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While moving one step closer to Rugby World Cup qualification is the ultimate goal, Canada can climb the world rankings if it avoids defeat in the first leg of its World Cup qualifying series against the U.S. Eagles on Saturday in St, John’s.

The Canadian men will move up one spot to No. 21 if they win or tie. The 16th-ranked Americans would fall one or two places if beaten, depending on the game score.

A U.S. victory would move the Eagles above Tonga into 15th place while dropping Canada to No. 23.

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The two teams will complete the aggregate playoff Sept. 11 in Glendale, Colo.

The North American playoff winner will meet No. 17 Uruguay in early October to determine the Americas 1 qualifier for France 2023. The loser will face No. 28 Chile to determine who progresses to the Americas 2 playoff against the loser of the Americas 1 series.

Canada leads the all-time series against the U.S. with a 38-23-2 record, including an 8-3-0 edge in World Cup qualifiers. But the Americans are unbeaten in their past 12 meetings (11-0-1) with Canada dating back to a 13-11 loss in Toronto in August, 2013, that booked Canada’s ticket to the 2015 World Cup.

That 2013 victory was Canada’s seventh straight over the Eagles.

Both teams are mired in length losing runs, however.

While the Americans are riding a six-match win streak over Canada, they have lost their past six test matches against all opposition dating back to a 20-15 win over the Canadians in September, 2019, in Vancouver, a warm-up for the World Cup in Japan. That BC Place Stadium game marked the last time the Canadian men played on home soil.

Canada, meanwhile, has lost 10 straight since beating Chile 56-0 in February, 2019.

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Because of pandemic-related schedule cancellations, both teams have played just twice – during this July’s test window – since the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

Canada lost 68-12 to No. 9 Wales and 70-14 to No. 3 England in its lone action since falling 66-7 to eventual World Cup champion South Africa on Oct. 8, 2019.

The Americans were beaten 43-29 by England and 71-10 by No. 4 Ireland in July.

“It’s obviously been some challenging times, on and off the field for us,” said U.S. coach Gary Gold. “But ultimately we’re excited to get back to test match rugby of this nature.”

Canada coach Kingsley Jones says while the Americans may be “slight favourites,” there will be no surprises given most of the Canadians play alongside or against the Americans in Major League Rugby.

“They know what to expect and they’re looking forward to the challenge,” he said.

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The Canadian men have never missed a World Cup although they had to qualify via a repechage tournament last time out after losing playoff series to the U.S. and Uruguay. The Americans missed out on the 1995 World Cup in South Africa.

Mike Adamson, a former Scottish sevens player, will referee Saturday’s game at Swilers Rugby Park as well as the rematch in Colorado.

Canada thumped the U.S. 56-7 in their only other meeting in St. John’s – a 2007 World Cup qualifier.

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