TORONTO â€” Canada will host the U.S. at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field on June 24 in the first leg of their Rugby World Cup qualifying showdown.
The 17th-ranked U.S. Eagles and No. 22 Canadians will decide the two-game aggregate series a week later on July 1 in San Diego.
It marks the first time the Canadian men have played a test match in Hamilton. In recent years, Canada has opted to play most of its Ontario matches at Toronto’s BMO Field.
The crowd edge should go to Canada in the June series. Torero Stadium, home to the University of San Diego football team, has 6,000 seats while Tim Hortons Field has 23,500.
The winner of the two-game aggregate series moves on to the 2019 World Cup in Japan. The loser has two more chances to qualify, starting with a home-and-away series against the surviving Americas team (excluding Argentina which has already qualified) with the winner booking its ticket.
The loser of the South American playoff has one more chance to get to Japan, via a world repechage tournament.
With the World Cup draw set for May 10 in Kyoto, Japan, the goal is to qualify early to have more time to prepare for tournament opponents and research venues.
Argentina, Australia, England, France, Georgia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Scotland, South Africa, Wales and defending champion New Zealand have already qualified for the 20-team field.
Canada has a 38-17-1 record against the Americans but has lost the last five meetings. The Canadian men have not beaten the U.S. since August 2013 when they won both legs of their 2015 World Cup qualifier â€” 27-9 in Charleston, S.C., and 13-11 in Toronto.
The Americans went on to beat Uruguay 59-40 on aggregate to qualify.
Uruguay subsequently won the repechage tournament to join the two North American teams at the 2015 tournament in England and Wales, where all three Americas qualifiers finished 0-4-0 at the bottom of their pools.
Canada has not lost in World Cup qualifying since July 2009 when it fell 12-6 to the U.S. before rallying to win the return leg 41-18 to make the 2011 tournament.
But the Americans easily defeated Canada 51-34 in the recent Americas Rugby Championship in a game that saw both teams missing top players. The U.S. (4-0-1) won the six-team tournament while Canada (1-4-0) finished a disappointing fifth.
Canada will face No. 12 Georgia, on June 10 in Calgary, and No. 16 Romania, on June 17 in Edmonton, to prepare for the U.S. series.
The Americans have June test matches against No. 4 Ireland and Georgia.
Canada has won eight Rugby World Cup qualifying matches to the Americans’ two and has never lost a series to the Eagles over two legs.
The Canadian men are 15-4-0 all-time in World Cup qualifying matches.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press