Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
I would say that it is good to be back, but vacation was just too good to me. Getting back into the flow of things is going to take some time.
Anyhoo… I’m not here to whine about having to be back at work, I’m here to talk some rugby. I got home to almost 30 matches recorded and my DVR screaming for mercy. Since Sunday was Father’s Day, I made it my task to watch as many matches as possible. I got through both Eagles Churchill Cup matches, some of Ireland/New Zealand, all of the England/New Zealand, and even some of the U20 World Championships. Whew… needless to say it was alot of rugby.
So, the Eagles matches weren’t the prettiest. The hung in well for 20 minutes against a very good Saxons squad. After watching England play New Zealand, I think the Saxons could give the senior England side a run for their money. In the end, the Saxons found way too much running room and cut the Eagles to pieces much like their match in last year’s Churchill Cup. When the Eagles were able to move the ball in the backs I thought they had a nice attacking edge, but overall the team seemed unfit and it showed down the stretch. Losing Todd Clever after 20 minutes definitely hurt, but Jason Lett did a good job filling in. I was happy to see the Eagles had a solid lineout as their lineout had been missing for quite some time. Mark Crick looked very good on his throws and it showed when he was subbed out as the Eagles lineout struggled in the last 10 minutes. I also liked the choice of Clever as Captain. He’s been in the Eagles squad for a long time and is a good fit. I also like to see Captains come out of the forwards. If anything happens to him, I’d would like to see Paul Emerick take over as Captain as opposed to giving it back to Hercus.
The match against Ireland went quite a bit better. Instead of holding up for 20 minutes, they made it to 60 or so before Ireland began to run wild. The Eagles had the match as close as 12-9 into the second half and for a moment, I thought they might sneak it out. But Ireland A was just too strong. The Eagles did look quite a bit better and it may be a product of just being together with their coaches for a few more days. They were hard done by a few calls by the ref and good pick he set for an Ireland runner, but oh well… what’s done is done. Hopefully they’ll continue to improve heading into Saturday’s big match against Canada. I was happy to see Scott Johnson getting different players on the pitch to see what he has to work with. Anyone complaining about selections should stuff it, because Johnson needs to know what he has to work with. After seeing alot of players take on top notch opponents in their first two matches together, I’m sure right now Johnson has a very good idea. I won’t be surprised if there are some changes to the 30 many Eagles squad over the summer. The side selected for the Canada match should show insight into where Johnson is going to take the squad. He knows the importance of playing against Canada and will pick what he feels is his best XV. I felt the team that played Ireland was a fitter group as a whole and it showed. The players that are full time professionals definitely stood out above the rest and that is rightfully so. I was sad to see that the Eagles didn’t show the same kind of attacking flair in the backs that they showed flashes of in the Saxons match. With Z and Boyd on the wings, I would have liked to see them try to get it wide. I thought the Eagles competed very well at the breakdown and the back row play was solid. It was good to see Kort Schubert back in an Eagles jersey. His return and the addition of Jason Lett adds even more depth to the Eagles back row.
So, what is my assessment of the Churchill Cup so far? Eh… two losses, no surprise there, but it would have been nice to see some closer scorelines. But, they haven’t been together long and they have a new coach, so I’m cutting them alot of slack. In a couple months time if they are turning out the same type of efforts, then I’ll be disappointed. My pick for top Eagle so far goes to Paul Emerick easily. He’s been a beast on defense and is running hard. In the last 20 minutes of the Ireland match it seemed like he was making every tackle. Everyone wants to harp on the fitness thing and I think it is a big deal, but I think the key to improved performance by the Eagles lies in getting the squad together more consistently.
We now head into the weekend at Toyota Park. I’m pretty pumped about it too. I really hope that there is a good crowd to cheer on the Eagles. I’ve only seen a bit of Canada’s Churchill Cup matches, but the Eagles are going to need 80 full minutes to beat them. If the Eagles can build on the 60 minutes they put in against Ireland A, then they have a shot. I don’t think the Toyota Park crowd is going to be happy with another massive defeat at the hands of the Canucks. This one needs to stay close and the hungry Eagles fan base would go nuts over a win.
As for the big International matches that I was able to watch. Ireland had a golden opportunity to knock off the All Blacks in New Zealand under some harsh weather conditions, but couldn’t close the deal. Then the All Blacks handed England their heads in a match that started out looking like a classic in the making. The All Blacks then put their foot on the gas and coasted to an easy victory and left England scratching their heads.
I still have quite a bit of catching up to do on my rugby, but I’m going to try to get back into the flow of things here at the Sleeping Giant. So, I may have multiple posts over the next few days before I head off to Chicago.
Glad to be back (for the rugby that is… not my work).