As told by Raptors Head Coach, David Williams
Coaches Blog, Glendale Rugby Date 10.17.18, the location – Glendale Rugby’s Third Floor Offices
As many of you who follow our rugby news feed may already know, Mika Kruse, Kelepi Fifita and I have spent the past two weeks traveling with the USA Men’s Selects Team, preparing and competing in the Americas Pacific Challenge 2018 (APC) down in Uruguay.
The APC is a selects tour for emerging talent to be tested in an international match situation to assess players that are ready to step up and perform in the senior test arena for their respective national teams.
We first assembled in Sunrise, Florida for a four day mini-camp to incorporate our game plan, processes, vision and expectations for the team over the tournament. A lot of the players had played against each other in the MLR and other competitions, but never as a team, so these four days were integral in getting everyone on the same page for both attack, defense and set piece. We then traveled down to Uruguay to begin our preparations for the games, as every team played three games in eight days. Each team’s schedule would look similar with a recovery day, preparation day, team run day and match day – repeat – for all three games.
The recovery day is vital for the players to rest and recover from the rigors of playing an international game. They also review the previous days play and look ahead to the next opponent. The recovery day is also a great opportunity for the players to get out and experience some of the local culture and build connections between players who don’t know each other very well as they are from different clubs, which will make them better players on the pitch.
The preparation day is further review and preview, put some fixes in, keep working on your team continuity on both attack and defense, and making sure the players are fresh and energized for the next game, but also as prepared as possible.
Team runs are different per team and vary depending on how the team is feeling. Some will go out on one end of the spectrum and walk the pitch, going through situations and making sure that everyone is on the same page. Then other teams will make that session their fast day, practicing at over match speed with long rest periods as a way to super compensate the next day physically.
And, of course, then it’s the match day. Overall the USA Men’s Selects didn’t finish the way they had hoped, especially after finishing a runner-up in 2017. This time around, the U.S. had a hard time putting together a full 80 minutes, and ended up losing all three of their matches in the APC 2018, falling to this year’s champions, Tonga A, 39-30, Uruguay XV, 33-18, and Argentina, 55-15. The losses, of course, were hugely disappointing, but the larger goal was to give first-hand exposure to new players, which was definitely accomplished.
Overall the APC was a good experience and some players will go on to the November tour, some will go into the wider playing pool for the ARC and majority will go back to their MLR clubs to start pre-season and preparation to what will be a much improved 2019 MLR season.
For both of our Glendale Raptors players, Mika and Kelepi, although neither have been named to the initial roster of U.S. Men’s National Team that was just announced for the Fall Tour, they are encouraged to have had this experience and have learned some valuable lessons from this tour which will make them better players for Glendale in the future.
With that said, I’d be amiss if I didn’t recognize the three current Glendale Raptors who have already been named to the Eagles roster for the November international matches. Our Raptors scrumhalf and captain Shaun Davies will be looking to add to his 18 caps this fall. Flyhalf Will Magie, with 16 caps, will also look at being a dominant force for the Eagles, while flanker John Quill, a long-time National Team member with 27 caps, was invited back to add to his impressive resume.
In all, players will have the opportunity to represent the U.S. across the span of four international fixtures against New Zealand’s Maori All Blacks, Samoa, Romania and Ireland. The first of which is when the USA kicks off their November test schedule at home on Nov. 3 against the Maori All Blacks as part of The Rugby Weekend’s triple-header at Chicago’s Soldier Field. If you haven’t seen an international test before, this is one of those weekends that should prove epic to attend. Tickets are available at https://www.therugbyweekend.com/.
The rest of the USA’s fall matches, following this first against the Maori All-Blacks in Chicago, will be taking place in various locations throughout Europe. This fall schedule sets the groundwork for all players vying to compete in Rugby World Cup Japan 2019, which adds just that much more weight to an already momentous responsibility of putting on an Eagles jersey, and on behalf of the Glendale’s Rugby program, we wish them all the best.