The USA national side will be hoping that history repeats itself as they prepare to host the 2018 Americas Championship, which will also act as a qualifier for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England. The University of North Florida, Jacksonville, will stage two double-header rounds on 13th and 17th November 2018, and in the opening fixtures newcomers Chile take on the Hawks, the winners facing either Jamaica or Canada.
This will be the third consecutive time that the Americas region qualifying series has been held in the US, the second in Jacksonville, and the home nation has been victorious on the previous two occasions. USA qualified for their first appearance at a World Cup when they won the Atlantic Zone qualifying series held in Philadelphia in 2011. In that, they beat South Africa and Jamaica, winning both games by the same score of 40-4, to book their place in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. In the 2015 RLWCQ in Florida, USA again defeated the Reggae Warriors, 20-14 this time, before holding off a fast-finishing Canada Wolverines 34-24 to claim their ticket to the 2017 World Cup.
Jacksonville has been a happy hunting ground for the American national side over the years, dating back to their first match in the Atlantic Cup against Jamaica in 2009, playing a total of seven games there and winning six of them. The only loss was to Leeds Rhinos in an exhibition game in 2016.
“Having recognition from the Rugby League World Cup and the International Federation that we can do this says to the rugby league community in the US that this is a premier event,” said USARL chairman Peter Illfield. “It doesn’t come without hard work and I would like to think our rugby league family and fraternity take that on board and understand how much is involved in getting this, because it’s just great value to us.”
The importance of USARL again winning the bidding process to host the qualifying series hasn’t been lost on city officials, with Visit Jacksonville president and CEO Michael Corrigan commenting: “This is a big win for our city. We hope visiting fans will get a chance to experience our destination and its beautiful beaches, fun nightlife, local craft beer scene, delicious food and some sensational rugby alongside.”
Like Jamaica, USARL has established a gofundme page, looking to raise $10K to help players participate in the tournament. For anyone interested in contributing, the link is – https://www.gofundme.com/help-the-hawks-get-to-the-world-cup