The eleventh qualifier for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup will be decided on Saturday afternoon at the culmination of the winner-takes-all clash between the USA and Canada at the Hodges Stadium, Jacksonville, Florida.
The host Hawks require a draw to go through whereas Canada, who came back from 18 points down to salvage a point against Jamaica midweek, have to triumph. The Wolverines will go into the contest with confidence, however, having beaten their neighbours twice already in 2015 to retain the Colonial Cup.
USA coach Brian McDermott has had seven days to prepare his men after their hard-fought, narrow win over the Reggae Warriors in game one and makes one change, Charles Cortalano coming in for his New York Knights team mate Abe Cohen.
“This is arguably one of the biggest games USA have been involved in, especially here at home,” said McDermott. “It has been a very beneficial training camp and the players have worked extremely hard, showing a huge level of commitment already. Canada have proven themselves a very good team in the recent games but this encounter is a must-win game for both and the US players are very much up for it.”
The rival nations have played annually since Canada’s entry into international rugby league in 2010, with America ahead 6-5 overall. New Canada coach Aaron Zimmerle brings in Chad Bain, currently gaining experience with Bradford Dudley Hill, for Antoine Blanc who is forced out of the squad with a leg injury suffered against the Jamaicans.
“Both teams will have benefitted for their games against Jamaica and we know that we have to be better to come up with the win on Saturday,” admitted Zimmerle. “The boys have practised well during the entire tournament but have really lifted since the Jamaica comeback.”
Nick Newlin (Atlanta Rhinos), Taylor Alley (Central Florida Warriors), Matt Walsh (Connecticut Wildcats), Jon Purnell (Jacksonville Axemen), Mark Offerdahl (London Broncos), Taylor Howden (Mid-West Stockyarders), Luke Barron, Kristian Freed (Mitchelton Panthers), Charles Cortalano (New York Knights), Sam Carson (Norths Devils), Ryan Burroughs (NOVA Eagles), Casey Clark, Rich Henson, Andrew Kneisly, Roman Lowery, Mike Timpano (Philadelphia Fight), Danny Howard, Steve Howard, Corey Makelim (Wentworthville Magpies)
Chad Bain (Bradford Dudley Hill), Billy Gemmell, Christian Miller, Steve Piatek (Brantford Broncos), Alex Boyd (Capilano Cougars), Tom Dempsey (Easts Tigers), Steve Bouchard (Jamberoo Superoos), Louis Robinson (London Skolars), Rhys Jacks (South Logan Magpies), Ryley Jacks (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Jamie Kelly (Surrey Beavers), Jonathan Cregg, Robin Legault, Matt Wyles (Toronto Centurions), Eddie Bilborough, Enoch Wamalwa (Toronto City Saints), Daniel Blasco-Morris, Rick Schouten, Adam Timler (Valley Warriors)