US Eagles set Rugby World Cup Qtr. final target

The United States Eagles have revealed that they have set themselves a target
of reaching the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.

The US Eagles are in a difficult pool with South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and
Japan who make up Pool B.

South Africa are the favourites to win the pool with Scotland the favourite
to finish as runners up. Only the top two teams in the Pool will qualify for
the knock out stage.

The United States are regulars at World Cups having featured in all but one
of the tournaments but they have never come close to qualifying for the play
offs and are usually eliminated in the pool stage.

In recent years the American game has improved under coach Mike Tolkin who
has also had the rare luxury of having his squad in camp for several weeks leading
into the tournament.

The US performed well in the Pacific Nations Cup, defeating Canada and Japan
while going down in narrow defeats to Samoa and Tonga.

Most recently, the Eagles were beaten 47-10 by Australia in Chicago, but by
no means disgraced themselves, holding the Wallabies to 14-10 at half-time.

The rise of talented players such as number eight Samu Manoa and Ireland-born
fly-half A.J. MacGinty — who like legendary Irish centre Brian O’Driscoll went
to top Irish rugby playing school Blackrock College — alongside veterans such
as Saracens star Chris Wyles, has also given the US cause for optimism.

Veteran coach Tolkin says the key to success in England will be maintaining
performance levels for 80 minutes of a match.

“The first thing, going into a World Cup you want to get out of your group,
and that’s certainly our over-reaching goal,” Tolkin said.

“But a World Cup game is difficult to win. So we’re going to take it one
game at a time.”

“The things we’ve been focusing on is playing full 80-minute games, not
letting our concentration drop at all, keeping pressure on our opposition throughout
the match,” he said.

“Those are the battles we want to win and if we do then eventually things
can fall into place for us.”

Tolkin says the US players have improved all round rugby awareness in recent
years, which could be crucial.

“I think our defence is really starting to become very mature. We can
play different kinds of attack and we know how to deal with them,” Tolkin

“We’re learning to play the game in the right parts of the field.”

Where the United States may struggle is in the depth of their squad.

Technically demanding positions such as front row and scrum-half remain problem
areas which may expose the Americans in the event of injuries.

Nevertheless, Tolkin is confident US rugby is on the right trajectory.

“When I first started playing and watching rugby, there was no American
rugby on TV, you couldn’t see the national team play, none of our players were
playing overseas, they were all scattered across the country,” Tolkin said.

“That’s all changed now. We’re making great strides — but there is a
long way to go.”

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