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The United States Men’s National Team finds itself in unfamiliar territory in this inaugural Americas Rugby Championship campaign, with a realistic shot at winning it all. Outside of the 1920 and 1924 Olympics, the USA hasn’t really ever tasted victory in a major test tournament.
The Pacific Rim Championship, Churchill Cup, Super Powers Cup and Pacific Nations Cup are all competitions in which the USA’s competed over the years. Yet they’ve yielded no championship trophies. The likelihood the Eagles get it done this year is debatable, but they’re squarely in the race.
They’re currently tied straight-up with Argentina, both having 1-0-1 records. The Eagles trail significantly in the point differential column, but they’ve played Canada, who will likely finish third behind the frontrunners, while Argentina hasn’t. If Canada can push Argentina next week, and the Eagles play well in remaining matches against Chile, Uruguay and Brazil, they’ll be in it in the end.
“Winning’s important, but it’s the byproduct of preparation,” Mitchell told RugbyToday. “We’re a long way off in a lot of areas, but should we take care of the outcome, that’s great, but certainly not something the whole focus is on.”
Inhibiting the coaching staff’s ability to load up for bear for the final stretch is the thinning player pool. As the competition advances, the Eagles lose more of their experienced players and suffer injuries, leaving John Mitchell with a balance to strike.
“We’ve got 15 new caps on the weekend, so we’re not exactly experienced in the competition. So it’s an exciting new generation,” he said. “Clearly winning’s important for our own audience at home, and globally we look forward to the opportunity to play more test matches in the year to accelerate individuals and develop a feeling of belief within the team.”
So, if you pose the question to Mitchell like this – is it about winning or player development the rest of the rest of the way, and not just in the ARC but his first year as head man – the stripped down answer might be both.
“To me ARC is about developing our depth and playing well and chasing the outcome we just talked about, but that second half of the year I like to think we’ll be more experienced as we progress. Obviously in this first year I’ve got the opportunity to form our own view on players and the right team mix. That won’t be settled until I get to view everyone. That won’t be settled until I get to see everyone, as well. “