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A winless World Cup is staring the United States National Team in the face at the moment, despite the fact that talk leading into the quadrennial tournament was of winning two games for the first time ever.

Still on the slate for the Eagles are South Africa Oct. 7 in London and Japan Oct. 11 in Gloucester. The South Africa match is a foregone conclusion, and the Japan tilt represents the last realistic chance for the Eagles to earn a dub this go-around. The USA did beat Japan in the Pacific Nations Cup this summer, but the Japanese lineup will likely be quite different in Gloucester, and the Cherry Blossoms will have more to play for than the USA. 

Historically speaking, either result shouldn’t be considered overly significant. Going winless in 2015 would be an awful lot like doing so in 1991, 1999 or 2007. Beating Japan would put the current Eagles in the same company as their 2011, 2003 and 1987 counterparts, all of whom garnered a sole win. The ’03 and ’87 teams also beat Japan.

The Eagles have been competitive recently, leading Scotland at halftime Sunday and trailing Australia by just four at halftime of the last World Cup warm-up. But they’ve been competitive with top tier teams in years, prior.

In 2011, they trailed Italy by just 10 at halftime and Ireland by just seven in the second half. In 2007 the USA was narrowly nipped by Samoa, like this year, and the Eagles had their closest ever game with England – a 28-10 loss. In 2003, the Eagles lost by one to Fiji, reminiscent of this year’s Samoa game, and they lost 39-15 to Scotland – a result one point off Sunday’s 39-16 loss to the Scots.

The point is, in the world of test rugby, the United States seems to neither be gaining much ground nor losing it. Despite international rugby press getting remotely interested in American rugby again, like they seem to every four years or so, evidenced by articles about the waking giant, the USA is pretty much stagnant.

When America’s World Cup concludes in a little under two weeks, another generation of Eagles will look to retirement, and, if history tells us anything, the coaching staff will be reshuffled, too.

Of the five who’ve coached the Eagles through a World Cup, only Tom Billups has stuck with the team the year following. Eddie O’Sullivan exited right after the 2011 RWC, Peter Thorburn immediately following the 2007 tournament, Jack Clark after the 1999 RWC and Ron Mayes after the inaugural competition in 1987.

So another RWC cycle will have come and gone, another generation of players, and likely another coaching era, with no tangible improvement on the game’s biggest stage.  

Comments

It's a shame, but not really a surprise. Things are changing significantly in the US, but it takes a long time for those changes to be reflected at the national team. With the direction we're headed in terms of youth growth and development, I think it is realistic to imagine us winning a world cup - in about 40 years.
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It might be the status quo, so to speak, but you fail to take into account the rise of other Tier 2 nations as well. We are seeing much more competitive matches across the board. The standard of play is rising. What the second half of these games is showing is that our players need to be in full-time high-performance environments i.e. playing professionally. They need to be playing 20+ pro club matches and 10+ tests per year. Executing in high pressure situations is very hard to do when you don't have to play under those conditions very often, if ever. I am very excited about the young talent coming up in the US. Guys like Madison Hughes, Maka Unufe, Hanco Germishuys, Val Leelo, Christian Osteberg, Cam Falcon, etc. There are also overseas players like Tom Bliss and Louis Mulholland who we need to get back in USA colors now that they are no longer age grade eligible. Bliss is one player that we could really use. He's about where Manoa was in 2011. Not quite good enough to take off for several months and come back to the club, but good enough to hold down a pro contract. Could you imagine Bliss and Hughes as our top 2 scrummies? That would be nice.
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