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USA RUGBY – The USA Women’s Eagles Sevens are halfway through their Super Series campaign with the two most challenging matchups behind them. After opening the tournament against reigning Six Nations Champions and No. 2 England, the United States faced World Champions and No. 1 New Zealand before a third round bye.
In both of those games, the opposition took two comfortable victories, facing a USA side that opened the four-match event with seven uncapped players and another several who owned fewer than 10 appearances in international rugby.
But USA fans across the nation shouldn’t be discouraged by the 5-38 loss to England or the 0-33 loss to New Zealand as the comparative score from facing the same two opponents in November indicates improvement.
And for a young team in the opening stages of a fresh chapter, second-year Head Coach Rob Cain can see the program headed in the right direction.
“The players’ work rate has been on point in the first two games and their rugby detail is improving all the time — seeing space and creating space has been exciting to see,” said Cain. “Our next step is focusing on how can we get into that space through run-kick-pass decision making as often as we would like.”
When Cain led the team through its first test series since Rugby World Cup 2017 last November, the group welcomed 17 new players who had never experienced the intensity or pressure of an international test match. Now halfway into Super Series, after months of diligent work to identify and guide the player pool, Cain confirms the positive impact of high-intensity rugby on his young talent.
“It gets easier for our younger players every day, this is no different to going to a new school or starting a new job. The nerves settle, you start to have less of them and then you achieve a better understanding of what, why and how to do things,” he says. “The more experiences we can help create for our newer players, the more they can learn about themselves and how to transfer that onto the pitch.
“Our younger athletes are extremely fortunate to have a great support network with the few experienced players we have who help alleviate some of those nerves and provide guidance in how to manage high-pressure situations. There comes a point where the experience each player gets game after game creates a familiarity with intense situations and understanding how to adapt between training and match day.”
And with a collection of young talent in the group and just over two years until the next World Cup, the program maintains realistic goals for the Super Series and what it’s really meant to achieve.
“Our primary goal at this stage is to build depth, gain experience and capture momentum through competition. All of this comes hand-in-hand with trying combinations, exploring concepts under pressure and identifying where each individual player is and in what direction to evolve,” said Cain.
“The Super Series is our measuring point. We wanted to see how our players retain concepts and ideas and then find out if this could be showcased under pressure. Equally, we wanted to stop and reverse some trends from our test matches last November which really was our starting point as a new group. Now, we begin to tip the scales in our favor.”
Where they conceded 67 points to New Zealand and 57 points to England last November, the Women’s Eagles have cut those numbers by 34 and 19 points, respectively, in eight months. While the U.S. surely tirelessly hunted for the try zone in each matchup this tournament, threatening runs and defensive pressure were small victories that hold promising value.
“A great indication of our growth is the comparison in the line breaks we conceded against New Zealand and England last fall which is down from an average of 17 to 7 where our line breaks created went from three up to seven,” said Cain. The next part is scoring more points as we continue to develop our ability to get into the spaces we want.
“In eight months, those are big changes for the players to showcase. We have made some great strides this year alone with the increase in time spent together from Regional Training, high performance camps and competition assemblies. Yes, we do still have some distance to travel but it’s not as far to come as some may think.”
As the Women’s Eagles look ahead to the final two matchups of Super Series against No. 3 Canada and No. 4 France, the measurement of progress still won’t solely sit in wins and losses. Instead, it’s about getting the small things right, finding consistency and allowing their own style of play its breakout moment.
“We’re out to define our brand of USA Rugby which we see outlined in big collisions, offloads and fast-paced rugby where the number on your back means very little in open play,” said Cain.
“Over the next two rounds, we are still looking to give players experience, reviewing combinations and using this event as a core development opportunity for us as individuals and as a team. If we can get the ball to stick a bit more than fans will see some exciting tries for sure.”
The Women’s Rugby Super Series has brought the Women’s Eagles high-quality competitive playing time with the world’s top four national teams at the program’s doorstep. Competition series and test tours are invaluable assets in turning the program into a winning representation of American sport. As a team, a union, a sport and a nation, the program needs unanimous support to make history.
“To be the best in the world, we need continued support from everyone. I can’t express how much it means to all the players to have a loud and proud group of fans chanting for them every game. Everything from emails to social media posts, to philanthropic support and spreading the word through individual players from every city across the nation makes a difference,” said Cain, voicing his passion and enthusiasm for a vibrant rugby community.
“This journey we are on belongs as much to our U.S. fans, future players and alumni as it does to everyone in our player pool. Together with the vocal crowds, support from employers allowing our athletes time off and our valued donors who give so our athletes can be a proud representation of the USA on the world stage, we will all turn the page from an IF to a WHEN.”
The USA Women’s Eagles will face rival-Canada tomorrow in Round Four of Women’s Rugby Super Series 2019 at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center. Following Canada, the squad will suit up one more time for their finale with France on July 14 at Torero Stadium.
Tickets are available at usarugby.org/superseries2019 with an option to donate back to the program and help the Women’s Eagles on their journey to Rugby World Cup New Zealand 2021. Matches are also broadcast LIVE on florugby.com.