Los Angeles - The US Eagles have never come close to threatening an upset in seven previous visits to the Rugby World Cup, and the odds of bucking that trend in Japan are stacked against them.

A daunting pool that includes England, France and Argentina suggests the Eagles will be playing mostly for pride when their tournament kicks off against the English in Kobe on September 26.

The Eagles' most realistic chance of securing a group stage win is likely to come in the final Group C game against Tonga on October 13.

However, while the Eagles will be firmly cast as underdogs once more, they head into the tournament on the back of a series of encouraging results.

Since a historic 30-29 win over Scotland in June last year, the Eagles have underlined their progress with two wins over Samoa.

Head coach Gary Gold's side has often struggled to be competitive when making the step up against stronger outfits, suffering heavy defeats to Ireland, Argentina and the New Zealand Maori in the past year.

The US' preparations were also given a reality check in their final fixture of the Pacific Nations Cup on August 10, when they were beaten 34-20 by Japan in Fiji.

South African Gold however is encouraged by the steady progress of the Eagles, which has benefited from the successful launch of a professional domestic competition Major League Rugby, over the past two years.

"We've shown we can be competitive against Tier 1 nations now, and Major League Rugby has played a big part in that," Gold said.

"We now have a much bigger pool of players who are playing and training in a professional environment, and we are starting to see the effects of that."

The senior figures in the Eagles line-up are veteran forward Cam Dolan and Joe Taufete'e, the Worcester Warriors hooker.

Sale Sharks flyhalf AJ MacGinty provides a steadying influence in the number 10 shirt, while former Cardiff Blues flyer Blaine Scully will captain from the wing.