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Eagle Eye is an opinion column by Alex Goff. Follow Alex on twitter @GoffonRugby
Last week I was wrong in my buildup articles to the Tokyo 7s and the USA v Uruguay game.
In my predictions I said the USA 7s team would struggle, and would be playing for the Bowl, and the USA 15s team would win comfortably.
In the end, the tables were somewhat turned. The 7s team finished 2-3-1, but by going 1-1-1 on the first day made the Cup Quarterfinals. And their unexpected victory over Canada put them in the Plate Final, thus giving them enough World Series points to not only get some distance on Spain, but to pass Portugal, as well.
Meanwhile, the 15s team tied Uruguay in a game where they played poorly in the fist half, and were unlucky in the second.
So, why was I wrong? One word - teamwork. Rugby is the greatest team sport in the world. With apologies to relay racing, the only other sport that really requires an equal contribution from every player is ice hockey. Other team sports can get away with having iffy contributors by filling in with a few superstars. Rugby isn't like that.
So with the 15s team, despite some domestic camps, and a coaching staff working together, and because most of the Eagles are playing overseas, they didn't really get together until late Monday. They had training sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and a captain's run on Friday. Oh, and they had a flight from Florida to Uruguay, as well.
Basically, they didn't have much time together, and played like it. Uruguay assembles all the time, and played several practice games, and played like it.
Now back in the USA, the Eagles will have a full week to get everyone on the same page. It's not a case of personnel; it's a case of this team, this unit of players, coming together. As always, for the USA, it's hard.
Meanwhile, the 7s team engaged in proving a paradox. Sometimes, you can subtract a special player, and the team plays better. Often this is because each player thinks "uh-oh, whatsisname is not here, I better work a little harder." I think this happened in the case of the absence of Folau Niua and Carlin Isles. I also think that the constant concern surrounding how to get Isles the ball and set him up actually led to other players forgetting that they, too, could do something.
Without Isles on the field, more players challenged defenses, and all players ran support lines.
In addition, Coach Matt Hawkins has said all along that he was working in new players to get them more experience. Those players, he said, would come through eventually. This they did in Tokyo, and they did it by playing tough, smart, team rugby. Three USA players were among the leaders in tries scored, in part because the offense was clicking, and in part because more players took the responsibility of breaking tackles, and being in support, upon themselves.
So, this coming week? It will still be a tough task for the USA team in the Hong Kong 7s, as they draw New Zealand, Samoa, and Scotland. The Eagles are fully capable of winning two in their pool, but they haven't arrived yet; they need to use Tokyo as a springboard to more team play, not a landing mat.
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, the USA 15s team are expected to play more cohesively, play smarter, and to have the crowd behind them. They should win this game, and really they should win it comfortably.
But it's rugby, so it all comes down to teamwork.