Casting aside the distractions of the past couple of days due to the political demonstrations in Georgia, and the helicopters and jets flying over their hotel, the USA U20 team is turning its attention to Russia on Saturday.
Tuesday’s 48-11 loss to Samoa was frustrating and humbling for the Americans. The Junior All Americans did have chances to score more, and plenty of chances to prevent same, but jumping from high school or college rugby to the internationals isn’t easy.
“U20 rugby for us is about the learning experience,” said Head Coach Scott Lawrence. “We learned how to play in international competition against a real U20 side who is skilled, physical, and spends a lot of time together. We took the value and the lessons out of that experience.”
They have precious little time to do something about those lessons. Tuesday was game day. Wednesday was film work and a training session, and Thursday another session before they go into the weekend.
“We went over the lessons we learned yesterday morning, flushed that experience, and now we focus on Russia,” said Lawrence. “This is the first international tournament this team has been in. The fix is experience, and we're one game better for it.”
Lawrence said the Americans were chasing the game early and that led to a few rash decisions – they players felt they should score quickly to get back in the game, and that just dug them a deeper hole.
“We have a possession-based system inside the 22 and we'll refocus on that building into Saturday,” Lawrence told RUGBYMag.com.
Lawrence is also expected to make changes to the lineup, based mostly on performance from Tuesday’s Samoa match. It wasn’t an easy experience for anyone, and perhaps the harshest lesson of all is not playing.
“Those who will be moved to the bench or outside of the 22 now know the expectation of being an international,” explained Lawrence somewhat ominously. “And being young men with rugby futures, they will have a chance to earn their way back.”