by Nigel Melville
Nigel Melville Direct
I am sure you will join me in wishing the Eagles the very best of luck tonight against the Italians here in Nelson. Its a sunny day with a strong wind blowing, but its early in the day and the players are slowly meandering into breakfast, its a long day when you have an evening kick-off!
The Eagles arrived at this World Cup hoping to produce strong performances, compete with the Tier 1's and beat Russia. To date, they have done well, the opening game against Ireland was a physical encounter and a credible result against one of the top teams in World Rugby. That performance provided belief and significant respect from the media and fans. Then came the much awaited 'cold war' game against Russia. This became a real sideshow with the Russian Deputy Prime Minister and significant others making the trip to New Plymouth to support their team.
This was a great event, the passion on the field was matched by the fans, particularly the USA fans who stood in the rain singing their hearts out for the whole 80 minutes dressed in full fancy dress - fantastic.
A win against Russia was deserved on a wet and windy night in Taranaki. The players were pretty battered at that point following a quick turn around against a Russian side making their World Cup debut. The game was followed by a few days rest and a trip to Wellington to face Australia. Fourteen changes to the team that had faced Russia, and an opportunity for those yet to play. This selection turned a few heads, but that's why you have a squad, and to be honest, this was an opportunity for some players to put their hand up for a game against Italy tonight.
In the first half the team fought hard, but at the end of the day the Wallabies had too much pace for the Eagles and deserved their win. The players enjoyed the experience and I think it was good for them to step on the same field as some of the World's best players - we wish them well in the remainder of their games.
The team then departed to Nelson for tonight's final pool game against Italy, another Tier 1 team and an opportunity for the squad to have a good crack at them. The squad are in good shape, they are focussed and cannot wait to get back on the field tonight. You have to admire the spirit of the Eagles, they are having the time of their lives, they are making a massive contribution to the tournament on and of the field. The support for the team has snowballed as the tournament has developed. The support in Wellington was remarkable, the flags, the banners, the fancy dress and the noise of the USA supporters was something the players will not forget.
Tonight, it will be a massive physical challenge, but I can assure you that this will be a big performance from the Eagles. It's their last time together for some time, it maybe the last World Cup game for others, so we have a special night ahead.
To the fans, a huge thank you for the support and inspiration you have given the team, and the overall contribution you have made to the 2011 Rugby World Cup. I cannot tell you how many people from the World Cup organizers themselves to the local rugby communities where we have been based have commented on the passion, color and fun that our supporters and the impact they have had on the event - great job, we are all proud of you and thank you for your support.
Now lets get down to business - Go Eagles!
With an impressive resume as player, coach and administrator, Nigel David Melville took over as CEO and President of Rugby Operations of USA Rugby, the National Governing Body of the sport in America, in 2006. In addition to his full time job promoting the sport in the U.S., Melville has launched his own blog, Nigel Melville Direct, to further the discussion and his passion for what it will take to make the U.S. a great rugby playing nation.
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