The USA Men’s National Team gets on an airplane in about five hours to fly to New Zealand.
After a somewhat embattled year full of plenty of uncertainty for many, the time has finally come.
Of the group of 30 that embarks, along with a staff of coaches and support staff numbering 14, ten have World Cup experience. Of those, two, Mike MacDonald and Paul Emerick, are headed to World Cup #3.
So for most it’s a new experience, and one where the message among the group is clear: we’re not there just to make up the numbers.
The Eagles had a productive run in Santa Barbara today (Thursday) and worked out the kinks before the long flight in to Auckland. They then fly into Wanganui, where they will be warmly welcomed by the locals.
Everything is cool in Wanganui now that the USA team has accepted an invitation to ride a traditional canoe, a Waka, in to town. The team had initially passed on the invitation because they didn’t understand what was asked (the players aren’t about to canoe down an unknown river just before the World Cup, but a community welcome parade on the water is different and, once they understood the community meaning of the event, the Eagles were happy to participate.
Once they get there, the USA team will have three days of intense training, the 4th, 5th, and 6th. That is the key time for them to fix the team cohesion issues. The players have been consistent in saying they just need a little time to convert all the possession they seem to be able to produce into points.
Key for the group is health. Officially all the players are healthy to play. Chris Wyles participated in training on Thursday and is expected to play at either fullback or center. He was the one big question-mark. Also a question might be Nese Malifa. The flyhalf is patched together, and he has the reputation of playing hurt, which means in this case he will probably say he’s good to go until he can’t walk.
There may be some concern about Malifa’s ability to negotiate all four matches, and so Roland Suniula has had plenty of training time at flyhalf.
The Eagles play Ireland at 6pm September 11, which ends up being 11pm September 10 PST, and 2am September 11 EST.
The game will be shown live on Universalsports.com (click here to order) or tape delay on NBC at 1pm EST, 10am PST.