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Following the USA’s 44-13 loss to Tonga, a match that was 30-13 until the Eagles seemed to disintegrate in the final minutes and give up two bad tries, USA captain Todd Clever said the team was run down after a week of two-a-days.
Asked about the comment by RUGBYMag.com, USA Head Coach Eddie O’Sullivan agreed that he had worked the players hard, reasoning that they had a lot to get through and not much time to do it. Now, following the Tonga game, the USA has nine days to work on fixing things that need fixing, and perhaps toning down the workload.
It’s long been a problem for the USA team, how much work to put in during an assembly. Coaches have been criticized for asking too much of the players, but the coaches themselves have often pointed to the lack of time together, and the need to use any day as a full training day.
Clever, for his part, reiterated his statement on player workload Friday, but added that the idea is to put extra work in now, even at the expense of losses, in order to be in better shape for an unforgiving World Cup schedule in September.
“We’ve been rushing,” Clever told RUGBYMag.com Premier. “You now the budget of this program is very tight. Right when we’re landing we have training that day. Then we have double days. The next day we have a team run and the next day we have a game. It’s non-stop; if we’re not on the field it’s meetings. The guys don’t get a break; we don’t have that luxury that other teams have of having that time together. You do get an overload of the brain and an overload on the legs. But we also have to know that in the grand scheme of things the finish line isn’t these matched. It’s getting our combinations right, getting our patterns right. And competing at the World Cup.”
The USA team needs to be fresh at the World Cup because they cannot afford to run two-a-days then.
“We’ve got those quick turnarounds in our pool,” said Clever.
But what to ask of the players in these types of assemblies has been an ongoing question for the USA for years. Clever’s comment on the team budget is telling. There’s still not enough money to eke one extra day, or two extra days, out of an assembly.
Right now, the system is not conducive to giving players the best chance to succeed. The players clearly need a chance to recover from the hard work they are doing.