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With the the America Rugby Championship set to begin in February, and with several weeks having gone by since the November Tour, it is time to reflect on the trio of games and begin to set expectations for the Eagles come ARC. We checked in with Al McFarland to get his thoughts on the tour and why he thinks there are better results coming for the Eagles in the future.
During a festive weekend in Chicago, with the Cubs winning the World Series and the All Blacks battling Ireland, it was a great atmosphere for rugby to coincide with.
“It was pretty cool and the pairing of rugby with that environment, it was a good opportunity for rugby to piggy back off what was already happening,” McFarland said of the timing with the Cubs victory.
The Eagles were hoping for a better result than the 54-7 drubbing at the hands of the Maori All Blacks, however. Despite the lopsided result, though, the Eagles learned a tremendous amount from the experience.
“If they were a test match team, they would probably be one of the powerhouses of the world,” McFarland said of the Maori. “To play against countries like that is what we need as a USA team, to get as much exposure as we can at that level. You can tell straight away that their execution was better than most of us have seen. When you play them you get to see the benchmark where the top level is and where we want to get to.”
The Eagles tried to learn from the lumps they took against the Maori against Romania but it was a slow start and a lack of consistency that really plagued this Eagle team. With more experienced players like Samu Manoa and Cam Dolan on the bench, the team struggled in the opening minutes.
“It was a tough one to take. We were down from the get go and unfortunately when things started to come together for us in the second half, we were a little bit too far behind to try and get that lead again,” McFarland said of the Romania game.
The Eagles played their final game of the tour against Tonga in Spain. While the amenities were great, the team once again suffered a tough loss. The Eagles came in with a little bit a different game plan, trying to spread the ball wide. Execution ultimately undid the Eagles, who had several opportunities late to steal the match.
“They really rolled out the red carpet for us,” McFarland added about the Spanish venue. “We made a note of it that we wanted to play a more expansive style of attacking rugby. We did but we kind of had a few opportunities that we did not capitalize on.”
That was really the difference in a three-point loss to Tonga. Despite the loss, however, McFarland is optimistic about the team’s growth. It is worth noting that a number of players got their first caps on this tour and a bunch others are very inexperienced at the international level.
“At the end of three weeks on tour we began to feel pretty comfortable. It just comes down to chemistry. By the time we roll into the next camp, we will have a platform that we have already kind of worked on. Now we are just looking to build on that and become comfortable in the new system.”
The next test will be against Uruguay on February 4 in the opening game of the Americas Rugby Championship. That game along with the following week matchup with Brazil are both at home. Both are very winnable games on home soil. A 2-0 start in the Americas Rugby Championship is not out of the realm of possibilities, but consistency and better execution are key facets of the game to improve upon. Hopefully, the Eagles take what they learned from this tour and start translating it into better results.