The national team's spring-summer 2013 schedule, all but announced, looks be its most important slate during the 4-year-cycle leading to the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The docket includes a non-cap match against Canada in May; Ireland, Tonga, Fiji, and Japan in June; and home-and-away RWC qualifiers against Canada in July. The Irish game is to be in Houston, the Tongan in Salt Lake City, and the home Canadian contest in Atlanta, US coach Mike Tolkin last month told This is American Rugby.
Winning the summer qualifying series means immediate advancement to Pool D, which would allow the US to set its own schedule in 2014, rather than play further qualifying matches. Also, USARFU would receive a first round of RWC participation monies.
Earlier, the Pacific Nations matches -- the revived Pacific Rim Championship, minus Samoa -- represent the opportunity to regain ground in the International Rugby Board rankings. Since 2006, the US has lost 15 of 19 matches against fellow 'tier 2' countries.
The governing body awards no ranking points for close defeats, but does base subsidies in part on international outcomes. IRB monies accounts for more than one-fifth of USARFU's annual budget, according to the union's most recent audit statement.
The Ireland match will be judged against 2009's 27-10 loss in Santa Clara, California, also a year when the Irish first string were away with the British and Irish Lions. It too holds consequences for USARFU's hopes of transforming the national XV into revenue engine. Based on last summer's Italy match, the gate is likely to be strong; but sponsors prefer to associate with a winning, or at least an improving, team.
The spring campaign could kick off with a one-off match against South Africa's Golden Lions, who are to visit Vancouver and then Irvine, California, in April, according Rugby Magazine and other published reports. The former Transvaal province lost its Super Rugby franchise after the 2012 season, and so is looking for new avenues. Using domestic internationals and 'A' players, USARFU would contribute half of an invitational XV.
In 2012, the Eagles posted a 3-3 record, besting Georgia, Russia, and Romania while falling to Canada, Italy, and Tonga. The net effect was to secure the USA's place in world rugby's unofficial second division.
United States of America: Possible 2013 Spring-Summer Schedule
May 25 Canada A (vs USA A) Edmonton
June 8 Ireland Houston: BBVA Stadium
June 14 Tonga Salt Lake City: Rio Tinto Stadium
June 19 Fiji Japan: undeclared
June 23 Japan Japan: undeclared
July 20 Canada Atlanta: Kennesaw St. Univ.
July 27/8 Canada Toronto