TORONTO, CANADA – Despite the crazily hectic Eagles PNC (Pacific Nation’s Cup) schedule – 4 matches in 16 days, with extensive travel thrown in – Team USA’s new flyhalf, AJ MacGinty made time to answer questions from RWU newbie Ronan Nelson.
RONAN: Before we start, congratulations on the win against Japan, your first as an Eagle… What did this victory mean for the team and how has it affected your outlook on the remainder of this tournament?
MACGINTY: Thanks Ronan! It was very satisfying to get the win. It definitely lifts morale in the squad and gives us confidence moving forward. We won’t get carried away by it though. It’s an indication of what this squad is capable of and we need to build it. We must be consistent and the challenge is now to back it up with another.
I don’t think too much has changed really. We focus on one game at a time improving each week.
RONAN: I know you can’t really talk about today’s match vs Canada, but after the performance against Japan, what was behind Coach Mike Tolkin’s wholesale changes to the starting lineup against Tonga?
MACGINTY: Everybody is looking to be a part of the team that travels to the World Cup. There’s a lot of competition for places so everyone needs to be given the opportunity to prove themselves. We all need minutes playing with each other and continue develop our on field relationships. Playing time and good performances is exactly what the coaches want.
RONAN: Has it been difficult adjusting to the playing style of the senior Eagles team or has it been a fluid transition? How do you think you fit into Coach Tolkin’s playing for the team in this run-up to the World Cup?
MACGINTY: No I don’t think it’s difficult adjusting to the playing style. We had a couple of meetings prior to this camp which we discussed our approach/mindset which was very helpful. The tour of South America was also very beneficial in terms of building relationships with the coaches and knowing what they want.
However it is challenging at the same time. We can discuss these game plans/playing styles and on paper it looks great. But it’s a new environment with players I’ve never played with so it doesn’t transition so smoothly. We’re still developing relationships on/off the pitch each day so it isn’t going to click straight away. The more time we have to train together and continue to gel will help us in the long run. I feel I’m growing in to the role each day and getting more comfortable in the system.
Thanks to Paul Rudman for photo.
RONAN: On a more personal note, tell me about your playing career before you begin playing for the United States and how you came about playing for the USA at the national level.
MACGINTY: After I graduated, I decided a year away was what I wanted to do. It was a spur of the moment idea! I moved to New York in 2012 with a group of of friends. Before leaving I was able get set up with NYAC whose Super League is was about the start. My old coach Tony Smeeth was able to sort it out for me as he was friendly with Bruce McLane. By the end of the summer, an opportunity came up to study and play at Life University. Originally I was little apprehensive about it as it was a massive change, but it was one of the best things to happen to me. I’ve been there 3 years now playing for the men’s team and soon to graduate in September! Again, Tony was able to set me up with this so can’t thank him enough!
RONAN: What are what are some things do you currently do in training that are keys to your success?
MACGINTY: My kicking and my passing are skills that I constantly work on and can always improve. There are so many types of kicks to have in your game so its important to be able execute them. I also try to work on my weaker side. Technique wise it’s not the prettiest but I’m working on it.
RONAN: Do you have any pre-game rituals or practices that get you ready for a game?
MACGINTY: I don’t anymore. I used to always be the last player out of the changing room. I used to do that playing football(soccer) growing up, not sure why! In terms of getting ready, I try to stay relaxed and distract myself w a movie or chatting to family/friends.
RONAN: Do you have any club rugby ambitions for the future? Is there anywhere in particular you would like to play?
MACGINTY: Right now I’ve just been focusing on getting on the team and performing at the level I believe I can. I don’t want to look too far past that. This is the most important thing for me now and I want make the most of it.
RONAN: Slainte, AJ… and good luck.
MACGINTY: Thank you, Ronan. My pleasure.