The USA Selects cannot win the Americas Rugby Championship, as Argentina has recorded two bonus-point victories, leaving them six points ahead of both the USA and Canada with one game to go.
But the Americans can indeed finish 2nd. All they need to do is beat Uruguay and hope Canada doesn’t pass them by getting a bonus point when the USA didn’t.
Certainly after beating Canada convincingly on Tuesday, the USA team has the right to be confident.
“Certainly the guys are feeling confident, and that’s good,” said Head Coach Mike Tolkin.
But they also know things weren’t perfect against Canada. The Eagles struggled with ball retention, and were only helped out by their defense.
“We had a good session yesterday,” Tolkin said Friday. “We touched on some things we needed to address – ball retention, attack in the green zone, and our kick chase.”
The ball retention is just a case of players protecting the ball when the defense is swarming.
“It’s our responsibility to come out with it if we go in with it,” said the coach. “It wasn’t a problem when our guys were trying to bust through. It was more that when guys were on the ground they would just sort of go to ground and die. They weren’t fighting hard enough.”
Tolkin wants the players to be more organized in the opposition 22, and he added that game day captain Toby L’Estrange is getting more confident in that area, and more prepared.
“Toby was more prepared in setting the backs up, and that’s why we scored that one try,” said Tolkin. “But we still need to do better. On defense, I saw an improvement; we were better launching off the line. When Canada was on the ropes we attacked them, but our one-on-one tackling needs improvement, and our wingers need to close the door better.”
The wings got a lot of film work this week to help them on defense. Of course, it didn’t help that on one big break down the sideline for Canada, Peter Moala was operating with one usable arm.
After Saturday’s game, Tolkin will finalize not only his squad for the full Eagles team for their November test matches, but also his coaching staff. As far as the players go, several have used their ARC performances to warrant inclusion in the full Eagles lineup. With lock being a position of need, the Uruguay game becomes a final audition for the likes of Tai Tuisamoa, John Cullen, and Graham Harriman.