The busy North American summer of rugby league continues later this month with the opening game of an expanded Colonial Cup series in Philadelphia. The USA Tomahawks are set to host the Team Canada Wolverines on Saturday, August 27 in what is shaping up as the most competitive match between the rivals in years. The Canadians are still riding an emotional high after breaking through for their first ever rugby league test win against Jamaica last week and will bring momentum into the contest.
Rugby League in Canada emerged from a 10-year hiatus in 2010 after being revived by a newly established Canada Rugby League
. Prior to that, the Canadians had lost nine straight CanAm tests to the US from 1993-2000. On their re-emergence last year, the Wolverines dropped two more internationals to the Tomahawks, as well as one to Jamaica, before finally smashing their long run of outs against the Jamaicans in the Caribbean Carnival Cup match in Toronto.
Canada will go into the Philadelphia matchup as underdogs, although not as the rank outsiders they once were in past years. Their comprehensive victory over Jamaica showed that they have made big strides since returning to international rugby league, but whether they have improved enough to beat their rivals for the first time remains to be seen. “Last year they dominated us physically, skillfully and tactically and I'm sure they will be out to do the same this year,” Canadian head coach Jamie Lester told the Canada Rugby League website. “This group of Wolverines players is different to the team we put out last year, however, and if we continue to work hard at training and make necessary improvements, I'm sure we will pose a formidable challenge.”
The Tomahawks are coming off a loss to Ireland back in March, a result that ended their four-game win streak. Due to media commitments in Australia, head coach Matt Elliott isn’t available so US-based coach David Niu will assume the role in his stead. Niu, who coached the American team last year and again in the Donnybrook Cup match against the Irish, is expecting a much different Canadian opposition this time. “I reckon Canada will have improved and that will be good for the whole region,” Niu told WeAreRugby. “I think it will help develop interest for the match.”
The Colonial Cup has been expanded to a two-game series with the return rubber to be played in Toronto on September 18. Following that match, the USA will embark on its campaign to qualify for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
The US will host the RLWC Atlantic Zone qualifying series in October when Jamaica and South Africa will vie with the Tomahawks for one of only two berths remaining for the World Cup in England and Wales.
USA Test schedule
Colonial Cup – USA v Canada (August 27, 2011)
Colonial Cup – USA v Canada (September 18, 2011)
RLWCQ – USA v South Africa (October 15, 2011)
RLWCQ – USA v Jamaica (October 23, 2011)