The eleventh qualifier for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup will be decided on Saturday afternoon at the culmination of the winner-takes-all clash between the USA and Canada at the Hodges Stadium, Jacksonville, Florida.
The host Hawks require a draw to go through whereas Canada, who came back from 18 points down to salvage a point against Jamaica midweek, have to triumph. The Wolverines will go into the contest with confidence, however, having beaten their neighbours twice already in 2015 to retain the Colonial Cup.
USA coach Brian McDermott has had seven days to prepare his men after their hard-fought, narrow win over the Reggae Warriors in game one and makes one change, Charles Cortalano coming in for his New York Knights team mate Abe Cohen.
“This is arguably one of the biggest games USA have been involved in, especially here at home,” said McDermott. “It has been a very beneficial training camp and the players have worked extremely hard, showing a huge level of commitment already. Canada have proven themselves a very good team in the recent games but this encounter is a must-win game for both and the US players are very much up for it.”
The rival nations have played annually since Canada’s entry into international rugby league in 2010, with America ahead 6-5 overall.
New Canada coach Aaron Zimmerle brings in Chad Bain, currently gaining experience with Bradford Dudley Hill, for Antoine Blanc who is forced out of the squad with a leg injury suffered against the Jamaicans.
“Both teams will have benefitted for their games against Jamaica and we know that we have to be better to come up with the win on Saturday,” admitted Zimmerle. “The boys have practised well during the entire tournament but have really lifted since the Jamaica comeback.”
The match kicks off at 3pm ET and can be viewed at https://www.ginicam.com/rugbyleague/