Brian Doyle has been a big part of Super League Champions; the NYAC lock forward doesn’t lose much, and doesn’t like it when he does, but he was the starting second row for the Eagles as they lost five in a row in June.
Now, he looks ahead to the World Cup Qualifiers against Canada, August 17 at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, SC, and August 24 at BMO Field in Toronto.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of an 0-5 run,” Doyle told RUGBYMag.com. “Any time you come away from something like that, it’s tough. It’s a big blow to the team’s ego, the players’ ego. We had some good moments, but it was just defeating for us to not come away with a result. We put a lot into it, a lot into the tour. It’s disappointing personally and for the team.”
One of the big issues was the scrum, which badly undercut the USA’s effort against Japan, and got them into repeated penalty trouble. There’s reason to believe the new experimental laws on the engagement will help avoid those problems in August. Doyle thinks there’s a mental shift the team has to make, as well.
“I think we’ve had a lot of success, but we also have had lack of success,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with the way we’re reacting to the way refs are penalizing us. We know we’re under pressure, but we have to get rid of that mentality that we’re under pressure. We have had good scrums.”
In open play, the USA forwards have done well, at least when it comes to defense and recycling the ball. The pack and the backs were equally guilty when it came to turnovers.
“One of the more frustrating things, was that at times as forwards we were dominating a lot of contact areas, but we couldn’t take any satisfaction out of that, because we weren’t getting anywhere,” Doyle explained. “If 90% of what we did was good and 10% was poor, that 10% cost us. I feel that, physically, the forward pack can stand up with anyone.”
The team itself has been on a series of ups and downs. They opened the spring tests with a 16-9 loss to Canada that they felt they should have won, and then lost 15-12 to Ireland, again a game there for the taking. But after that, they played poorly against Tonga, were a little out of sync against Fiji, and then let a win slide away against Japan.
“I feel very confident in what we can do; we all feel confident,” said Doyle. “We just need to perform on a more consistent basis. Going into the Ireland test, there was an electricity in the air. We thought we were going to take that game. We didn’t but we were happy with how we performed. Against Tonga we thought the same type of attitude was going to come out, and when it didn’t, we were all looking for answers. It was an absolutely terrible feeling. It was a Tongan crowd. Balls going on the ground. We weren’t executing simple things. Our defense let us down. It was just a bad day.”
Patience may be the key, said Doyle. Players tend to try to do too much or go off the script because they think something’s not working.
“When we don’t get go-forward ball on second phase, which is something we know we should get, guys try a bit too hard and get impatient.”
The USA on offense showed they can be patient against Japan. Can they be that way for 160 minutes against Canada?
“I love playing against Canada, and I think we play well against Canada,” said Doyle. “Man-for-man we can dominate, but they have managed the game much better and played more as a unified, solid unit to get themselves out of trouble. We should have won last time, but that sentiment gets old. We just need to execute.”