Thorburn admits defeat already

America is perhaps the most competitive sporting nation on the planet – but national rugby coach Peter Thorburn freely admits his side have no chance of beating England at the World Cup.

The Eagles are in the same pool as England, South Africa, Tonga and Samoa for the tournament which is being hosted by France in September.

Veteran New Zealander Thorburn – the former Bristol coach and All Blacks selector – watched his side lose 51-3 in the Churchill Cup opener against England Saxons on Friday.

That said everything about the yawning chasm in class between the two countries and England’s senior side promise to be even less forgiving.

“If anyone thinks we’re likely to win against England at the World Cup then they should wake up because it’s nothing more than a pipe dream,” said Thorburn.

“We’ve got to target the areas where we can give ourselves a chance and make the most of the experience.

“England can take 70 or 80 players and still have depth, whereas if we take three players out of our squad then we feel it.

“But we’re building depth all the time and that’s what playing in tournaments like the Churchill Cup is all about.”

When Tom Billups sent USA out at the last World Cup his ambitions were modest – to return home with the country’s second-ever win at the finals.

And his men delivered – a 39-26 defeat of Japan adding to the victory they secured in their inaugural game in the competition back in 1987, also against the Japanese.

But there is a different air about the American camp now, particularly since former Gloucester and Wasps director of rugby Nigel Melville became chief executive of USA Rugby last October.

Melville’s strategic objective is to create four regions with their own academy, link up with Canada and Argentina in a Tri-Nations.

He then wants to move on to a ‘Super 12’, with each nation providing four regional teams while also reaching the quarter-finals of both the 2011 World Cup and 2009 World Sevens.

“There’s a whole range of positive things that are happening, there’s no doubt about it,” added Thorburn.

“The players are better now than we were a year ago.

“There’s better conditions and we’re getting more young players coming through.

“Some of these guys have only had two years of rugby and they find it difficult to cope with playing sides that are professional.

“It’s probably a little silly to say, but I’m pleased with a lot of things that happened against the Saxons, even though we lost.

“We saw what needed to be done on the playing side and that’s what we’re working towards.”

The Eagles, who have a World Cup warm-up against Munster in Chicago in August, are made up predominantly of US-based amateur players.

But, as Thorburn says, there must be a drive towards professionalism if America is to make any meaningful impact on the international scene.

“You can’t compete with the professionals if you haven’t got professional players,” said the Kiwi.

“There has to be professional rugby if the game is to reach its potential in the States.

“The answer is to get players playing in the high schools.

“It will take off because rugby is a physical sport and that’s what Americans love.”

 

365 Digital

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