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But Canada won the series. Why? Because that
one good half for Canada was a really, really bad one for the USA,
resulting in a 24-0 halftime lead for the boys in red that the Eagles could
not overcome. That game featured weird turnovers becoming tries, a red card
for Paul Emerick (that he probably would like to forget) and even a botched
presentation of the National Anthem (for which Rugby Canada apologized).
Final two-game result: USA 30 Canada 47.
USA fullback Chris Wyles was one of ten likely current squad members who suited up for the Eagles in that game.
“I remember the 2009 games pretty vividly,” he told RUGBYMag.com. “For one,
that first game [on July 4th] was a victory against Canada. But
the other would be because of the second game. A lot of things happened in
that game, a lot of strange things.”
At least the USA came into that series on a positive note, having recorded some improved performances in the first year of Eddie O’Sullivan. This year, the Eagles come in riding a five-game losing streak, a losing streak full of games the USA players know they should have won.
Could this form the basis of a deeper motivation to win? The Eagles always want to win, but they also now have something to prove to themselves.
“As you can imagine, the squad was pretty upset about the situation,” said Wyles. “When we look back at the November tour that we had, we were pretty positive that we were making steps forward. But this summer you step up a level, and while it was a very good competition for us to be in, a competition where we can test ourselves, we realized we weren’t quite at that level, and that’s a hard pill to swallow.”
Wyles said the 18-9 loss to Tonga, in a game where the Eagles frittered away chances and gifted tries, was one of the worst losses he had experienced.
“It is massively frustrating,” he said. “You think you’re taking a step forward, then you’re on a downer. We had games hinge on minor moments that can actually change an entire tour. You have expectations to win then you let yourselves down. Tonga was a perfect example of that.”
What didn’t help the USA team either was the schedule, but these World Cup Qualifiers will be different. The players have had time to rest up in July, attend pro club training camp, and will assemble ready for two games, separated by a week, with the goal of coming out ahead at the end. Despite the USA’s poor record against Canada since 2005, one win, nine losses, three of the last four games have been losses by a try or less. Wyles believes the gap can be closed with a few small improvements.
“It’s becoming harder and harder for teams to score, and the USA is not the
type of team that comes away with ten-try victories, but we can score more
if we keep the ball and go through the phases,” said the fullback. “We
showed that against Japan. The coaching staff was pretty vocal about what
we need to do to improve. It comes down to basic execution. Guys put in a
huge amount of commitment in playing for the USA, but for these qualifiers,
we are ultra-motivated to come away with a victory.”
And more than that, said Wyles, “we want to have some pride in our performances, and to make American rugby fans proud.”