It’s worth remembering that the Americas Rugby Championship is designed to get young players with potential a taste of international rugby before they get thrown into the full test experience.
With that in mind, the experiences, even the ad ones, are more valuable than winning or losing. Yes, there’s “Championship” at the end of the ARC name, but USA Head Coach Mike Tolkin brought these players in to the team to teach them about life on the international stage.
For young flyhalf Gearoid McDonald, the lessons have not always been easy to take. The lanky flyhalf with a big skill set has not been perfect – playing a little too conservatively for Tolkin’s taste, and missing some important (aren’t they all) kicks at goal.
But that doesn’t mean McDonald’s experience has been a bad one.
“It’s been a great experience,” McDonald told RUGBYMag.com. “I’ve learned a lot from Coach Tolkin. I’ve really enjoyed it. One of the things that struck me in the first game was, Argentina is really physical, and it took me a couple of minutes to get used to that level of intensity. The Canadians were no different.”
McDonald, despite his youth, and he is very young, barely in his 20s, came in with a certain level of expectation. He has been in the Irish club system his entire rugby life.
“It’s been tough at times; I think we’ve been putting ourselves under pressure a lot. Just a matter of miscommunication, but Coach has made it very easy for us and very clear. The game plan we’ve got – it seems to be working when we follow it.”
The USA Selects have one more game, this time against Uruguay. All the players will want to make an impression on Tolkin in their quest for a full national team spot. And they will also want to just play better.
“It’s a matter of getting over that last bit and actually scoring,” said McDonald, who saw his team come close to tries against Canada. “There were times we did look good and strung a couple of phases together. Maybe we need to take a bit more time in their red zone. It’s definitely something we can work on.”
What McDonald has been working on is his field generalship, and his goalkicking. He strikes the ball well, but missed three against Argentina.
“That last one wasn’t too good, I kind of broke my technique in that one,” McDonald explained. “Coach Tolkin and I have been working on my kicking technique in practice. It’s looking good now, so if I can keep my routine and work hard maybe I can show in the next game that I can do it.”
But with all the difficulties, for McDonald, and many other players, this taste of international rugby is just what they want.
“I’m loving it, really loving it,” he said. “I am just delighted with this opportunity and so grateful; I’ve loved every minute of it.”