Eagle Eye is a column by RUGBYMag.com Editor-in-Chief Alex Goff on USA National Rugby Team topics. Follow Alex on Twitter @goffonrugby.
We’re not picking up where we left off last year.
Faced with the potential of fighting against relegation, the USA 7s team reeled off three straight top eight finishes, including two Plate Championships. It was, without a doubt, the best run of results the USA team has ever enjoyed.
During that time, the Eagles beat South Africa twice, something they had never done before, and came really, really (really) close to beating New Zealand.
So … it’s going to be the same again, right? Most of the team is back, so it’s right to expect them to have the same level of confidence, the same level of urgency, as last season.
I would urge you not to have those expectations. Last season ended the way it did in part because of a grand epiphany within the entire team on how to approach their rugby games, and how to be fearless, even against the mighty All Black 7s.
But, with a bit of a layoff and with a current squad that includes only seven of the 12 players who achieved that grand epiphany, we must expect some more learning moments. The USA played in the Fiji Water 7s in Suva, and learned, among other things, that you have to win those close games; you can’t let fatigue and discouragement seep in later, because a smart team will score four tries on you in a heartbeat; and when it is all on the line, you may as well play with grand and intense desperation.
The USA starts the 2013-2014 IRB Sevens World Series with the first game of the entire season, against New Zealand. The last time these two teams played, in the 7s Rugby World Cup, needed a try at full time to win 26-19.
The time before that? Tokyo in the Cup Quarterfinals. This time the USA scored last, to make it 19-12, but still it was a close game.
But this time around, with three players just out of college rugby, and Tai Enosa and Miles Craigwell back with the team after layoffs, we can’t necessarily expect the same result. What I hope is that if the Eagles do lose big to New Zealand, that they cast that off and regroup to face Kenya (they won’t be a pushover) and Tonga (ditto).
What I also hope is that fans of the USA team have a little patience.