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USA captain Todd Clever has signed a one-year extension with the NTT Shining Arcs in Japan.
Clever has played two seasons for the Arcs, helping them to their first-ever winning season. Clever, who is resting up in Southern California at the moment will be joining NTT for spring training soon.
The Eagle skipper told RUGBYMag that he wanted a one-year deal for a reason.
"Have a couple of little [injuries] nagging but I have time on my side," said Clever. "I'm not in the situation of some of the guys in Europe, who are playing 30 games a year plus the Eagles. But I am getting back to Japan earlier than usual to make sure I am fitter and ready for the season.
"But I took a one-year deal so I can be involved in all the domestic stuff for the World Cup in 2015."
The Japan domestic season wraps up in February, and Clever normally takes a couple of weeks off and then joins a pro team at the Hong Kong 10s - a tournament he had to miss this year because the Eagles were playing Uruguay. Next year, then, he plans to jump right in to working with the USA team through the spring. After that? Well, we'll see.
"I am focusing on this World Cup," said Clever. "That's how I've planned it all."
This will be Clever's 5th season in Japan - two with Suntory and now his third with the Shining Arcs.
"It's going well in Japan," Clever said. "I've taken the cultural change in stride. I enjoy the time in different countries. I feel that when you have these opportunities that rugby gives you you should embrace everything. If you have an opportunity to travel to Southeast Asia, there's no sport like rugby to help you do that. For me, the travel and being in different countries has helped me mature and grow - it's an absolute privilege to be a part of it and have the friendships I have."
Clever is, of course, just off having helped the USA win their World Cup Qualifier series over Uruguay to book their spot in RWC 2015 in England.
The games were difficult - the Eagles were behind on aggregate until 19 minutes left in the two-game series. The Eagles had to battle a very determined Uruguay team that were sometimes a little over the legal line.
"We weren't frustrated," said Clever. "I do think it was tougher than everybody thought it was going to be and for that you've got to give Uruguay credit - their defense was really good. We weren't panicking because we knew that with our mentality, our athleticism, and our depth, as a team we would break them. We knew it would take some time, and we didn't know how long. It took longer than expected to break them, but we did it."
Clever said the Eagles put themselves under pressure, but when they relaxed and embraced the confidence in themselves, they finally broke through.
For Clever it was a tough couple of games. He was just coming off a hand injury and took a few shots - including a forearm to the face in the second game. Once prop Nick Wallace was sin-binned, the USA had to send a player to the sidelines in order to bring on another prop. After a brief discussion with Scott LaValla, Clever opted to be the one who left.
"Scott and I talked it over and I needed some medical attention anyway so I went off," Clever explained. "I've had some great support with guys like Scott Lavalla and Chris Wyles - they are great leaders. They have made my job a lot easier. I was struggling last game and LaValla really stepped up in the forwards and getting the guys rallied. I think that just shows the kind of team we have.
"I remember saying, going into the last World Cup, that we had a lot of young players and while I was looking forward to it, I was really, really looking forward to the next World Cup because I felt we could do some damage. We have a ways to go and some things to do, but with the players and leaders we have, and the coaching staff and management we have, I really like our chances."