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The three fixable factors behind Eddie Jones' England stagnation

Eddie Jones' England weren't far away from making the grade.

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Three teams face World Cup oblivion in RWC's final qualification stage

By Ian Cameron
Liam Slateman of Hong Kong attacks during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Repechage match between Hong Kong and Canada at Stade Delort on November 23, 2018 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Three teams face Rugby World Cup oblivion with the Final Qualification Tournament set to take place over the next three weekends in Dubai.

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Just one of Hong Kong, Kenya, Portugal and USA will make the through to the flagship tournament next year in France – with viewers in North America able stream it live on The Rugby Network.

Played over three match days, the four teams will face each other in a round-robin format with the team accruing the most competition points securing the 20th and final spot at the Rugby World Cup, taking a place in Pool C alongside Wales, Australia, Fiji and Georgia.

Undoubtedly the potential omission of the US Eagles would send shock waves through the sport. The US have qualified for every tournament to date and they will host the 2031 edition of the event in nine years.

If they were to fail in their bid, it would represent a not-insignificant blow on the road to filling stadiums in 2031. It’s also noteworthy that their continental neighbours on the North American plate, Canada,  have already failed to make the cut for France.

Head coach Gary Gold has called in reinforcements in the shape of former Los Pumas head coach Mario Ledezma and former All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree. Speaking to RugbyPass this week, Gold said: “The pressure is on us coaches and it is huge to qualify for the Rugby World Cup and we have to make sure we do not heap pressure onto the players. If we are successful, it could be a great binding exercise going into the World Cup in France because, ironically, if we weren’t in this position the coaches and players would not have been able to work together for six weeks. Except for the 2019 World Cup we have never had the players for more than six days training.”

Maybe their stiffest competition in Dubai are the Portuguese. They are the only team of the other three to have appeared at the sport’s top table – at Rugby World Cup 2007 – and will be hoping that history repeats itself in 2023.

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Captains from the four participating teams gathered in front of Dubai’s iconic Museum of the Future ahead of the qualifier.

“We feel pretty confident, we have been talking about it for a long time and our objective is to qualify for Rugby World Cup,” said Portugal captain Tomás Appleton. “We look at these three games as three finals but we have to start with the first game against Hong Kong, we are very focused on that one. Qualifying would mean the world to the rugby community back in Portugal, they have been waiting for it for a long time. We just want to be present.”

The US’s Irish-born flyhalf, AJ MacGinty, said his side are feeling confident ahead of the do-or-die affair.

“Qualifying means everything, as a young kid playing the game this is what you dream of,” said MacGinty, who starred for the US at the last Rugby World Cup in Japan. “This opportunity ahead of us is a massive one, I feel privileged to be here and excited to get going. We have had five weeks to get there in camps so the mood is good, the lads have worked really hard, building confidence, and we are excited about the games ahead.”

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RUGBYPASS+ The three fixable factors behind Eddie Jones' England stagnation The three fixable factors behind Eddie Jones' England stagnation
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