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Analysis: How the Eagles Can Regain the Momentum

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Analysis: How the Eagles Can Regain the Momentum

David Barpal photo.

With the USA set to face Canada September 11 in the second leg of the Rugby World Cup Qualifier series, the Eagles are looking at a 13-point deficit.

It could, of course, have been larger were it not for Tavite Lopeti's try and AJ MacGinty's conversion right at the end of the first game.

The Eagles are certainly capable of overcoming that 13-point deficit, but need to change some things to do so.

1. Expand the options off the maul. The penalty-lineout-maul cycle is a popular one in world rugby, but you can't get too caught up in it. As we outlined in our hastily-produced video, just going for the straight drive-over can backfire. The USA got a penalty try in their first attempt, but were stopped in another (where scrumhalf Ruben de Haas was ready to spin it and had the ball snatched away back into the maul), and held up in another.

Popping off the back, especially with your hooker, is another option, but the USA could have four or five of these chances and should go wide sometimes, drive and peel sometimes, and just drive. They've got to be thinking about more than one option. 

And USA Head Coach Gary Gold touched on this on Saturday:

We were dominant, at the set piece against these guys and ultimately we were the masters of our own destiny. This was 100% our own doing. We had an opportunity to close a team like Canada out with a strong set piece. Our scrum went well in the beginning, our maul went well in the beginning and we didn't capitalize on it.

"If we'd converted even two or three more of those before halftime, the picture would have been completely different.

2. Personnel. Now, pointing the finger at personnel is rife with issues because it's unfair to hang a loss on one or two players. But we do expect there to be some changes. AJ MacGinty will (if healthy) start at #10 and we could well see shifts in the front row given that we have some overseas professionals who will now have been with the team longer and might get the start. Joe Taufete'e's ability to score off those mauls would be a welcome weapon.

3. Penalties and complaining about penalties. See the video above. Avoidable penalties in the middle of the field hand points to Canada. While the USA might be a little stronger in the altitude in Glendale, Colo., the altitude helps both when it come to goalkicking. Canada flyhalf Peter Nelson was hitting 40-meter goal kicks and he can hit it from 50 or more in Colorado's thin air.

And complaining about calls won't help.

4. Playing wide and playing smart. Canada got an intercept try when MacGinty tried to go wide while they were chasing the game. It was a miscue from MacGinty but an understandable one. In the late minutes the Eagles were primed to score through the backline three times; they gave up the intercept, had a try called back, and finally scored. The intercept is a reminder that hands-out (rather than skip passes) is still the best play in rugby (followed closely by the switch and the loop). These basic tenets of rugby never change. Pass, draw the attention of the defense, pass again, draw the attention of the defense, and pass again ... and do it quickly and smoothly ... that's how they USA can set free their outside backline talent.

And if they unleash their talent in tight and talent out wide, the USA can win, and win by more than 13.