The USA U20s are fully aware they cannot afford to look past Russia in the Junior World Rugby Trophy.
Sure, the USA is 2-0 and Russia is 0-2, but, and the Americans have beaten the two teams that also beat Russia, but that guarantees nothing.
Key for the Eagles won’t necessarily be offense – they have shown they can keep the scoreboard ticking over – it will be defense. The Junior All Americans gave up 25 points to Chile, but most of those were when the game was already decided. Even then, the cover defense, and determination showed at the goal line, were impressive.
No. 8 Tim O’Hara was a big part of those goal line defensive stands.
“The coaches and the players have all talked about how we’re not going to take a step back, and that’s important when we play Russia, too,” said O’Hara. “We continue to work as a team, especially on defense, and the whole team has buy-in on what we’re doing.”
“We work well together,” added lock Nick Barrett. “We’ve got some good camaraderie, and that helps us. The coaches prepared us well for defending Chile’s maul. We know they’d want to use it so we changed things up on our lineout defense.”
Keeping their shape and keeping the commitment on defense will be hugely important Tuesday. That performance will put the USA in the final, but to get there they can’t look ahead; they have to make their tackles, now.