PREVIEW: United States v Canada
WORLD CUP QUALIFICATION: Canada is hoping to continue its dominance over the United States in World Cup qualifying when they square off against the Eagles in the first leg of a two-game series in Hamilton, Ontario on Saturday.
Canada will host the first match of the series at Tim Hortons Field as the qualifiers will determine the Americas representative at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
"It is very important to win the first game. Whoever gets the victory is one up in a two test series, so it's crucial we take advantage of home field," Canada coach Mark Anscombe said.
Canada is 38-17-1 all-time against the Americans, including two World Cup qualifier wins over the Eagles in 2013. Canada has not lost a qualifier to the United States since July 2009. The Eagles won the first match 12-6 but Canada recovered to dominate the second leg 41-18 to reach the 2011 tournament.
Canada has played in every World Cup since the tournament's inception in 1987, reaching the quarter-finals in 1991.
Coach John Mitchell has put together an experienced USA squad with 200 caps. They defeated Canada 51-34 in a match earlier this year.
"We are really excited for this series, as you wait four years for this and you do not want to miss it. The lads have put in a tremendous amount of quality work and have realized there is healthy competition for places dictated by a focus on nailing our key skills to improve our chance to win.
"It's also difficult to leave out outstanding squad members with the likes of Nate Brakeley and Will Magie because of the way our team mix has been selected. Injuries are always part of the game and we are very fortunate to have very good depth at this point in the series," Mitchell said.
While the Eagles head into the qualifier series on a two-match winless streak, they hold a five-game overall winning streak over the Canadians.
"It's going to be a tremendous challenge for us," he added.
The second leg of the series takes place July 1 in San Diego.
Canada: 15 Ciaran Hearn, 14 Andrew Coe, 13 DTH van Der Merwe (co-captain), 12 Connor Braid, 11 Taylor Paris, 10 Shane O’Leary, 9 Phil Mack, 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Matt Heaton, 6 Admir Cejvanovic, 5 Evan Olmstead, 4 Brett Beukeboom (co-captain), 3 Jake Ilnicki, 2 Ray Barkwill, 1 Djustice Sears-Duru.
Replacements: 16 Benoit Piffero, 17 Anthony Luca, 18 Matt Tierney, 19 Kyle Baillie, 20 Aaron Carpenter, 21 Gordon McRorie, 22 Nick Blevins, 23 Dan Moor.
United States: 15 Ben Cima, 14 Mike Te'o, 13 Bryce Campbell, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Matai Leuta, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Nate Augspurger, 8 Cam Dolan, 7 John Quill, 6 Todd Clever (captain), 5 Nick Civetta, 4 Ben Landry, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 James Hilterbrand, 1 Tony Purpura.
Replacements: 16 Peter Malcolm, 17 Ben Tarr, 18 Dino Waldren, 19 Matthew Jensen, 20 David Tameilau, 21 Andrew Durutalo, 22 Shaun Davies, 23 Will Magie.
Date: Saturday, June 24
Venue: Hamilton, Ontario
Kick-off: 15.00 (19.00 GMT, 12.00 PT)
Expected weather: Rain is expected with a gentle wind, despite a high of 23°C
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Sean Davey (England)