday against Rugby World Cup participant Georgia, with the Eagles and Lelos meeting for the seventh time in history.

Peaks And Valleys 

If you’ve been following FloRugby’s coverage of the United States’ recent tour of Europe, giving various World Cup teams from the continent some last-minute preparation for the festivities in France next month, you know all too well that this is a period of adjustment for the Eagles.  

Head coach Scott Lawrence enters his third game in charge of the national team in the wake of Gary Gold’s resignation, which came after the Americans’ disastrous failure to qualify for the RWC, and though no coach in the world would be able to solve everything plaguing the Eagles after just two matches, Lawrence’s debut fixtures on the touchline have provided hints about the direction the team may go without a World Cup on the horizon.  

Nine debutants arrived on the pitch for the Eagles in Lawrence’s opening match, an impressive 31-17 victory over Romania in Bucharest. His team opened the game with 31 unanswered points, before a bit of a slow final quarter made the game closer than perhaps much of the match indicated.  

Game 2, however, showed just how much the Eagles still have left to go toward preparing for Australia 2027 — they were ripped for seven tries by Portugal in a 46-20 defeat at the Estadio Algarve, failing to score beyond a penalty try in the 43rd minute. 

The high-flying Lobos (who beat the Americans in their finale at the Final Qualification Tournament for the World Cup, booking Portugal’s place in France while simultaneously eliminating the Eagles) further showed how they could be a potential dark horse in Pool C.  

Another Pool C team, Georgia, awaits in the Eagles’ final game of the stretch across the pond, and as recent history has shown with the Lelos, they are not a squad to be taken lightly in any capacity. 

Dangerous Lelos 

Since first qualifying for the RWC in 2003, Georgia’s national team hasn’t missed the biggest stage in international rugby since, and with each passing year, the Lelos only seem to be getting better and knocking at the door of the more established Tier 1 national sides.  

And winning against them, too.  

Georgia’s current world ranking of 11th is its highest in history, and the record 15-time winners — including six straight — of the Rugby Europe Championship (also known as the Six Nations B for countries in Tiers 2 and 3) can reasonably break into the top 10 in the world with a strong World Cup, especially as the Lelos have proven recently they can hang with Europe’s best.  

Georgia’s 2022 was nothing short of fantastic, as it defeated Italy in July ( 28-19) and Wales (in Cardiff, no less) in November (13-12 ) for two epic, historic victories, and with a squad that’s getting plenty of extra time together outside of the national setup — nearly half of coach Levan Maisashvili’s 39-man squad for the RWC warm-ups plays together in club rugby at Georgian side Black Lion — the chemistry and fluidity on the pitch are top-notch.  

Center Merab Sharikadze is captain with 93 caps at the age of only 30, leading a unit that just decimated Romania 56-6, with Sharikadze scoring one of the Lelos’ eight tries this past weekend in its first of three RWC warm-up matches for Georgia (a match against Scotland on Aug. 26 is the other).  

In front of home support at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, they’ll be fervent for a Georgia victory — and after it’s won seven straight matches in all competitions entering its showdown with the Eagles, why wouldn’t they be? 

Sitting And Waiting 

It has been 28 years since the United States watched a Rugby World Cup from home, a painful — with the potential to be powerful — lesson in not taking any achievement or opponent for granted. The Eagles, with their game in the country arguably at the strongest point it’s ever been, will not be flying to France in a few weeks.