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Why isn’t the United States playing in the 2023 Rugby World Cup?

As the 2023 Rugby World Cup gets underway in France, this is the first time ever that no North American team has qualified.

USA Portugal Rugby World Cup

The Eagles are all adrift after dropping a penalty in Dubai to allow Portugal to tie the game saw the US left out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Having dropped a similarly tight contest to Chile the week before meant that the Eagles are on their way home and for the first time ever, there will be a Rugby World Cup with no North American team in the competition.

In large part, this is as a result of the combining of both American continents into a single qualifying group. While the strong rugby-playing countries of the South American pampas are often left scrambling for a single spot, traditionally, the North American contest boiled down to a USA vs Canada battle. With this larger, more competitive pool, the northern sides have to struggle along with the powerhouses down south for only two places.

During qualification, the USA lost all three of their matches versus American opponents, losing in St Johns to Canada, in Montevideo to Uruguay, and in Denver to Chile. Despite making short shrift of Hong Kong and Kenya, the 16-16 last second tie to Portugal in Dubai simply left the US wanting in the tables, and Portugal went through on point difference.

This is especially embarrassing for the Eagles given that the tournament will be hosted by the US in just eight years’ time. At a moment when World Rugby is trying to grow the game internationally and with the USA as a prime target market, the lack of a presence on this largest world stage comes as a hammer blow.

Questions are being asked within Major League Rugby and the US national team and there will be some difficult answers to face over the coming months.

As it stands, the two American continents will be represented by three teams, all from the Southern Cone: Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. Argentina automatically qualified by virtue of having finished in the top 12 in the last World Cup, while Chile and Uruguay went through with the two spots allocated to the Americas.

The Rugby World Cup gets underway on Saturday, September 9th in France with England vs Argentina, Australia vs Georgia, Ireland vs Romania, and the hosts France playing New Zealand.