Scotland go into their win-or-bust clash with the United States hoping for a repeat of their only previous meeting with the Americans: a 38-16 victory. That would put them in the driving seat in Group C and leave Italy needing to beat Tonga and catch up on points difference. Currently Italy and Scotland are level on three points from two games, with Italy ahead by 14 points in the for and against column.
Eighteen years ago at the Emerging Nations World Cup, just two days after beating Russia, Scotland made the journey down the M1 to a soccer ground in rugby union territory - Northampton’s Sixfields - for a double-header, with Morocco v Moldova following the Scotland-US match.
Despite having experienced top class pros in duel-code Lion Alan Tait, Darrall Shelford, Martin Ketteridge, Great Britain prop Hugh Waddell and Charlie McAlister - father of current union star Luke - Scotland struggled to get going against a greenhorn US side.
The Patriots contained mainly converted union players, like healthcare manager Britton Coffman of Houston Athletic; Dallas’s Laau Afuhaamango, and centre Greg Stelluti, playing only his second game of rugby league. It was not until US Eagles rugby union winger Rory Lewis put the US ahead that Scotland - who included future St Helens coach Mike Rush - started to gel. Graeme Thompson, who went on to be England RL manager at the 2008 World Cup, scored a fine solo, and McAlister set up tries for Castleford stalwart Ketteridge and Mark Smith. Then Shelford took control scoring a hat-trick of tries, although David Niu, the father-figure of US rugby league, pulled two tries back for the Americans.