The USA National Team has put beating Russia as the main benchmark for judging this season; the game on September 15.
No one disputes that.
“All of our energy and all of our focus is on getting our bodies right and getting ourselves mentally prepared to face Russia,” said USA captain Todd Clever, who was outstanding against Ireland. “I was happy for the most part with my performance. I went out there hard and with a lot of emotion and tried my best to channel it in the right ways. It’s good to get out there and leave everything on the field for your teammates and the jersey you’re wearing.”
Clearly reluctant to talk about that game, Clever wants to focus on Thursday. The Eagles only had one major, full-on training session, so it had to count. Mental focus, added Head Coach Eddie O’Sullivan, is what it’s all about now, mental focus and physical recovery.
“The most important thing now is that we forget about Ireland. It was a great performance and the team deserves huge credit for the way they battled for 80 minutes. (But) if we’re looking in the rear view mirror on Thursday night, we’re going to be crashing the car in a ditch somewhere.
“We need to focus completely now on Russia. Mental energy has got to focus us back to where we were against Ireland on Sunday night.
O’Sullivan switched up two of his front row, putting Chris Biller in for Phil Thiel and Mte Moeakiola in for Shawn Pittman.
“The biggest thing is that they are going to be pretty fresh. Our starting front row changes all the time because there’s not much between the guys. Our hookers are guys we can flip in and out,” said O’Sullivan. “[Our scrum was] cut up a bit on Sunday by the Irish pack. A bit of it was inexperience. We got crowded at the mark which didn’t suit us. Ireland were a bigger pack and we needed a bit of space to engage to give us a small bit of momentum.
“We were like we were on roller blades going backwards.”
Those issues remain with the upcoming Russia match. Given their druthers, the USA will take lineout over scrum; Russia would choose the opposite.
“We played them in the Churchill Cup this year and they have a strong scrummaging pack, a similar tradition you’ll find in Eastern Europe,” said O’Sullivan. “So it’s going to be a challenge for us to batten down the hatches there. We need to get back on the horse and make sure we can at least break even at the set piece against Russia. Like any game of rugby, if your set piece creaks, it’s going to be a tough battle for 80 minutes.”