USA Looking for Three-Peat
The qualifying series will see the United States, Canada, Jamaica and newcomers Chile compete for qualification for the next World Cup in England.
Jacksonville, Florida, has again been chosen as the host city with two doubleheader rounds to be played there on November 13 and 17. The winner of both rounds will secure automatic qualification to #RLWC2021, while the runners-up will have the opportunity to participate in a World playoff group in 2019.
This will be the third consecutive time that the Americas region qualifying series has been held in the US, including the second time in Jacksonville, and the home team has been victorious on the previous two occasions.
In the 2015 RLWCQ in Jacksonville, the USA Hawks bested the Jamaica Reggae Warriors 20-14 before holding off a fast-finishing Canadian Wolverines team 34-24 to punch their ticket to the 2017 World Cup.
The North Florida city has been a happy hunting ground for the Americans over the years. Dating back to their first match, the Atlantic Cup against Jamaica in 2009, the USA national team has played a total of seven games there and has won six of them. The only loss was to the Leeds Rhinos in an exhibition game in 2016.
The University of North Florida has been the venue for all of the Hawks’ games in Jacksonville and head coach Sean Rutgerson thinks that will again be a big advantage to the home side.
“We have a great record here and this is where we qualified last time. All the players have been here and know their way around. UNF have great facilities and we are looking forward to playing. It’s just like a home ground and we are hoping to get a big crowd behind us.”
Prior to the 2015 RLWCQ, the USA Tomahawks, as they were known then, qualified for their very first appearance at a World Cup when they won the Atlantic Zone qualifying series in Philadelphia in 2011.
In that series, they beat South Africa and Jamaica, winning both games by the same score of 40-4, to book their place in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
US Association of Rugby League Inc chairman Peter Illfield says hosting the Americas qualifiers for a third straight time is recognition of the USA’s ability to put on successful rugby league events.
“We had success in Philadelphia and Jacksonville and having recognition from Rugby League World Cup and from the international federation that we can do this has got to be seen by the rest of the rugby league community in the US that this is a premier event and we’ve been able to get it now on three occasions. It doesn’t come without hard work and I would like to think our rugby league family and fraternity take that on board and understand how much work is involved in getting this where it is because it’s just great value to us.”
The importance of USARL again winning the bidding process to host the qualifying series hasn’t been lost on city officials with Visit Jacksonville president and CEO Michael Corrigan saying it’s a pretty big deal.
“This is a big win for our city! We hope visiting fans will get a chance to experience our destination and its beautiful beaches, fun nightlife, local craft beer scene and delicious food. We can’t wait to host you in Jax.”
USARL has set up a GoFundMe page looking to raise $10,000 to help players cover the cost of this upcoming tournament. If you would like to contribute, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/help-the-hawks-get-to-the-world-cup