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The Eagles Must Nail Three Things To Have A Chance Against The All Blacks

The Eagles Must Nail Three Things To Have A Chance Against The All Blacks

Even a monumental performance from the Americans likely won’t be enough to defeat New Zealand, but the US can give themselves a chance.

Oct 19, 2021 by Alex Rees
The Eagles Must Nail Three Things To Have A Chance Against The All Blacks

Few spectacles on earth draw the aura, the mystique, or the sheer anticipation that an All Blacks game does. On Saturday that show comes to the nation’s capital, as the United States hosts New Zealand at FedEx Field in Washington D.C. 

For the All Blacks, the match serves as a primer for their upcoming European tour, where the AB’s will face Wales, Italy, Ireland, and France over a four week stretch. Heavy on their hearts will be teammate and countryman Sean Wainui, whose tragic passing this week has rocked the New Zealand rugby community. 

For the United States, this match comes at an odd time. Just two weeks prior, the Eagles fell hard on the road to a tough Uruguay team, 34-15, ultimately losing out over a two-game series with a World Cup berth on the line. They now look to pick themselves up by the bootstraps and right the ship ahead of a titanic clash with the world’s greatest team. 

Even a monumental performance from the Americans likely won’t be enough to defeat New Zealand, but if there’s any chance to do so, here are three things they must take care of:

Get Back In The Game…Rapidly

While the All Blacks sure have heaps of pace among the ranks—Rieko Ioane, Will Jordan, Damian McKenzie, Richie Mo’unga, Beauden Barrett are all flyers—it’s their sheer pace of play that overwhelms teams. 

The All Blacks give their opponents zero time to reset their defenses after each tackle, spinning the ball out from the ruck before defenders have even had a chance to line up their man. It makes for an exhausting game, particularly as New Zealand finds their shape and gets the momentum rolling. So how to stop it? Or, at least, slow it down?

Get back in the game as quickly as you can. 

Following each tackle, ruck, or carry, it’s absolutely paramount for the American players to get back to their feet and into the action immediately. The way the All Blacks throw wave after wave at their opponent, you must have all 15 players involved to put some kind of roadblock in their path. Some pesky work at the breakdown by the forwards, done legally, might afford the Eagles players an extra second or two to recycle, but at the end of the day it will be about immense work rate and relentlessness. 

Play With Passion

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the Eagles’ defeat in Uruguay was the seeming lack of passion the United States played with. Unlike some of the memorable victories the Eagles have had under Gary Gold—Scotland, Samoa, Romania—the game last weekend reflected a team that caved in when the going got tough. 

A few tries by the Teros in the early part of the second half saw the American heads drop, and that permeated throughout the entire squad. Should this happen on Saturday, the All Blacks could be poised to ship 75+ points. 

Playing at home, in the capital, in front of 70,000 fans should go a long way to igniting the passion within the Eagles that they need to front up with the Kiwis. 

Back Themselves In The Big Moments

Those pivotal moments where an Eagles try beckons may come few and far between, but when the chances do arrive, it’s crucial they back their skills and abilities to capitalize. A millisecond of hesitation is all it takes to blow the opportunity to make that extra pass, put that kick in behind, or take on the defender in a one-on-one. 

The All Blacks may be the pinnacle of rugby, but they are still made of the same flesh and bones as any other team the Eagles will ever play. With this in mind, the Americans should not play with fear or trepidation. 

Following the 2015 World Cup, former England great Jeremy Guscott summed up New Zealand’s success in one simple, yet profound sentence. He said, “The key to the All Blacks success is basic skills, executed under pressure.”

That’s exactly what the Eagles should take to heart. They already have the athleticism, the skill, and the ability to make plays happen—it’s just about doing it under pressure. New Zealand presents an unusual challenge, but at the end of the day it just boils down to backing themselves up and playing without hesitation.