USA Rugby

USA Vs. Chile Preview: Teams To Battle For Spot In 2023 Rugby World Cup

USA Vs. Chile Preview: Teams To Battle For Spot In 2023 Rugby World Cup

The spots for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France are filling up quickly, and there's at least one more place for a squad out of the Americas up for grabs.

Jun 30, 2022 by Briar Napier
USA Vs. Chile Preview: Teams To Battle For Spot In 2023 Rugby World Cup

It all comes down to this.

The spots for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France are filling up quickly, and there's at least one more place for a squad out of the Americas up for grabs. 

Who gets it depends on the winner of a home-and-home playoff against the United States and Chile, with the Eagles hoping to resume the routine of making every Rugby World Cup since 1999.

However, before the Americans can play on the comfort of home soil later this month in Glendale, Colorado, they first must put up a solid performance in the first leg against the Chileans on July 9 on their turf at the Estadio Santa Laura in Santiago. 

If the Eagles can escape Chile feeling comfortable, they should be in the driver's seat to book their tickets to France in less than 18 months.

What's there to know ahead of the first leg? Here's a look at how both teams got to this point and what they bring to the table as both legs will be streamed live later this month on FloRugby:

The Format

The qualification process for the Rugby World Cup can throw the emerging rugby fan for a loop, but don't worry, it has taken some getting used to this year for even fervent supporters of the sport in the Americas. 

For the first time since the qualification process for the 2003 Rugby World Cup, North and South America's entrants have combined for one giant "Americas" tournament, where at least two nations from the region qualify, along with Argentina, which has an automatic bid to France from its top-12 finish in the 2019 Rugby World Cup. 

Much of the qualification cycle already has finished, with Uruguay clinching the Americas first slot with a win over the United States in a two-legged playoff in October. 

The Americans now have another chance to qualify as Americas 2 in next month's two-legged showdown with Chile, which got to this point thanks to its win over Canada in the Americas 2 Repechage round. 

It now makes the goal for the Eagles clear as day - beat Chile, and qualify for the World Cup for a seventh consecutive time. 

There is one more lifeline if the United States loses, though, as a loss to Chile would send it to the Final Qualification Tournament, featuring squads from Europe, Africa and the Asia/Pacific region. But, that's not a place coach Gary Gold's side wants to be in, as only one team from that group would earn a ticket to the next Rugby World Cup.

United States

World ranking (as of 6/27): 18th

Rugby World Cup appearances: 1987, 1991, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019

The lowdown: With rugby undergoing perhaps the most exposure it ever has had in America, thanks to the recent success of Major League Rugby, it makes it that much more critical that the Eagles get the job done against Chile and clinch a spot next fall in France. 

A failure to qualify for the Rugby World Cup for the first time since 1995 would be disastrous, even if the United States' record on the grandest stage in international rugby isn't sensational in having never made it out of the pool stage. 

As said previously, the team doesn't technically need to beat Chile to nail down a spot in the World Cup, but avoiding the prospect of the Final Qualification Tournament entirely, where threats such as Tonga and Portugal could loom, would be an ideal scenario. 

Fly-half AJ MacGinty has been the Eagles' top point-scorer at the past two World Cups and will captain the 23-man squad that'll face the French Barbarians in a warm-up match Friday, but the 32-year-old Bristol Bears man almost certainly will be a key piece of Gold's lineup once the all-important games against the Chileans await. 

Elsewhere, lock and recent MLR Championship Final winner Nick Civetta should be one of the main parts of the engine room after a solid year with Rugby New York and 33 international caps to his name, including starting all three of America's pool games at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.


World ranking (as of 6/27): 23rd

Rugby World Cup appearances: None

The lowdown: Historically considered one of South America's best rugby nations, Chile has nonetheless always seemed to play second fiddle to mighty Argentina and sometimes the likes of Uruguay and Brazil. 

The World Cup era has resulted in many near misses for Los C¢ndores, as the country hasn't made the breakthrough in getting to international rugby's biggest stage. 

Could this year be the time to do it? 

It may help that the Chileans have been used to playing the best of the best in the Americas (including the United States) since the current format of the Americas Rugby Championship launched in 2016, though it hasn't been held since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it took a big leap forward late last year by beating Canada in both legs of the repechage to give themselves a shot at the Americans for a spot in France. 

Nearly all of coach Pablo Lemoine's 32-man squad plays club rugby at Chilean side Selknam in the Super Liga Americana de Rugby, though 25-year-old hooker Augusto Bohme has 16 international caps to his name and is a member of the MLR's Dallas Jackals. 

However, a warm-up match against Scotland's A side, the country's second national team, earlier this month in Chile, ended up being a blowout 45-5 loss. Perhaps it wasn't the sign the team wanted to see heading into one of the biggest matches in its rugby history.