The is no question the Eagles had a disastrous tournament in Dubai last weekend. But now they have a chance to turn it around this weekend in Port Elizabeth.
Head coach Matt Hawkins hasn’t made any changes to his team as they get set to compete for Pool C with New Zealand, Wales, and Portugal. The match against Portugal could be a big match for the team. The U.S. currently sits one point ahead of Spain in the race to avoid relegation and are five points behind Portugal. A win over the Portuguese would give them a better chance of advancing the Bowl semi-finals or final on day two. If the Eagles aren’t able to pick up more points this next weekend they could find themselves in relegation trouble with only three rounds to go.
The pool stage of the Heineken Cup will reach its halfway point this weekend. As it stands only a few teams sit in comfortable positions. Most pools are full of parity and this weekend could go a long way to deciding who is at the top come spring. Some of the more intriguing matches include Racing Metro vs. Harlequins, Northampton vs. Leinster, and Leicester vs. Montpellier. The Northampton-Leinster match in particular will feature two of the best teams in Europe. Either one of those sides could be considered candidates to win the whole tournament. The Harlequins will need a win to stay relevant.
Of course this could be the last year for English clubs in the Heineken Cup. There had been some question whether the Premiership teams would back off and agree to join the competition next year after teams from the Top 14 agreed to participate, but after an emergency meeting this week English clubs have decided to hold serve. Still no word on the status of the Welsh regions.
Richard Hibbard and Rhys Priestland are the latest Welsh players to leave the Principality for clubs elsewhere. Hibbard has agreed to join Gloucester while Priestland will join Wasps where he will join Bradley Davies. Other Welsh players to leave recently or set to leave include Jonathan Davies (Clermont), Ian Evans (Toulon), George North (Northampton), and James Hook (Perpignan). With players like Leigh Halfpenny and Sam Warburton still to decide their futures Wales could soon have few of their players playing with one of the four regions. Of course, as we noted a few days ago, that might not be a bad thing.
Fall College Season Wraps Up
The final games of the fall college season will take place this weekend. Penn State will take on Kutztown in the first ever American Collegiate Rugby Championship final in Greenville, South Carolina. The ACRC was formed to give teams on the East Coast a chance to compete for a championship during the fall season. The ACRA, which features women’s teams playing in the fall, will also have their finals. In DI rivals Army and Navy will play for a spot in the final. They will either face Norwich or Northern Iowa. In DII Vassar will play Notre Dame College and Winona will play Kutztown. Lastly, the Men’s DII title will also be decided. Midwest rivals UW-Whitewater and UM-Duluth will play in one semi-final while Salisbury and James Madison will play in the other.