USA Eagles Head Coach, Eddie O’Sullivan, has named his best possible team to face Italy at Trafalgar Park in Nelson for the Eagles’ final match of the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC). A win for the USA would mean automatic qualification for the 2015 RWC.
The match will be broadcast LIVE on Universal Sports at 2:30 a.m EDT (re-aired at 8 p.m EDT), and then will be shown delayed online 24 hours after the game. View the complete viewing schedule at UniversalSports.com.
In Pool C, Australia (3rd in world rankings) and Ireland (6th in world rankings) are on course for the RWC quarterfinals, with only two teams from each of the four pools advancing. The USA are currently ranked 17th and Italy are 10th in the world. The Italians have made tremendous strides in rugby since joining the Six Nations competition in 2000. Earlier this year Italy defeated France 22-21.
“We are very excited for this final pool match, and have several players fresh for the encounter. We have a very short turn-around following the Australia match in Wellington, and have planned accordingly,” said O’Sullivan.
The Eagles have impressed at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, starting with an inspired performance against Ireland on September 11. Despite losing 22-10, the Eagles won thousands of fans for a brave effort, scoring near full time through Paul Emerick. During that match, prop Mike MacDonald became the most capped USA player of all time with 63 appearances.
In the next pool match four days later, the USA defeated Russia 13-6 to record an historic win in the RWC. It was a bruising battle in which the Russians defended tremendously to keep the score line that close.
This past weekend fourteen changes were made to the team that won against Russia, as they faced Australia, winners of the RWC in 1991 and 1999. JJ Gagiano’s try against the Wallabies was one of the moments of the match at a packed Wellington Regional Stadium, with the majority of fans screaming wildly for the Eagles. Famous New Zealand commentator Murray Mexted said, “I’ve been to hundreds of matches in Wellington, and this is the loudest I have ever heard the crowd.”
Off the field, the USA squad has been heavily involved with the local communities in the various cities. This afternoon some of the players will attend the Tasman 7s, featuring 600 youth rugby players from many local regions. Tomorrow the Eagles will be at the Richmond Parade, meeting the Mayor as well as the US Ambassador to New Zealand, David Huebner.
On the field, Todd Clever returns to lead his country as captain. The flanker has been vital for the United States, devastating with both ball in hand and on defense. Louis Stanfill is the blindside flank with Nic Johnson at eight man, both possessing an outstanding work rate.
Continue reading »
Continue reading »
The USA Eagles were welcomed to Scots College in Wellington by a crowd of over 500 supporters at a ‘Meet the Eagles’ event. A group of Scots College students performed a Haka in front of the Eagles (video below) before the U.S. national anthem and speeches by the U.S. Ambassador Huebner and Eagles captain, Todd Clever. The supporters were then treated to an all American style dinner, and a chance to have photos with and autographs signed by the Eagles players.
More photos to come.
The Mini-Eagles met the Massive Eagles today.
The junior touch rugby team from the Otaki School, about an hour north of Wellington, represented the USA at the recent RIPPA World Cup. The youngsters did well and received an invitation from the USA Eagles to come and watch a practise.
They had a blast. After the training, the students performed a ferocious haka at halfway for a few of the members of the Eagles. When the roaring from the haka began, though, the rest of the team sprinted over. Who knew such little people could make such a big noise? It filled the Eagles’ practise grounds and earning a hearty applause from the (big) players.
Captain Todd Clever thanked the Mini-Eagles for competing so ferociously in the name of the United States – they finished 3-3-1. Then it was time for a group photo and all the Otaki students and their teachers squeezed in beside their favorite player, or the one who wore their number.
After that it was lineout time. Two of the Eagles players hoisted each of the students in turn. Most of them loved that, but some found it scary.
Before it was time to leave the Eagles were wished “the best of best of luck” for Friday. It’s USA-Australia time and the Eagles were told they would have 4.5 million New Zealanders cheering for them.
Go the Eagles!
The Eagles will play at 8:30PM (NZ time) in Wellington on Friday 23rd September.
USA Captain Todd Clever was cleared at a judicial hearing of making a late hit on a Russian player.
That comes as a huge relief to the Eagles as they prepare for their game against the now-bruised Australian Wallabies, who are still licking their wounds after going down to a feisty Irish team on Saturday.
A Clever suspension would have come as a massive blow to the Eagles. Clever is their emotional heart, and has been the first and often last line of defense during the Eagles’ two Rugby World Cup games to date. Losing him to suspension would have been a huge blow.
Here is the Press Conference with Eagles Captain Todd Clever and forwards coach Dave Hodges ahead of today’s clash with Russia:
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.
Ten years may have passed, but it’s still easy to see how deeply Americans were affected by the terror attacks on September 11.
The emotions were clear on the faces of the American sportsmen, diplomats, military personnel and tourists among a congregation of worshippers commemorating the 10th anniversary of the attacks on New York.
The service, just hours before the US Eagles’ first game of the Rugby World Cup, at Stadium Taranaki against Ireland, was a powerful reminder of a day that changed the world and the thousands who died when the World Trade Centre towers collapsed.
Hundreds packed the church, spilling over into the nearby church hall for the ceremony, put on at the request of the United States Embassy.
Visiting Americans received rousing reminders of their homeland while their New Zealand hosts gained a rare insight into US patriotism.
The sombre arrival of the US flag, carried by three Marines, followed by a stirring rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, set the tone for the service.
Poignant moments included the US Marine Corps Forces Pacific Band’s trumpeter signalling Taps and Reveille, and the St Andrew’s minister, the Rev Kim Francis, lifting his sleeve to reveal an eagle tattoo on his right shoulder.
Mr Francis said he had been showing his eagle tattoo to a visiting US Marine, who encouraged him to get it out for the congregation, and so he decided to do it.
“I mean, how many ministers have a tattoo?” he said.
Other features of the service included a minute’s silence and the tolling of the church’s bells 10 times for the years since the attacks occurred.
Visiting New Yorkers Sean Gill, a National Guardsman, Robert Pumilia, an NYPD officer, and Michael Wickham, from a New York news station, said when they heard the service was on they knew they would attend it.
“We just arrived in town, just got over our jet lag but saw it was on and definitely had to be here,” Mr Gill said.
Mr Wickham said the service was “really moving, very emotional, very well done”.
US Ambassador David Huebner told the congregation the day was about commemorating the triumph of the human spirit.
“We commemorate those police, fire and rescue workers who raced back into, rather than out of, collapsing buildings.
“We commemorate those regular citizens who carried, rather than trampled, strangers as they struggled down burning, smoky, crumbling stairwells.
“And finally, and I think this is the most important, we commemorate, honour and celebrate what violent extremists themselves fear most: The great human instinct to empathy, kindness and solidarity.”
– Taranaki Daily News
Eagles Captain, Todd Clever, and Eagles player Mike MacDonald spoke on TVNZ’s Breakfast show this morning about playing on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks at the Rugby World Cup.
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
Continue reading »