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Phew, that was a roller coaster! Now what does it mean for the USA’s medal chances? World Rugby has you covered with the standings, but we'll look at the knockout scenarios  from an American perspective. 

POOL A
Let’s start with the the possibilities of Pool A. If the USA beats Fiji and Argentina beats Brazil, it’ll be a three-way tie between Fiji, America and Argentina, all of whom would be 2-1.

The tiebreaker would be point differential. Currently, the USA is 27 points better than Argentina and Fiji is 12 points clear of the USA. So the Eagles would have to beat Fiji by 12 points and have Argentina beat Brazil by no more than 39 to take the pool. The latter is doable, the former is unlikely, so if there’s a three-way tie in the pool, chances are Fiji takes first, the USA second and Argentina third.

That would see the USA play the winner of Pool C, which can still be won by Great Britain, Japan and New Zealand. The other scenario by which the Eagles could finish second would be a Brazilian upset of Argentina. If the USA and Argentina lose, there’s now a three-way tie between three 1-2 teams, and the USA has a massive point differential advantage there.

If the USA loses to Fiji and Argentina beats Brazil, both of which would be expected outcomes, the USA will finish third at 1-2. In that instance, they’re going to have to hope at least one third-place team from another pool finishes 1-2 with a worse point differential.

Another potential outcome would be a draw between the USA and Fiji. That would give the USA a record of 1-1-1, guaranteeing a trump card over any 1-2 third-place teams.

POOL B
South Africa is 3-0 and plays 1-1 Australia. 1-1 France plays Spain. Best case for the USA would be a win by South Africa. That would guarantee the third-place team doesn’t have a better record than 1-2, and the USA is way ahead of France, Australia and Spain in point differential. That’s pretty likely.

Worst case would be an Aussie upset and a French win, because that would create three 2-1 teams, one of which would likely take one of the third-place bids to the quarterfinals. So one upset in this pool is fine, but two is bad.

POOL C
Great Britain is 2-0 and has to play a wounded but dangerous New Zealand, 1-1. Japan, also 1-1, has to face Kenya. Best case for the USA is a Great Britain win, as it guarantees the third-place team would be no better than 1-2.

Worst case would be Japan beating Kenya and New Zealand beating Great Britain, as it would mean three 2-1 teams, one of which would likely take a third-place bid.

WHO TO ROOT FOR
The USA. The past of least resistance would be for the Eagles to go ahead and beat Fiji to guarantee a bid. If they don’t, root for the USA to tie, as that would probably be good enough. If they don’t, root for South Africa to beat Australia and Team GB to beat New Zealand. Given the USA’s cushioned point differential, even one of those things happening is probably going to be good enough to get them through.

WHO THEY’D PLAY
If the Eagles miraculously win the pool, they’ll play the worst third-place team, which could be nearly anyone. It won’t be Fiji, South Africa or Great Britain, but it could be almost anyone else. This is the most savory possibility, but unlikely.

If the Eagles finish second, which is more possible, they’ll play the winner of Pool C, which could be GB, Japan or New Zealand, but more than likely GB or New Zealand, given Japan’s shoddy point differential.

If the Eagles finish as the best third-place team, they’ll probably meet South Africa. If they finish as the second-best third-place team, they’ll have a rematch with Fiji.

If the USA finishes as the third best third-place team, it’s the 9th-12th playoff.  

Comments

With 729 possible combinations of outcomes tomorrow morning (at least 81 of them entirely plausible), it's a bit too early to have any idea how it will play out. We could lose and advance with a 1-2 record. We could win and be eliminated with a 2-1 record. I just wish that rugby had used the same two-pool format as almost all of the other team sports (excluding soccer and beach volleyball).
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