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Eagles: How Do You Respond?

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Eagles: How Do You Respond?

Gary Gold watches over the team training. Ian Muir photo.

Going into this weekend’s second leg of the Rugby World Cup qualifying series with Canada, the USA team is certainly feeling chastened.

Captain AJ MacGinty, who was critical of his own performance, remembered the Monday team meeting after the loss.

“There was silence in the room,” MacGinty recalled. “We got smacked in the face. It was humbling, but maybe we deserved it as a group.”

The Eagles found themselves making it easier for Canada to get points. Two converted tries and two penalty goals came directly from avoidable USA penalties, and another converted try came from an interception served up by MacGinty himself. 

But to say it was all gifted to Canada would be to miss part of the picture, said the flyhalf.

“I think from the American perspective I think it’s very easy to say ‘yeah we gave them points,” explained MacGinty. “But whether it was from team performance or individual performance, we didn’t fire.”

That, added this weekend’s captain, was in part due to Canadian pressure, and part how the Eagles responded.

“We put ourselves into a spiral and I go back even to when I was on the pitch, just my own energy and my connection with my teammates wasn’t very good; that has been a massive lesson for me.”

Connections, then, has been a big part of the discussions this weekend. Both MacGinty and Gold said the intensity in training and the focus has been very good.

As a result, added the captain, “we’ll handle the situations we’ll handle the momentum a lot better.”

Few excuses have come from the USA camp, and there are one or two. The overseas-based players had a tough time getting to Canada, which has happened before for USA players (funny how it often happens to high-profile players). This time it was worse than usual. MacGinty downplayed it, but did say: “the travel didn’t go well, my prep wasn’t good, and as a result the product on the pitch wasn’t good from my own individual perspective.”

Gold was more blunt, calling the travel for those players “horrendous.”

All of that is a little different this week. As MacGinty said, it’s good to be back in America.

Now what? Humbled? Focused? Disappointed? Intense?

Simply put, there’s a job to do. The USA is capable of playing better and defending better and making smarter choices.

As MacGinty put it: “The truest test of a man’s character is when things don’t go your way, how do you respond.”