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The team is a bit careful how much to disclose, but it will all be clear soon enough. This much is evident: Head Coach Mike Tolkin wants quick ball. He wants to play in the opposition half. He wants his backs to show some initiative. And he wants to take the fight, as it were, to the opposition.
This is a team that will take it to opponents. Fullback Chris Wyles, who watched the USA’s offense sputter in 2011 under a conservative game plan designed to keep games close and low-scoring, is excited about the new approach. And that excitement is shared by other players, too.
“They’ve talked to us that they think that a lot of our strength is in the back five,” Wyles told RUGBYMag.com. “They’ve given us the belief that we can run with the ball. With guys like Taku and James Paterson and Luke Hume who’s a great stepper and Colin Hawley, and of course Paulie Emerick, we’ve got some great runners.”
It’s a message of faith, of confidence in the players, that is evident on their faces in training. Colin Hawley is chattering and jumping around, eager to attack with the ball, rather than worried about making mistakes. Roland Suniula is looking to take some risks. Emerick is just grinning.
“It’s just a bit of an emphasis on keeping the ball in hand,” said Wyles. “We’re enjoying it. It’s a great thing to be told. And really, that’s why you play rugby as a kid – you want to run with the ball in hand.”
The Eagles will still play a field-position game, and Wyles said there has to be a balance between always looking for space and “being ridiculous.”
But it’s a safe bet the USA fans will not ridicule a backline that looks to score tries.
“If it’s on we have the belief to play,” said Wyles.