Looking back on the year for the USA Men’s National Team, USA fullback Chris Wyles remembers his comments from the fall, just before the Eagles assembled for their fall tour.
The USA, said Wyles, should be grateful they have three games they stand a good chance of winning. A 2-1 fall tour, he said, was the minimum goal, and he felt they could, possibly should , even sweep the three games.
As it was, the Eagles won two matches convincingly and lost one game (against Tonga) they should have won.
“I said before tour that these were great fixtures for us,” said Wyles. “We felt we had the opportunity to learn how to win test matches and to win a test series. I don’t think you could have got a better series for us in terms of the IRB organizing the correct test matchers for the correct teams; and then we came away with a series win, which is exactly what we need to start doing.”
Wyles echoed RUGBYMag’s own comments that the final match of the year, against Romania, was as good a performance as we’ve seen from the USA.
“I am not sure it’s the best we’ve played since I’ve been with the Eagles, but without a doubt, that was the most satisfying win,” he said. “They were a [well-ranked] team, very competitive with big forwards. I thought the game was very similar to the Georgia game we played two years ago in Tbilisi. That was a game we should have won and we didn’t – we lost it in the final minute. This game, against Romania, we not only won, we won it convincingly and everyone was enjoying themselves.”
Wyles praised Romania for their hosting of the team and their facility.
“The Stadium was really nice, it was a beautiful pitch, and they were very welcoming; good people,” he said. The game was a little tougher. “It was very physical and there were a few off-the-ball things but we expected that. What we also knew was that Japan had only just beat them two weeks before. We knew they were on the same level as us, so to nil them [in tries] and score as many tries as we did was great.”
The team has come together under Head Coach Mike Tolkin, and Wyles said the chemistry between players and staff is good.
“Tolks has been involved in American rugby the better part of his entire life,” Wyles said. “He understands the players. He’s given us the license to play rugby, which Is good because we’ve got some great athletes on this team.”
Wyles himself is enjoying the license to slot into the line, breaking through to score or distributing as well.
“I like getting my hands on the ball,” he said. “Being a distributor and being someone who can attack and take lines are both important. I enjoy picking lines and attacking more but with the USA I need to distribute more, too, and I do. I just want to be involved in the game.”
Confidence is seeping through the team, and that could bode well for 2013, and the World Cup Qualifier series against Canada in the summer.
“I don’t want to get too carried away, but why not get encouraged about it?” enthused Wyles. “How many times have I had to talk with reporters about why we lost, or why this went wrong. Things went well this time, and we should enjoy the win.”