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The Eagles are 0-3 in the newly minted Pacific Nations Cup, having lost to Canada, Tonga and Japan last spring. With only two PNC games this year, the Eagles’ opportunities to get in the win column are limited.
“We’re definitely cognizant of the fact that as a team we need to step up and improve, specifically in this tournament. The first time around in this competition was not our best performance and our best display of what we’re capable of,” said USA scrumhalf Mike Petri.
“But we realize from that competition last year where the bar is set and where the standard is set. Competition wise, it’s exactly what we want, it’s exactly what we need, to play with the likes of Japan, Canada, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa – some teams right within our realm, and we have to be able to raise our standard to compete with them.”
The Eagles will try to bag their first-ever PNC win Saturday 7:30pm PT at StubHub Center against Japan, a team the Eagles are 12-6-1 against all time. The USA hasn’t beaten the Japanese since 2003, though, and no current Eagle has ever been on the winning end against them.
“They play a great brand of rugby. We’ve had some very close encounters with Japan, some very exciting games,” said Petri. “They play a great brand of rugby, so from my point personally, some of the more fun games I’ve been involved with as an Eagle have been against Japan.
“Japan is a very fast-paced team. They’re very structured, very organized. They go about their business. They execute their game plan. They play a pretty high pace of rugby, which for me as a scrumhalf, is pretty exciting to get involved in. When you watch them on film you have to give them a lot of credit for their work rate.”
Even though the Eagles are coming off a disappointing loss to Scotland and the Cherry Blossoms off a thrilling comeback win over Canada, confidence is riding high in the American camp.
“We’ve kind of taken that one on the chin as a group, collectively, we had a pretty good film session, and we’re back up on the horse,” said Petri.
“The vibe is good. We’re in a great place here in LA. We’ve had a great training venue, and the energy’s good. The more time we spend together, I think there’s an opportunity for a bit more cohesion as things move along.”