The Runner Sports

Rugby World Cup: A Look Back At The USA Eagles

With the inclusion of the US Eagles in the upcoming Rugby World Cup 2019 secured this summer, a look back at previous performances offers an unflinching assessment of the competition to expect; for those bold enough to stomach it.

With the onset of World Cup festivities just over two years away, the World Rugby scene is currently alive with those spirited tournaments and qualifiers to determine who will and who will not make the final cut for the World Cup to be held in Japan. After an initial draw in Canada, the Eagles secured their position to this exclusive event with a decisive win against their North American rivals in San Diego on July 1 in a dramatic 52-16 victory. This was the only win for the Americans this summer, who lost against European opponents Ireland and Georgia in June. With a World Cup record verging on the tragic, it is not too early to begin laying the foundation for an improved performance at the RWC 2019.

And an improved performance is not out of reach considering the US have averaged three World Cup wins out of 25 matches in seven appearances. Since its inception in 1987, the US has appeared in all but one RWC tournament with a record of 3-22. Starting off strong in their inaugural match in 1987, the Eagles slugged it out with Japan, recording a 21-18 victory over the Brave Blossoms and that would be their last victory for more than a decade. Their second win came in 2003 in a World Cup competition only 14 years old. The Eagles again emerged victorious against their Japanese rivals with a 39-26 victory in Australia, but went the remainder of the tournament winless. Their most recent victory, if 2011 can be described as recent, came against the Russians in New Zealand. Trading penalty kicks, the two Cold War combatants seemed equally matched until a line break by the Eagles saw scrum half and high school teacher Mike Petri score, putting the match out of reach for the Russians, 13-6, at the final whistle.

Suffice it to say, the inclusion of the USA Eagles into the hallowed halls of RWC talent is quite an accomplishment and elevates them to a greater level of competition. The question remains, however, do they belong there?  Or better yet, what can they do to improve upon such a tragic record? Rather than winning matches, the American World Cup highlight reel consists of the occasional well-worked score that, although brilliant, is not enough to seriously compete with top-tier nations.

Eric Sweigert

Eric Sweigert

Currently a teacher-athlete up in Northern California, I was first introduced to rugby in college (go Aggies) and haven't looked back. Nowadays you can find me teaching American History and writing about a sport that provided many good memories and more than enough stitches.
Eric Sweigert