State of the Nation: USA

Date published: October 30 2011

As we do after every major tournament, we take a look at the state of affairs in each of rugby's leading nations. Next up, the USA.

As we do after every major tournament, we take a look at the state of affairs in each of rugby's leading nations. Next up, the USA.

World Cup ambitions v results: The USA achieved their primary goal heading into the tournament – they beat Russia. The 13-6 victory certainly wasn't pretty but it was full of the heart and hard graft that one would expect from the Eagles.

And that's the manner in which the USA played in all of their games, with a hard working effort against Ireland first up showing that they're no pushovers. The clash against Russia – who had yet to play – followed just four days later, making the win even more of an achievement.

A much-changed, youthful side was dispatched with ease by Australia but it was clear that coach Eddie O'Sullivan had his eye on Italy which once again came after a break of only a handful of days.

A valiant effort was not quite enough to see off the Italians although a 27-10 defeat is certainly not a result to be ashamed of, especially when one considers that despite having all the possession and territory, the Azzurri only claimed their bonus-point score through a penalty try in the 66th minute.

The USA wanted a second win to secure automatic qualification to the next World Cup, but their failure to do so should not see the tournament labelled a disappointment; they were far from that.

The Eagles were impressive in a number of areas but committed too many unforced errors to capatalise on solid build-up play. The line-out was a highlight for O'Sullivan's men, with Hayden Smith and John van der Giessen forming a solid second row combination.

While skipper Todd Clever was as industrious as ever, it was centre Paul Emerick who was the star of the show for the Eagles. The 31-year-old was immense on both attack and defence.

The changing of the guard: The likes of record-breaking prop Mike McDonald are unlikely to make it to the next World Cup, but the majority of the squad should be looking to play on and, with any luck, make it to another World Cup.

Looking into the crystal ball: Key to the Eagles' development going forward will be the retention of O'Sullivan. There are a number of higher profile positions opening up and O'Sullivan may look to throw is hat into the ring for a job in Europe.

Rugby is gaining momentum in the USA and it's clear that the administrators are onto a good thing in terms of their grassroots program 'Rookie Rugby'. While the benefits of such a program are more long term, the growing presence of rugby at school and college will start to reap rewards.

Lock Scott LaValla has landed a contract with Top 14 big guns Stade Français and if more players can get themselves into professional outfits in Europe the knock on effect will be massive.

But it's not only the individuals that are important. O'Sullivan has bemoaned the lack of time that the team have playing together and this will need to be corrected. Regular encounters against top tier teams is also important to upping the standard of USA rugby.