You are here

Bender diving over. Ian Muir photo

The United States scored eight tries en route to a convincing 52-12 defeat of Japan in the home team’s tournament opener Friday at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.

“Ideal start. We wanted to come out and get a good point differential, because you never know what can happen in pool play as we saw last weekend. We wanted to be ruthless,” said Zack Test, who scored the first try of the game and set up the second.

“Those two tries could hurt us, but we wanted to come out on the right foot and get on the right path, and I think we did that.”

Even though it’s day one of a three-day tournament, the Eagles have already been on display since Monday. With a week chocked full of public appearances and autograph and selfie requests, there were plenty of distractions. The team is relieved to get the games going.

“You have no idea. No offense to you media people, but you guys are like little flies in our ear, so to get out and do what we do, it’s a blessing,” Test said.

“It’s been a long week. I’ve been a lot of places, I’ve been to a lot of functions and a lot of interviews, so it is [a relief],” said Friday, who has coached in Vegas before, but never the host team. 

“What you love about USA is the energy and the enthusiasm, and that’s what playing in this brings as well. It’s a fantastic venue to have on the World Series – it’s different. I’m very proud to be leading this team at our home tournament and seeing it build and flourish is great to see.”

Up next for the USA is Portugal, which was competitive in its loss to South Africa in the opening round Friday. After the Eagles surrendered a 15-0 second half lead to Scotland in the Cup Quarterfinals last week in Wellington, they’re on high alert.

“Portugal’s a good side. They beat Canada last weekend when Canada wasn’t ready, so if you’re not ready for Portugal, they’re going to come and snap some wind out of you, so we’ve got to get back and recover, learn from our mistakes in that game and go get another win,” Test said.

“The harsh reality, as we found out last week in the quarterfinal, is if you switch off for a minute, you pay the ultimate price. It’s a cliché, but anybody can beat anybody with 14 minutes of rugby on a game of 7s. That is a fact. That’s happened. That’s been proven,” Friday added.

“You saw in the first game how resilient Portugal was and they actually pushed South Africa very, very hard. Japan have punished us in the past, and Portugal are a very physical team, and in this second game on that narrow pitch, that will play into their hands as well. There won’t be any complacency from us. That’s not in my environment and that’s not a part of our culture.”