SEVENS, ARC & GKIPA!

25 Jan 2018

Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column

SEVENS, ARC & GKIPA!

I hope you’re ready to watch a bunch of oval action this week because The Rugby Channel is primed to bring it to you!

The thrills begin on Thursday and continue through Saturday with every match from the second leg of the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series from Sydney, Australia where the USA will be looking to make it to their second straight final and earn their first title of the season.

Then on Saturday evening the Americas Rugby Championship kicks off with Canada hosting Uruguay in Vancouver in a match that also doubles as a 2019 World Cup Qualifier.

On Sunday the Greene King IPA Championship returns to your screens in a match from Ashton Gate that sees unbeaten Bristol squaring off against fourth place Bedford.

And if that’s not enough rugby to keep you fully entertained all weekend long, catch World Rugby TV Episode 153 featuring the reminiscences of the world’s most capped player - All Blacks legend Richie McCaw - as he reviews the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final.

This is the type of rugby extravaganza you can watch on a weekly basis when you are an annual subscriber to The Rugby Channel so Subscribe Now for just $59.99 and get twelve full months of awesome LIVE and On Demand rugby action.  

SYDNEY SEVENS – Thursday, January 25 at 6:00 PM ET

Last time out in Dubai the United States never really put it all together in pool play, finishing 1-2 with a win over South Africa and losses to France and New Zealand. That record, however, was good enough to get them into the quarterfinals on the second day and that’s when they got hot, upset New Zealand as time expired, overcame Russia in the semi, and made it into the final against Australia.

The confidence gained by that improbable run in Dubai means that in Sydney their expectations should be to play better on Day One, advance through the quarters and semis on Day Two, and bring home some hardware on Day Three.

Coach Richie Walker has made three changes to his squad from their November outing, adding Cheta Emba, Hope Rogers, and Natalie Kosko. These are strong additions to an already powerful team that is one of the more physical countries on the circuit.  

The USA finds themselves in Pool B in Sydney along with New Zealand, England, and Japan. Their first match is at 6:44 PM ET against England. Next up is Japan at 9:28 PM ET, followed by their clash with New Zealand at 12:12 AM ET, early on Friday morning.

Day Two gets going on Friday at 5:00 PM ET and the Eagles are likely to play in the Cup quarterfinals at either 6:06 PM or 6:28 PM, depending upon where they finish in their pool.

Day Three at Allianz Stadium will start at 9:26 PM ET on Saturday night but hopefully the United States won’t be taking the pitch until the Cup Final at 10:27 PM ET!

This United States squad has strength, speed, and the talent necessary to make a deep run in this tourney. At times they lack defensive cohesion out wide but I’m sure Coach Walker will have been working hard with his charges in Chula Vista and drilling them to make better decisions when the ball gets out to the edges in Sydney.

This is going to be fun to watch so make sure you tune in to see the USA perform on a huge stage in Australia.  

CANADA V URUGUAY – Sunday, January 28 at 2:00 AM ET

Canada and Uruguay will duke it out in Vancouver in a highly consequential match at BC Place. First off, this is the opening match of the 2018 Americas Rugby Championship and the team that comes away victorious will lead the tournament alone until next week when Chile takes on Brazil and the USA hosts Argentina XV.

Additionally, Canada and Uruguay are playing a home and home series to determine which of them will earn a berth in Pool D (along with Australia, Wales, Georgia, and Fiji) as Americas 2 in the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The loser on aggregate will have one last chance to qualify through the repechage round robin tournament.

Neither nation wants to have to battle it out in the repechage so they will both be giving it everything they have over the next two fixtures.

Canada and Uruguay have clashed ten times since 1995 with Canada winning eight of those tests. Uruguay’s two victories both came at home, including last year’s ARC triumph in Punta del Este.

Canada has a new coach in former Welsh international Kingsley Jones and he will attempt to not only secure a spot in Japan but also stop Canada’s precipitous slide to twenty-first in the world, their lowest ranking ever.

2017 was not a good year for the Canadians. They went 2-8-1 in test matches, plus their loss to Argentina XV, and ended up in fifth place in the ARC. A new coach, nearly full availability of their overseas professionals, and some returns from injury should see a strong and competitive Canadian team take the pitch in Vancouver.

But will that be enough to beat a surging, nineteenth ranked, Los Teros side that is coming off a stellar 2017? Uruguay opened the 2017 ARC with a close loss to the USA then were soundly beaten by Argentina XV and that was it for losses the rest of the year. They reeled off eleven straight wins, eight of which were at home.

Their preparation for this vital test included a 32-24 win over the new Houston SabreCats of Major League Rugby, with a less than test strength selection at Constellation Field.

The forecast for Saturday night is rain, rain, and more rain with a low of 38 degrees, not exactly ideal playing conditions but it will put added pressure on handling and scrummaging. Every single point at BC Place will be contested as two powerful packs do battle and I can’t wait to check it out.

For contractual reasons, The Rugby Channel will be showing all of the non-Eagles matches on a four-hour delay from the fulltime whistle.

BRISTOL V BEDFORD – Sunday, January 28 at 10:00 AM ET

The Greene King IPA Championship resumes on Sunday after taking a two-week break for British & Irish Cup matches.

Bristol is still cruising down the road to promotion but they are by no means guaranteed to make it back to the Premiership as they are only nine points ahead of the second place Ealing Trailfinders with nine matches left on the schedule. Their Round 13 fixture was a lopsided win over Richmond but this week they’ll face a much sterner test in the Bedford Blues.

Bedford played an extremely close contest against Ealing last week, falling 23-24 at Goldington Road despite a late fightback. The Blues are in fourth spot on the table with six wins, five losses, and two draws for thirty-nine competition points.

Bristol dominated the first meeting 61-38 back in Round 4 and will be looking for both the season sweep and to maintain their perfect record in the championship. Give this one a look either for the potential Bedford upset or to see Bristol continue their dominance!   

WORLD RUGBY TV – EPISODE 153

It’s not often that World Rugby TV devotes an entire episode to a single subject but this week it definitely seems appropriate.

While watching highlights of the match, former All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw spends a half an hour giving insight into what he was thinking at various stages of the day in 2015 when New Zealand won their second consecutive and third overall World Cup crown at Twickenham against Australia.

It’s pretty entertaining stuff as he recounts what he and his team were concentrating on as they defeated their longtime rivals in the World Cup Final more than two years ago.

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Keep checking the front page of The Rugby Channel this weekend, you never know when we might have a surprise addition to further brighten up your rugby day!