USA National Rugby Team


Australia Wins Pacific Zone Qualifiers, Joins US Pool

(Berkeley, California) 26 September 1998 -- As expected, Australia clinched the Rugby World Cup's Pacific zone with a 25-13 win over Samoa today in Sydney, giving the powerful Wallabies a berth in the same pool as the United States next year in Ireland.

The Wallabies are openly delighted to be headed to the Emerald Isle, both because they won the 1991 World Cup when based there, benefiting from their heavily Irish ethnic heritage, and because they view the US National Team's presence as opening rugby's door to the American commercial market. One prominent Australian journalist called the Eagles' August qualification "the most important recent result for world rugby," adding that the consequences for the American game's domestic expansion are "obvious."

Conversely, the Australian Rugby Union has historically been a good friend to USA Rugby. The USA played its first-ever test match against Australia in 1976, losing 24-12. The two teams last met in October 1993, when the Eagles truly kicked off Jack Clark's tenure as head coach with a narrow 26-22 loss in Riverside, California.

Two more slots remain to be decided in Rugby World Cup's Pool E, although Ireland is highly likely to claim one of those places. The two teams will emerge from European zone qualifying in late November.

The USA's pool game dates are already known. They are:

Sat, Oct 2  TBD (Ireland)     Dublin
Sat, Oct 9  TBD Dublin
Thur, Oct 14    Australia Limerick
Few details about ticketing have emerged from World Cup organizers in Cardiff. It is certain that top price for pool game seats will not exceed 40 pounds, and highly likely that USA Rugby will receive a very small allotment. That is, the union will probably not be in the business of selling tickets. For the moment, it looks like designated travel agents will be offering World Cup packages that include game tickets.

Fiji finished second in the Pacific zone qualifiers and will go to Pool C in France. That pool is completely set, comprising France, Fiji, Canada, and African zone champion Namibia. The US dropped an 18-9 decision to the Fijians this past July in Suva, in the two teams' first-ever encounter.

Third-place Samoa, which dropped a 26-18 decision to Fiji last Wednesday, heads to Wales for Pool D. Host Wales and Argentina are already booked there, with next month's Asian champion to fill out the final place. Japan is the favorite, as Hong Kong cannot field its Pacific Rim team. During the summertime competition, relaxed eligibility regulations (for the sake of tougher competition) allow the Dragons to use numerous transient Southern hemisphere players.

Separately, US National Team General Manager Jack Clark is meeting with USA Rugby's Management Committee this weekend in Chicago, in part to brief president Anne Barry's leadership group on preparations for December's Inter-Territorial Tournament as well as National Team budgeting and several administrative initiatives. Clark, who reports to the Management Committee, will make a fuller presentation to the entire Board of Directors in Colorado Springs in November.