For a Preview of the Team and Tour, check out Jake Frechette’s piece.
SUNRISE, FL – Meshing 29 players with many new faces into a finely-tuned and cohesive squad in just a handful of days, will always leave a coaching staff wanting more. But if hard work, commitment to the cause and camaraderie have anything to do with success, then this group of very physical Eagles Selects have achieved what they set out to accomplish.
With the pitch literally at the hotel – a mere 15 yards from the lobby – the environment was perfect for a rugby camp. There was no traveling on buses to training, no sitting in South Florida beach or mall traffic and no worrying about missing rides. There were no distractions because… there was nothing to distract – other than a Walmart and Burger King. It was just rugby, rugby and more rugby in the hot sun and briefly cooling seasonal showers that are part and parcel for this sleepy local just outside Fort Lauderdale.
Coach Mike Tolkin and his very capable staff have cultivated a professional, competitive and no-nonsense atmosphere with a lunch-pail mentality: Come to work, know your responsibilities and give your best – every time.
As for the players, this markedly young squad is talented, fit… and tough. While there was no shortage of nicks, bruises and scrapes, all kept their respective work-rates at a high level, while encouraging their mates to do the same. And after long hours of physically and mentally demanding days in the heat, all 29 attendees were as on-board as they were on day one.
Make no mistake, though. These men are gunning for a Rugby World Cup spot and the live action on the pitch was fierce and as unrelenting as the midday sun. In fact, this reporter’s body aches just from observing.
As they packed up their gear, loaded into vans and headed to their midnight flight to Uruguay, there was an unmistakable feeling that this camp, with its full slate of contact, meetings, drills, sweat and toil, was a good one. And now all of that work, crammed into the realities of the very limited time together that faces a Tier 2 rugby nation of non-salaried players with day jobs, would be put to the test.
It will be interesting to see how it all translates during a grueling 3 matches in 9 days… in two countries.
Subjectively speaking, it’s hard not root for this bunch. #GoUSA
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