U.S. rugby team drops World Cup tune-up

In its biggest match before the World Cup, the U.S. men's national rugby team battled Harlequins early but didn't have enough late, falling, 24-19, in front of 6,364 fans at PPL Park.

The Eagles, who must whittle their roster this week in preparation for the World Cup, were tied, 14-14, in the second half. But Harlequins, a top-tier English club still in its preseason, got a try from Luke Wallace with a little more than 10 minutes to play that put Harlequins ahead for good.

On a positive note, the United States led, 11-0, when the top players were in the game.

"This gave us an opportunity to play against a real quality team as we prepare for the World Cup," U.S. coach Mike Tolkin said. "It was beneficial for us in that we've got some decisions to make as far as getting down to the number for the World Cup. So that was good."

The Americans will begin World Cup play in England on Sept. 20. Their draw includes Scotland, South Africa, and Japan.

Though the Eagles will not rise or fall in the world rugby rankings, Sunday's match against one of the world's top clubs offered a final opportunity for players to make their case for the team. The 31-man team that will travel to England will be named Tuesday, four days before the Eagles conclude their World Cup preparations with a match against Australia at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The United States qualified for the World Cup with a victory over Uruguay in a two-legged qualifier in 2013. The meeting with Harlequins was an opportunity for the team to sharpen its skills.


jmitchell@philly.com

@JmitchInquirer