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Since the USA have qualified for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, it’s an occasion to go back in time to 2003 when the Eagles suffered dual losses to Uruguay and Chile in the Americas Zone RWC qualifier. The losses forced the USA into a repechage with Spain to gain the last tournament spot open in the RWC hosted by Australia.
Spain fell to the USA who won back to back matches 62-13 (Madrid) and 58-13 (Ft. Lauderdale). Dan Lyle, playing for Bath, captained the side.
The team traveled to Bristol, England, where it played (and lost to) the Bristol Shoguns 31-13 in a controlled scrimmage, five days before the game in Madrid. The liberal scrimmage format allowed free substitution that gave Coach Tom Billups an opportunity to slot in many players not previously capped.
In the two matches, the USA scored 120-points in a 16 try romp against the lower ranked Leones. Only the second game was close, with the Eagles ahead 20-10 at the break.
Ahead was the RWC Down Under, where the Eagles went 1-3, losing to France (41-15), Scotland (39-15), a narrow loss to Fiji (19-18), and a satisfying win against Japan 39-26.
England would win its first and only William Webb Ellis RWC victory against Australia in a thrilling dropkick in extra time from Jonny Wilkinson. The triumphant Red Roses were greeted by 750,000 fans in London upon return.
Dan Lyle ©
Riaan Van Zyl