State of the nation: USA

Date published: November 6 2015

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As we do at the end of a major tournament, we look at the state of affairs in each of the competing nations. Up next, USA.

The Sleeping Giants of world rugby will be forced to hold on to that tag for another four years following their disappointing showing at the World Cup.

After back-to-back wins against Canada and being drawn with then-minnows Japan and the bipolar Samoa in Pool A, American pundits had picked the Eagles to sneak one or perhaps even two wins at rugby's biggest showpiece. 

However, following Japan's huge upset win over South Africa, head coach Mike Tolkin surely must have realised they were going to be facing an entirely different beast.

The USA entered their seventh World Cup without the talismanic Todd Clever, who was excluded from the World Cup squad under dubious circumstances. America's first Super Rugby player recently revealed that a rift between himself and Tolkin contributed to his absence.

After losses against Samoa and Scotland, Tolkin sent out a relatively inexperienced team to face two-time world champions South Africa in the hope of saving his best for last against Japan. The Springboks put them to the sword, scoring ten tries and holding USA to love.

While USA were competitive against Japan, Tolkin's game plan of bashing his big men into their big men yielded little in the way of momentum, leading to a frustrated back line who spent most of the afternoon chasing kicks and tackling instead of running with the ball.

The four losses in the 2015 edition are undoubtedly a step backwards for the Eagles, who earned one win over Russia in the 2011 event, which took their tally to three World Cup wins after success in 2003 and 1987.

It remains to be seen whether Tolkin will stay at the helm of the Eagles as the fallout between him and USA's most celebrated player, Clever, unravels in the media.

Going forward, USA can focus their attention on improving their performances at the annual Pacific Nations Cup, where they have been competitive against the likes of Samoa and Tonga.

By Doug Mattushek

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