Chicago, Illinois – The pre-Rugby World Cup schedule for the USA Eagles has been busy, to say the least, having played four games in the Pacific Nations Cup and international friendlies against Canada and Aviva Premiership side Harlequins since the beginning of August. Now add in tomorrow’s monstrous test against the #3 World Ranked Australians and you can see how much rugby the Eagles have and will have play over the last month and a half. Thankfully, the USA’s promising young fly half, AJ MacGinty, took some time out from his hectic schedule to answer some questions about tomorrow’s game and the World Cup ahead.
RONAN: Hey AJ. First off congratulations on making Coach Tolkin’s Rugby World Cup (RWC) squad after only 5 caps. How does it feel knowing you are headed to England with a solid shot at claiming the 10 jersey against Samoa on the 20th?
MACGINTY: Thanks. It’s a great honour to be selected in the world cup squad. The last few months have been incredible! I have really enjoyed the experience of being an Eagle this summer through the PNC and this warm up period. Right now my focus is on the Australia game and once that is over then I will let myself start to think about the Samoa game.
RONAN: The game against Harlequins showed a well rounded effort for the USA back line, and you displayed a lot of positive creativity off set pieces. What new challenges will the Australian back line present on Saturday and how is Coach Tolkin planning on slowing down the explosive Australian offense as a whole?
MACGINTY: Australia have been in great form over the summer. They have world class players right across the squad. We need to stick to our defensive system and make good decisions. We have a physical team and top class players in the breakdown who are capable of forcing a turnover or slowing down ball. Another big danger is their counter attack. No matter who is in their back 3 if the counter attack is on they will go for it and have the skills to punish you. So we need to be organised in our line chases and make our first up tackles.
RONAN: What are you looking forward to most on Saturday?
MACGINTY: It is going to be an unreal experience. Australia are one of the best sides in the world and we need to be at our absolute best for 80 minutes. It’s a step up to anything I have played before and I’m looking forward to the challenge. The pace of the game will be quicker meaning I have to make quicker decisions and reads, i already mentioned how dangerous they are on counter attack so my kicking out of hand will have to be perfect otherwise we could be punished. It’s what I’ve always wanted and it’s a brilliant match for us to have leading into the World Cup.
RONAN: Looking ahead to the USA’s RWC pool, you and the team have the distinct advantage of having already played Samoa and Japan rather recently. What do you think are the keys for the USA to make it out of the group stage?
MACGINTY: Getting out of the group would be a great achievement for us but I am not thinking about end results. There is a process involved in getting a result and once this australia game is over all our focus and thinking will be on Samoa and how we can beat them. They are an excellent side and we were disappointed to lose to them in july. But once this weekend is over it will be 100% on Samoa. i know its an old saying “take one game at a time” but it is true and the successful sides do that. I believe that with the squad we have that if we keep working together like we are and we can execute during games then we can go to the world cup and win games.
RONAN: Lastly, what aspect of your game are you most focused on improving in this test and in the build up to the RWC?
MACGINTY: Kicking, between now and the world cup i will be practising that nearly every day. it’s a hugely important factor between winning and losing games of rugby so i will be looking to get the reps in. I have been happy with how i have kicked throughout the summer up until last weekend. I hadnt practised much the week leading into the quins game because of a bruising on my ankle so it shows you the importance of practice!
RONAN: Thanks very much and best of luck!
MACGINTY: No problem, thanks very much.
Make sure to tune into tomorrow’s big clash against Australia at 7:30 P.M. eastern on NBCSN. Go Eagles! Make sure to follow us @RugbyWrapUp and @ronan_nelson