PREPARATIONS HAVE BEEN progressing well here in the States.
Because our squad are amateurs spread all over mainland USA and some amateurs predominantly in Europe, assembly time of the squad is vital.
But this year because of Churchill Cup in June and the warm-up games in August before the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand next month, we are getting some quality time together. The more assembly time we have together as a squad the more progress we make.
Our expectations are to play well in all our pool games and hopefully win the Russia game. But as far how long we’ve come since my arrival – I’ll leave the assessment to other people.
The Eagles are predominantly made up of amateur players and because there is no professional rugby in the USA, any professional players we have are based overseas. Whereas with Ireland, all the Irish players are full-time pro and the whole squad is based in close proximity to each other.
‘Ireland have a world-class squad and are as good as any other team’
It will feel a little strange playing against Ireland but it’s not about me. It’s about the US players who have worked extremely hard over the past four years to qualify for the World Cup. Now it’s a chance for them to play on the world stage, which may be the only opportunity in their rugby career to do so.
Ireland have a world-class squad and are as good as any other team in the tournament. If they can generate momentum in the pool games anything is possible.
I think it has been well documented by now that prior to the last World Cup that we should have played more warm-up games. I have tried to do the same with the Eagles this time around. We played three tests (two against Canada and one against Japan) and another game against a club select side in the US.
Who are the US players we should look out for? Todd Clever, Taku Ngwenya and Chris Wyles are our best known players. But it’s possible there are a few more players that might catch the eye during the tournament.
That may lead to some more of our amateur players being contracted professionally overseas, which is a primary goal for most of our amateur players and important for the long term development of the Eagles.
I think if Ireland get some momentum and could possibly win the pool they could surprise a lot of teams.
Eddie O’Sullivan is head coach of the United States national rugby team. He was in charge of Ireland between 2002 and 2008, winning three triple crowns.