Photo Credit: Allene Rachal
The International Rugby League (IRL) has sanctioned a one-off men’s international match between the United States and Canada in November.
The game will be played in Tampa, Florida, on Saturday, November 5, 2022, which is the same weekend that #RLWC2021 moves into the quarterfinals in the men’s division.
The contest will mark the first time that either team has taken to the field since just prior to the global pandemic breaking out in early 2020.
For the home team, the last three games it has played have all been losses. The mini slump started with a defeat by Jamaica in the #RLWC2021 Americas Zone qualifying series in 2018. That was followed by a second straight loss to the Reggae Warriors in a mid-year international in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2019, and then they were beaten in the very last #RLWC2021 qualifying match against the Cook Islands in November of that year.
The domestic competition in the US, which is the main feeder system for the men’s national team, has been seriously disrupted since the pandemic hit. The 2020 USA Rugby League (USARL) season was cancelled, then in 2021, and again this summer, the number of clubs competing was reduced for a variety of reasons.
However, despite these setbacks, the Americans are keen to snap their losing streak and Hawks head coach Sean Rutgerson tells Rugby League Planet he expects to put together a solid squad from the pool of players available to his coaching staff.
“All players registered with the USARL will be eligible for selection,” he says. “I will look at all players. I’m expecting the level of the players who are selected to be high as always. Nothing has changed.”
Another major selection tool normally utilised by the Hawks’ team management is the North v South All-Star game, yet that too has been scrapped this year. However, the South is playing Puerto Rico in October, so Rutgerson and his staff will be able to cast an eye over that match for potential player selections.
All in all, given the circumstances, the US head coach is adopting a positive attitude for the November international.
“Am looking forward to a really competitive game against Canada,” he says.
From the Wolverines’ perspective, they also last played in 2019 when they went 2-1 on a tour of Serbia. The Canadians beat Bosnia and Serbia A, before being dispatched by Serbia in the final game of the tour in Belgrade.
Before that, Canada lost to Jamaica and beat Chile in the #RLWC2021 Americas Zone qualifiers in 2018.
Interim president of Canada Rugby League, Josh Knight says it’s good news for the game in North America which has been quiet for some time.
“Yes, that is correct, so it should be an amazing match,” he says.
The US has a commanding 20-6 all-time win-loss record against Canada dating back to their very first game in 1987, which was won by the Canadians.