Having won the Junior World Trophy last year, the USA Under-20s debut in the World Cup is creeping up on us.
As forwards’ coach, I know the size of the task that awaits us when we take on the big boys of world rugby.
Many of the sides that we will play against will have professional rugby players in their ranks and we will start our group games with a game against South Africa.
Talk about a rude awakening.
We will have to learn quickly and set ourselves goals that we can realistically achieve. We will go there with confidence and we will not be going there to make up the numbers.
There is a new head coach in charge now in the form of Jason Kelly and we have begun the task of picking our squad by holding two separate training camps.
We have had a ‘west coast combine’ and an ‘east coast combine’ with the best players from those areas coming together for four days of intensive training. The best ones from both meets will then got to Las Vegas next month as a group and start preparing.
Of course we should be outclassed against guys who have come up through big clubs’ academies and have been professionals for two or three years.
But there are still ways in which we can make an impact. I have said many times that any USA side will never be short of physicality. Our game plans will be simple, our set piece needs to be solid and we will need a very strong defence which will be need to be very disciplined.
But we also want to let the boys play a bit and some of our guys could make a name for themselves on the world stage and, perhaps earn themselves a contract in other parts of the world.
There is a strong Pacific Islands flavour to the set up here in the USA, especially on the west coast. We get a lot of players who come to this country from American Samoa and they all have American passports. We have some seriously exciting players from that background.
We hope to ruffle a few feathers and the guys know full well that last year’s final was played in front of 30,000 people. That sort of exposure and atmosphere would be amazing.
Personally, I am looking forward to pitting my wits as a coach against some of the best in the world.
Someone like Mike Ruddock, who is in charge of the Ireland side, has won a Six Nations Grand Slam as a coach. It will be exciting to put sides out against his and not only see what happens but sit down with them afterwards and ask where were we good and where were we bad. There will hopefully be much to learn.
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