The United States and Canada have both named their sides for the 38th edition of this North American derby, as the two teams get set to square off in Round 4 of the Women's Super Series in Chula Vista, CA. The Maple Leafs lead the Eagles all-time 19 wins to 18.
The Americans have yet to piece together a complete performance this series, and the scorelines from their two defeats are evidence to that. However, in both losses to World #1 New Zealand and World #2 England, the Eagles displayed flashes of brilliance that should lend them confidence moving into their matchup on Wednesday.
A win against Canada would go a long way towards rectifying a poor start in the Super Series, and could put the US on a nice trajectory heading into its Round 5 meeting with France and beyond.
The Canadians, meanwhile, have put in three great shifts so far this competition. After a back and forth game with New Zealand ended in a valiant defeat, the Maple Leafs turned around four days later and put a solid pasting on France to jump to the World #3 ranking. They followed that big win with a nail-biting loss to England in a game that could have easily gone the other way. Canada will want nothing more than to close out its fine Super Series campaign with a victory over its arch-rivals from the south.
Eagles Head Coach Rob Cain has overhauled the starting lineup this week, making 10 changes from last week's outfit that kicked off against the Black Ferns.
Prop Charli Jacoby will score her 3rd cap as she anchors a front row alongside Catie Benson and Joanna Kitlinski. Kristine Sommer steps up to fill some big shoes, as she replaces Stacey Bridges in the second row, while firecracker Rachel Johnson makes her Super Series debut on the blindside flank. Kate Zackary captains the side once again, leading the Eagles from her No. 8 position.
Ashlee Byrge and Gaby Cantorna link up in the halfbacks, with the mercurial Alev Kelter moving to fullback for this one. In the centers it will be a teenage wrecking crew, as up-and-coming standouts Fane Haungatau and Emily Henrich team up in the middle of the park to form a fearsome duo.
Keys to the game
For the United States, it's all about ball retention and continuity. In the previous two rounds, the Eagles found it tough to string together multiple phases, making it difficult to build pressure on the opposing defenses. Quicker support to the breakdown and more accurate cleanouts will help to generate clean, quick ball for Byrge and Cantorna to work with. If effected, the Americans will be able to unleash their array of running threats all over the Canadians.
Defensively, the US needs to find the right balance of line speed and patience. Canada is loaded with powerful ballcarriers, so coming up quickly to halt their momentum is very important. However, over-committing or shooting up too quick is also a no-no against the Maple Leafs, who use clever dummy passes and a sharp kicking game to punish impatient defenses.
From a Canadian point of view, the key will be about winning at the point of contact and maintaining composure against a team starving for a win. Rivalry games often bring out a different kind of animal in teams, and it can be expected that the US will come out firing in this one.
Canada will have to match that intensity, and continue to be as rock-solid in contact as it has been all series. Limiting errors and playing in the right areas of the field will be of much importance as well; gifting the Eagles opportunities inside their own half will only feed the Americans' confidence and put the Canadians under the pump.
Canada has been very strong thus far, and demonstrated it deserves a seat among the rugby elite on the women's side of the game. The United States team has gotten off to an underwhelming start and are in danger of finishing at the bottom of the table.
However, the Canadians drew the unlucky straw of the bunch and got their bye week on the 5th and final round of the tournament, meaning they will be one of only two teams (France) to play in four consecutive rounds. On the other hand, the Americans will have had over a week of rest and recovery to prepare for this one, and their fresh legs will be able to bring a pace and intensity of play that Canada will struggle to maintain for 80 minutes.
The Eagles elevate their game in this one and pull off the upset. USA 17-16 Canada.
1. Olivia DeMerchant
2. Gillian Boag
3. DeLeaka Menin
4. Tyson Beukeboom
5. Courtney Holtkamp
6. Fabiola Forteza
7. Janna Slevinsky
8. Sophie de Goede
9. Lori Josephson
10. Taylor Black
11. Sabrina Poulin
12. Amanda Thornborough
13. Anais Holly
14. Irene Patrinos
15. Elissa Alarie (C)
16. Veronica Herrigan
17. Maude Laliberte
18. Ngalula Fuamba
19. Jacey Grusnick
20. Gabby Senft
21. Brianna Miller
22. Alexandra Tessier
|1. Catie Benson||Life West Gladiatrix||19|
|2. Joanna Kitlinski||Glendale Merlins||10|
|3. Charli Jacoby||Chicago North Shore||2|
|4. Kristine Sommer||Harlequins (ENG) Seattle Saracens||9|
|5. Alycia Washington||New York Rugby||19|
|6. Rachel Johnson||Oregon Sports Union||3|
|7. Elizabeth Cairns||Life West Gladiatrix||10|
|8. Kate Zackary||San Diego Surfers||11|
|9. Ashlee Byrge||USA Sevens||2|
|10. Gabriella Cantorna||Glendale Merlins||4|
|11. Jennine Duncan||Seattle Saracens||2|
|12. Fane Haungatau||USA Sevens||2|
|13. Emily Henrich||Dartmouth College||4|
|14. Kris Thomas||USA Sevens||9|
|15. Alev Kelter||USA Sevens||11|
|16. Hope Rogers||USA Sevens||27|
|17. Nick James||Houston Athletic||8|
|18. Asinate Serevi||Scion Rugby||3|
|19. Stacey Bridges||Beantown Rugby||38|
|20. Olivia Ortiz||Davenport University||2|
|21. Amy Talei Bonte||Life West Gladiatrix||2|
|22. Katana Howard||Twin City Amazons||2|
|23. Bulou Mataitoga||Berkeley All Blues||2|