AMERICAN COACH EDDIE O’SULLIVAN has targeted one match as his side’s top priority at the Rugby World Cup — but the former Ireland boss insists that it’s not the game against his old employers.
Speaking to Off The Ball on Newstalk last night, O’Sullivan said that revenge won’t be on his mind when the two countries open their World Cup campaigns in New Plymouth’s Yarrow Stadium on 11 September.
Instead, the game against Pool C’s other “second tier” nation, Russia, on 15 September has been singled out as the Eagles’ big showdown by their coach, defining the side’s preparations in recent weeks.
“I’m not focused on the Irish game per se,” the Corkman said last night.
“The thing for us is that Ireland is not the big game on the schedule. The big game for us is four days later literally — we’ve a four-day turnaround before we play Russia. That’s the game we’ve targeted to win.
It’s unlikely that we’ll upset Ireland or Australia or even Italy for that matter, so we have to make sure that that Russia game is the one we get our teeth into.
Simple as it sounds, just by winning this one pool game, O’Sullivan will join an elite group of American coaches.
Next month’s trip to New Zealand will be the national side’s sixth appearance at the Rugby World Cup, yet they have only won two games in the tournament’s history: against Japan in 1987, and again when they met the same opposition eight years ago in Australia.
“The history of USA Rugby is that they’ve only won two World Cup games in their history of competing,” O’Sullivan pointed out.
“The Russia game is a winnable game for us. We want to make sure we get that done and the fact that it’s four days after Ireland is a major factor for us. I’m not zoning in on the Ireland game as the be all and end all.
Certainly once we get into New Zealand, we’ll prepare full on to play Ireland and put Russia out of our mind. But at the moment, it’s about preparing for the four games and Russia for us is a priority to be honest.
However, if Declan Kidney and his men were hoping for an easy ride against distracted opposition to put their warm-up misery out of their mind, O’Sullivan promised that would not be the case.
While the close proximity of the two games means that he may have to rest some starters against Ireland in order to keep them fresh to face Russia, he warned that he would not be putting out a second-string side for the opener.
“We don’t have a huge amount of depth in our squad, although there are some positions where we have equal depth. There will be guys playing both games, no question about it.
“We don’t have the luxury of picking two teams over four days, so certainly there’ll be some guys doubling up.
I won’t be putting out a second team or anything like that. We’ll be putting our best foot forward in the first game.