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The famous Webb Ellis Cup has made the trip to San Diego and will be on display for this week’s crucial Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifier match between USA and Canada. After the first leg in Hamilton, Ontario, the contest could not be more evenly balanced on the scoreboard after that game ended in a thrilling 28-28 draw.
 
Both teams had late kick chances to win the match but neither was able to capitalise on those opportunities so they head to southern California with it all to play for.
 
Rugby fans in USA will have a rare opportunity to get up close to the iconic trophy as it goes on display before and during the match in University of San Diego's Torero Stadium as well as making a number of appearances in schools and public places during its brief but packed visit. On Tuesday, players at the San Diego Youth Camp, run by former international sevens players Dallen Stanford (USA) and Marc Stcherbina (Australia) got to see the famous cup up close during their week-long camp (see photo above; Credit: USA Rugby). 
 
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “The Webb Ellis Cup is an instantly recognisable symbol of our sport and it is important for it to be accessible to rugby fans everywhere. San Diego may not be seen as a global hotbed of the game but Americans who follow the sport do so with just as much passion as anywhere else. 

 “With a very special Rugby World Cup 2015 fresh in our memories, we are excited to be following the North American qualification process for Japan 2019. What is special about this process is that there is a genuine and clear pathway for member unions to make it to the tournament and we know that unforgettable moments will be shared by the players and teams who are beginning their Rugby World Cup journey. Ambitious unions can use qualification for rugby's showpiece tournament as something to aim for and, in the years to come, I believe we can expect to see new teams make their Rugby World Cup debuts.
 
"The winner of this two-leg tie will be the first qualifier for Japan while the other team will head for a play-off against the South American champion. I can’t say if they too will make it all the way to Japan but the point is that they have the chance to do so. In many ways, Rugby World Cup is not just a tournament of 20 teams but in fact it is designed to include all 103 full member unions. I would like to thank RAN, USA Rugby and Rugby Canada for hosting these matches and for being part of this great tournament.”
 
The Eagles will start the second leg of the tie as slight favourites as they have not been beaten by Canada in their six previous encounters and they will benefit from the home ground advantage. But the North American rivalry is fierce and you would be foolish to discount Canada with their proud history and available talent. The Canucks have never lost to the USA in this equivalent fixture for previous Rugby World Cups and they won’t want to start now.

Tickets for the game are on sale and disappearing fast as Americans sports fans rush to see what their national team can achieve on the global stage. In addition, a live stream of the game can be viewed at WorldRugby.org.

RWC QUALIFICATION PROCESS PROMOTES INCLUSIVENESS

USA Rugby CEO Dan Payne said: “Every four years, more than 100 countries get the opportunity to play for the Webb Ellis Cup in one of the greatest sporting competitions on the planet. The top 20 make it through to the tournament itself and only one team takes the cup home. But what makes the campaign for the Rugby World Cup title unique and enthralling is the magnitude with which the competition intertwines countries from across the globe with the inclusiveness of the game itself.
 
“Dozens of nations spend years trying to qualify for Rugby World Cup. Some navigate the various qualifying avenues quadrennial after quadrennial and succeed – while others continue to pursue qualification cycle after cycle pushing for the opportunity to take part. When you see the Webb Ellis Cup in your home country, knowing what it symbolises throughout the world, and kids' smiling faces reflected in the gold, it's obvious why the worldwide rugby community gets as excited for the world’s largest and most prolific rugby event every four years.
 
“Southern California has a long history of successful club rugby. More importantly, it has been the fastest-growing region for youth and high school rugby throughout the past five to seven years. To be able to bring this match and the cup itself into one of our hotbed communities provides that next-generation rugby player with an unparalleled first-hand opportunity to appreciate the magnitude of the event. It'll provide added meaning to the trophies they'll play for in the fall, in the spring, and in years to come as young boys and girls envision themselves wearing the Eagles jersey and proudly representing their country at Rugby World Cups in the future."
 
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With 12 teams having secured their place at Japan 2019 courtesy of finishing in the top three of their respective pools, the remaining eight places will be determined by a process of regional and cross-regional qualifiers and, for the first time, a stand-alone round-robin repechage tournament to determine the final qualifier in 2018. All qualified teams will be known by November 2018. Meanwhile, the pool allocation draw for RWC 2019 will take place in May 2017 in Japan.

This RWC 2019 qualifier is not the only big rugby event on the horizon in the USA with next year's Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 taking place in San Francisco from 20-22 July. Tickets for the tournament, which is being staged for the first time ever in North America, will go on sale with exactly one year to go on 20 July. To sign up for advance notice on tickets, click HERE.

THE COUNTDOWN TO #RWC2019 BEGINS HERE!

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