By Brian Lowe, Date: 10/12/15 (Photo Credit Carolyn Ritchie)

So it all comes down to the third and final game to determine who will advance to the 2017 Rugby League World Cup from the Americas and it’s a TV executive’s dream matchup.

Archrivals USA and Canada will duke it out Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida, and whenever these North American neighbors lock horns we’re talking a major rivalry.

To put it in terms that people in other countries might better comprehend, it’s somewhat akin to the Ashes cricket series that pits Australia against England, or the mother country, or as many Aussies put it, the old enemy.

It’s kind of like South Africa versus New Zealand in Rugby Union, the US against Russia in ice hockey and so on.

Okay, the so-called CanAm Rugby League series is relatively young in comparison to those other rivalries as it only dates back to 1987, and there isn’t the culture and tradition that goes with them, but you get the general idea.

It’s usually all about bragging rights, but this time it’s about so much more than that with a berth in the 2017 RLWC on the line.

And if you were a television executive you would probably be salivating at the prospect of a potential ratings bonanza because the home team is in the box seat with Canada under a lot more pressure to win, literally.

Both countries have played one match each, both were against the third nation in the series, Jamaica. The USA Hawks beat the Reggae Warriors 20-14, while the Canadian Wolverines tied with them 18-18.

Under RLIF qualifying rules, you get 2 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and zippity doo-dah-de for a loss. Points differentials can also come into play if teams end up with the same win-loss records at the conclusion of the three-game playoff series.

So how does all that work going into Saturday’s winner-takes-all showdown?

As mentioned, the Hawks are in the driver’s seat sitting on 2 points with a points differential of +6. The Wolverines are second on the table with 1 point, but a 0 differential based on their last gasp tie.

Jamaica has been eliminated from calculations by virtue of that tie. They are third in the standings with 1 point and a points differential of -6 and no matches left to improve their position.

What that means is the Americans need only tie with Canada and they will win the Qualifying tournament and clinch that spot at the World Cup for a second straight time. A win, of course, makes it all moot.

The Canadians, on the other hand, can’t afford anything other than a victory or their dream of qualifying goes out the window.

Another draw won’t do Canada any good at all because it won’t be enough to; a) make up ground on the USA’s better win-loss record, or b) improve their points differential.

The Wolverines need to win and they need to win by at least seven points, meaning they will be under more pressure of the two come game time.

RLWCQ Americas standings:
USA 1-0-0 +6 2pts
Canada 0-0-1 0 1pt
Jamaica 0-0-1 -6 1pt

The final game of the RLWCQ series will be broadcast live at https://www.ginicam.com/rugbyleague

Kickoff times by regions:
Saturday, Dec 12, 3pm (ET)
Saturday, Dec 12, 12pm (PT)
Saturday, Dec 12, 8pm (UK)
Sunday, Dec 13, 7am (Sydney)
Sunday, Dec 13, 6am (Brisbane)

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