Melville looks to close the gap

USA Rugby chief executive Nigel Melville admits the gap between the Eagles and the established Test nations is bigger than ever.

The USA crashed to a 51-3 defeat by England Saxons in their tournament opener last Friday and face another tough assignment on Wednesday night when they meet Scotland A in Henley.

Scotland have named 10 capped players in their starting line-up but Melville insists exposure against top sides is the only way the Eagles will improve.

“The gap is still very big because we’re still amateur,” said the former England scrum-half.

“Since the last World Cup nations like England have had four more years of professionalism whereas we’ve added four more years of amateurism, so the gap will be wide.

“Closing that gap is the key. Having the players together for a month during the Churchill Cup is a big step forward.

“We can make progress to close the gap but everyone else is also moving forward, although maybe not as quickly as we are.

“We need to work on our skill levels under pressure and sort out our defence structure.

“You need game situations to test the players in these areas and that’s what we’re getting at the moment.

“But it’s important for people to know how big the gap is and the Churchill Cup is useful for that.

“People seem to think we’re better than we are, but we’re not. We’re under no illusions about how tough it is but we know we can get better.”

Scotland A captain Rory Lawson is confident his side can win the Churchill Cup as they prepare for their opener tonight.

Last season Scotland upset the Saxons in the group stage of the competition before losing heavily to a strong New Zealand Maori side in the final.

“Looking at the squads I think we are in a really strong position and we’ve set ourselves the challenge of winning the thing,” he said.

“We see that as a realistic target. Last season we were chucked in together and only had a couple of days to prepare before we were into the games.

“We had to simplify things so much because we were all new to the team.

“Now we’ve got this continuity from the way (coach) Frank Hadden wants the full Scotland team to play straight down into the A squad.”

 

365 Digital

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