It’s been a week since the USA finished their November tour of Europe, and players have had time to reflect on the good parts and the bad.
No player RUGBYMag.com talked to was particular happy about losing to Georgia, but none thought it was a death blow to their self esteem (or team esteem) either.
There’s more to the plan for the team, said the players, than winning or losing one game.
“It's why we play sport,” said Paul Emerick of Georgia’s surprising comeback to win 19-17. “It was a tough one no doubt. The last ten minutes seemed to not just go our way - little knock-ons that turned into penalties for offsides, missed lineouts, some possible poaches that just didn't come off, and the scrum at the end was just heartbreaking.”
Emerick neatly recounted the aspects of the game that turned the final few minutes on its head.
However … “regardless of how the game ended I thought we made some strides as team,” said Emerick. “Our continuity was by far the best it's been all year, people are starting to find a bit of form and getting comfortable with our pattern, so definitely some positives to be taken out of this game. Hope we can keep it rolling into this summer's tests and build up for World Cup.”
“I would be lying if I said I didn't lose sleep over the Georgia game,” added USA captain Todd Clever. “I have thought about it a lot, and there are a few instances that keep popping up in my head. We didn't get out of that five-point range at the end of the game so we were going to be under loads of pressure, like we were. And unfortunately that pressure was too much for us. It was a good lesson for us, and the Eagles need more of these kinds of games.”
Phil Thiel agreed.
“It was tough. It was definitely not to get that decision that we wanted. But in that game there was a lot of really good performances. There’s a lot to build on in that game. We went into a pretty hostile environment and kept our composure which is really important for us because we don’t get that environment that often,” said the USA hooker.
Thiel said what he remembered most was how much the players put into the effort.
So the Georgia game was tough, but the players also felt they got to learn more about each other and handled that age-old tradition of rugby: the tough overseas tour. They might not have won everything, but they went through it together.
“There are a lot of positives to take out of the tour,” said Clever before cautioning: “But we are a long way from a finished product before we go to the Rugby World Cup.”