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Kelly got his first start in Houston last year. Mike Bobis photo

The Eagles take the field at BBVA Compass Stadium for the third time Saturday. In 2012, 17,214 fans flooded downtown Houston to watch the USA fall 30-10 to Italy. The Eagles were undone by Martin Castrogiovanni and Italy’s scrum, but very competitive. In 2013, 20,181 turned up to watch Ireland escape with a three-point victory over the hometown team.

Saturday, another near-capacity crowd is expected at BBVA Compass to take in the USA’s attempt at knocking off Scotland. Add in the 29-19 November loss to the Maori All Blacks, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest the Eagles will be playing with a real home-field advantage.   

“I think we’ve got a great opportunity in front of us and a great venue in Houston, and I think if we play to our strengths and keep our composure we could do something pretty special down there,” said Seamus Kelly, who hopes to be starting in the midfield against the Scots.  

“I’ve been asked what was one of my greatest rugby memories, and to stand in front of the Haka (in Philadelphia) while a sold out crowd chanted U-S-A was something pretty special, and there’s a been a few moments like that – the Ireland match in Houston. And being able to really compete in font of big crowds and put on a good performance is something special. Really it can only get better from there.”

If the Eagles are going to finally parlay a big home crowd into a major test win, Saturday’s as good a time as any. And top play from Kelly will go a long way toward making it happen. He’s been the darling of college rugby the last five years, having been the best player on one of the best teams in the country. And, with a handful of starts under his belt, the Eagles could use some of the big-play ability he showcased at Cal on the international level.  

“I’m always looking to approve each time in in every aspect of the game and every aspect of preparation,” said Kelly. “I am improving every time out, and hopefully that comes to fruition in the near future.”