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Scott Lawrence on Eagle Goals, Learning, Fool's Gold

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Scott Lawrence on Eagle Goals, Learning, Fool's Gold

Scott Lawrence with the USA players on tour. Photo Calder Cahill for USA Rugby.

Having had a couple of weeks to reflect, and with the Rugby World Cup coming up as a stark reminder that the USA is not attending, USA Men's 15s Head Coach Scott Lawrence spoke with GRR about the last three test matches and what's on the horizon.

Wins and Losses

Judging on wins and losses is probably unfair at this point with a USA team in a rebuilding mode. Beating Romania was nice, but that performance had its hiccups. Losing to Portugal unveiled some issues, while losing to Georgia carried something of a better feeling because it was closer. 

"You always want to win," Lawrence told GRR. "But our focus was more on how we want to play. We have a vision of how we think American teams can play and how we can keep that play at a high level. Then you get guys in camp and see what capabilities the players have. You go into a game with a picture on your head of how it should be, but that picture isn't always what everyone sees."

So beating Romania we saw a team taking the ball to the line, defending quite well, and executing (for the most part). Against Portugal the Eagles seemed disconnected on attack and defensively ere burned badly by the kicking game of the Portuguese.

"When you're forming a new team you want to get the structure in place, but transitional stuff can be tough early on," Lawrence explained. "Portugal is very good in their kicking game and kicking is transitional, broken play. Our front-line defense was good but in transition I think a lot of that comes down to game time."

Fool's Gold

Then there's the individual decision-making.

"In our option-taking, just about everything against Romania worked. But then with Portugal, they had seen us play. You go into a situation with a picture in your head of what you expect, but sometimes that picture is really fool's gold."

Fool's gold meaning, there's an option that seems available, but you're being trapped into it.

"We went for the fool's gold," said Lawrence.

Again, the fix here is not only time together as a team, but game time elsewhere.

"As a team plays together more often they start to see the same things," said Lawrence. And they start to make better decisions that their teammates understand.

Why Georgia Was Better

Against Georgia there were some positives. Some of the issues against Portugal (not covering the backfield, which left the grubber open as a weapon) were addressed. 

"The key thing against Georgia was they executed the game plan," said Lawrence. "We wanted to prove to ourselves that we could execute the game plan."

It was a relatively conservative game plan, to be sure, and Lawrence said things will open up as the players show to themselves they can run with a game plan. In the end, says the coach, the players were disappointed mostly because they missed some opportunities. Replay will show that one penalty that halted a USA maul five meters out was a mistaken call. But there were other things to work on—playing the game plan for 80 minutes, for example.


Everyone Has Learning to Do

The new coaching staff is still learning what players can do, especially the players new to the Eagles. And it's worth remembering that not only is the coaching staff new, but they blooded 12 new caps, which is pretty astonishing, plus capped a player who hadn't been on a USA roster in five years. 

So those players are learning something, and the coaches are learning about those players.

"The only way to prepare for test rugby is to play it," said Lawrence. But he also says that more minutes on the professional level are important. Players might be on Major League Rosters or on professional teams overseas, and that's nice, but if they're not playing regularly, how can tey improve?

Next Up

The USA should have some test matches in the normal November test match window, where they will likely be able to bring their overseas pros into the mix. Those games (fixtures not announced yet) would be another chance to see who is there and how the team embraces the game plan. Winning? Yeah, that's nice, but there are other goals, too.

"You have to have a competitive environment [in camp]," said Lawrence. So he will still bringing players and testing them out. The interview with Lawrence was taken during the period where he was conducting one-on-one interviews with players who toured Europe. These can be difficult conversations, especially when a coach is detailing why someone didn't get on the field as much as he wanted. But, the coach told GRR, these conversations have mostly been very positive. The players have come to the talks with notes and questions and an open mind.

"It's a dialogue," he said. All of it is.