I was extremely proud of the US. The team defensive performance was truly magnificent. The Eagles were well prepared to disrupt and compete at the tackle, where Todd Clever set the example as a captain and the entire squad responded. The team held up against a strong Irish onslaught led by O’Connell’s mighty performance at lock.
Offensively Mike Petri did a good job putting the ball in behind the Irish while Paul Emerick took on the legendary Brian O’Driscoll and created such good go forward ball. The superior Irish scrum put us under immense pressure but we we won some quality line-out possession and the team pattern was effective, using hit up and decoy runners.
O’Gara made a difference when he substituted into the game putting us under pressure with his classic territorial kicking. However the Eagles also put pressure on themselves with turnover ball.
Obviously on 9-11 there was a unique feel to the day and its historic relevance.
The Eagles will go into the Russia game knowing they need to produce the same intensity and improve their first phase possession, especially the scrum. It’s a momumental opportunity and I believe the US can win by 10-12 points.
BOULDER, Colo. – Inspired by the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the USA Eagles produced a massive performance in their Rugby World Cup opener against Ireland on Sunday. The United States lost out 22-10 at Taranaki Stadium, but received tremendous support from the packed crowd, in a match that was closer than the score suggested.
Eagles Head Coach, Eddie O’Sullivan, said: “I am extremely proud of the performance the guys delivered today. It was a very emotional occasion and controlling our emotions and channeling them into a positive performance was crucial for the outcome,”
It was a bruising encounter with the Eagles putting in bone-jarring hits on almost every Irish attack. The Eagles trailed 3-0 for most of the first half, and on the last play before the break, Ireland scored. The second period Ireland would put on 12 points, with the USA scoring 10.
“Against a tier one nation like Ireland, we were always going to spend long periods without the ball, so our defense was always going to be the cornerstone of our game plan,” commented O’Sullivan.
Despite rain, Taranaki Stadium saw 20,823 fans cheer on the first match of RWC in New Plymouth. Ireland held most of the possession, but through some ferocious defense from the Eagles, failed to cross the tryline for 39 minutes. The conditions were slippery, but the Eagles were determined to stop the Irish at all costs. Captain Todd Clever was outstanding on the day, leading his country by example.
Ireland’s flyhalf Jonathan Sexton kicked the first points of the match after 16 minutes. The Eagles had their own penalty attempt, but James Paterson’s kick drifted to the right of the poles. Scrumhalf and vice-captain Mike Petri almost sparked a try for the USA, with a well-placed box kick that speedster Takudzwa Ngwenya nearly collected meters from the tryline.
Ireland finally broke through to score, right on half time, thanks to winger Tommy Bowe. Sexton converted as Ireland lead 10-0 at the break.
The Eagles made 65 tackles in the first period, compared to Ireland’s 35. This did not affect the Eagles determination in the second half as they foiled several Irish attacks, then got on the scoreboard through a Paterson penalty. Ireland capitalized off two errors and scored in the 55th and 59th minutes via Rory Best and Bowe.
The Eagles were rewarded with a brilliant Paul Emerick intercept, with the center diving over to the chants of the crowd “USA USA USA!”. Replacement Nese Malifa kicked the conversion leaving the final score at 22-10 to Ireland.
New Plymouth, NZ. – Eagles Head Coach, Eddie O’Sullivan, has named his team that will face Ireland in the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC) opener at 6 p.m. on Sunday September 11 at Stadium Taranaki in New Plymouth. The match will be LIVE online at Universal Sports at 2 a.m EST and tape delayed on TV at 1 p.m EST on NBC and 5 p.m on Universal Sports. View the complete viewing schedule at UniversalSports.com.
“Now that we have made our first selection, everyone is looking forward to Sunday’s game. We selected from a full squad, except for Chris Wyles, who is very close to recovering from his injury but not quite there yet,” said O’Sullivan.
The Eagles, who have been based in Wanganui since arriving on September 3, have had a very productive week on the training field. The facilities at the Wanganui Rugby Union have been excellent, as have the staff supplied by the Rugby NZ 2011. Meanwhile off the field the Eagles have attended several community engagements throughout the week, receiving wonderful support from the people of Wanganui. Thousands greeted the USA team after their Official Welcome Ceremony, which included a waka ride down the Whanganui River. The city has adopted the USA team as their second nation in the RWC.
“Our stay in Wanganui has been hugely enjoyable. The facilities were world-class, and the welcome by the locals was extra-ordinary. The team really felt at home there,” echoed O’Sullivan.
Today the United States traveled to New Plymouth, which will be home for the next ten days, seeing pool matches against Ireland and Russia.
“The excitement in the squad is palpable now that we have arrived in New Plymouth, and accounting down to our first game of RWC 2011,” continued the Head Coach.
The USA team (ranked 18th) that will take on the number 8 team in the world, Ireland, will be lead by Todd Clever.
Prop Mike MacDonald is set to make history by becoming the most capped Eagle of all time. MacDonald will win his 63rd cap for his country, and will honored by leading the Eagles onto the field during Sunday’s match.
“Congratulations to Mike MacDonald for becoming the most capped Eagle of all time. And achieving that honor while playing in a RWC match makes that even more special,” expressed O’Sullivan.
The rest of the front row is made up of Shawn Pittman at prop, and Phil Thiel at hooker. The experienced Hayden Smith and John van der Giessen are the locks. Louis Stanfill starts in the number 6 jersey with Clever on the other flank. Nic Johnson completes the forward pack at 8th man.
Vice-captain and scrumhalf Mike Petri will lead the backline, with Roland Suniula starting in the flyhalf position. The solid center pairing of Andrew Suniula and Paul Emerick will be up against one of Ireland’s most famous players, Brian O’Driscoll.
The dangerous wings are Takudzwa Ngwenya and James Paterson, with Blaine Scully marshalling from the back in the number 15 jersey.
The reserve bench includes four forwards and three backs. Mate Moeakiola (prop) and Chris Biller (hooker) provide front row cover. Scott LaValla and Pat Danahy are the lock and loose forward replacements. In the backs the reserves are Tim Usasz (scrumhalf), Nese Malifa (flyhalf) and Colin Hawley (utility).
Both the USA and Irish National Teams will honor those rugby men and women who perished in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by wearing a black armband and observing a moment of silence before the kick-off. The Eagles will also attend a 9-11 Memorial Service at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in New Plymouth on Sunday morning.
The USA Eagles made quite the splash in Wanganui – literally.
After a powerful powhiri, a traditional Maori welcoming ceremony complete with a challenge by warriors, the Eagles took to the water. There they rowed a traditional waka, a war canoe, from the Putiki Marae to the boat ramp in Wanganui. Along the way thousands of locals cheered them on and welcomed them to New Zealand.
USA captain Todd Clever also presented each of his 30-man squad with their official Rugby World Cup 2011 cap. The ceremony at the Marae was a moving one. First the warriors challenged the Eagles party outside of the gates to the Maori community center. U.S. Ambassador David Huebner fronted up for the Eagles, picking up the rautapu – the symbolic offering – dropped by the warrior.
Thus announcing the party’s peaceful intentions, the team was ushered in. There they listened to songs and speeches and pledges of support from their hosts – albeit it conditional support for this whole nation is crazy about the All Blacks. The ceremony, though, had connected the Eagles to Wanganui. “You are part of us now,” said the event’s emcee.
Then gifts were exchanged, food eaten, jokes told and photos were taken. There were lots of handshakes and “good luck to you” wishes. It was a marvelous welcome, a tradtional welcome unlike no other, a day that most of these players will remember forever. The afternoon was drawing on and the sun was losing its warmth, so the team changed out of their jackets and ties into something warmer.
They were then moved down to the ramp and got into the waka. Thousands of people, some of them waiting in the stiff breeze for more than an hour, watched eagerly for the small flotilla. Loud cheers from the folks lined up on the shore accompanied the Eagles – especially when they saw that the players were actually rowing.
It was a glorious day. The Eagles will be in Wanganui training for a total of five days. They then head up to New Plymouth in preparation for their first RWC game, against Ireland on Sept. 11
As most of you are aware, there’s a small Rugby tournament coming to New Zealand later this year. It is the Rugby World Cup 2011 and will be by far the largest event this country has ever hosted.
The USA Eagles have qualified for the tournament and will be in New Plymouth, Wellington and Nelson. The team will be in Wellington before their big game against Australia on Sept. 23.
The U.S. Ambassador, David Huebner, has invited the team for dinner – and two of our lucky readers will be able to join them for what is sure to be a tremendous evening.
To see who gets to join the ambassador and the Eagles, we’re running a small competition. All you have to do is come up with a winning caption to our photo, by clicking here and then wait. We’ll announce the winner(s) on July 30. The only requirement, obviously, is that you are in or can bring yourself to Wellington on Sept. 21.
So, be creative and get writing. There are no limits to the amount of entries you submit. Just make them good and keep them clean.
Eagles Head Coach, Eddie O’Sullivan, has named his squad that will travel to London next week to compete in the Churchill Cup.
The Churchill Cup is an annual tournament, regularly anchored by the Eagles, Canada and England “A,” their second level team. Next month’s tournament is being played in England and will be broadcast by Universal Sports.These will be LIIVE online and delayed on television, with the schedule available at www.universalsports.com or by clicking here.
“The Churchill Cup is a very important annual tournament for the Eagles and this year with the Rugby World Cup (RWC) just three months away, it assumes an even greater importance as part of our preparations for New Zealand,” said O’Sullivan.
The Eagles will, however, be without some of their overseas professional players.
“We will be resting Chris Wyles and Taku Ngwenya, who have had a long tough, season overseas, which will allow them valuable rest time before beginning their preparations for RWC. Samu Manoa is also being rested to give him the best possible preparation before taking up his contract with Northampton on July 1,” said O’Sullivan.
The team departs for England on May 29 and will only have a few days on the ground before taking on Pool A opponents, the England Saxons on June 4 at Franklin’s Gardens in Northampton and Tonga on June 8 at Moseley Road in Surrey.
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Editor’s note: Paddy O’Brien is a New Zealand international rugby union referee and currently the head of the International Rugby Board’s Referee Board. He recently wrote this piece about the upcoming Rugby World Cup 2011 for us:
It will a great day in New Plymouth on September 11th when that city hosts Ireland and USA in their opening games of RWC 2011. A number of features stand out. September 11 is a significant date in that it will be the 10th anniversary of the attack on America by Al Qaeda: the U.S. Eagles are coached by the man who led Ireland into the 2007 World Cup, Eddie O’Sullivan; and USA, the last Olympic Rugby Champions (1924), will have to be all out to hold a team ranked several places ahead of them on the IRB rankings.
Whilst most people associate the USA with gridiron, it is fair to say Rugby Union is becoming stronger each year in a country which we all know produces wonderful athletes. Whilst I have never refereed USA in the 15s form of the game I have witnessed them on the IRB Sevens circuit and the passion and power they show in this form of the game is outstanding. Their Sevens coach, Al Caravelli, is a real character who lives and breathes the game and the improvement they have shown since the series began is immense.