The USA ended pool play with a much needed big win over China that gave them the point differential they needed to squeeze into the cup quarterfinals as the 8th place team. It was not an easy pool, but the Eagles 31-0 loss to Canada and 17-0 loss to Australia made one wonder what happened to the side that finished 3rd in the World Cup a little over 6 months ago.
The women Eagles who last year showed the potential to medal in the 2016 Olympics now seem to be quickly drifting to the bottom of the 12 teams that will go to Rio. Unlike the men who will probably not qualify, the women will in all likelihood qualify. The main reason being they won’t have to face Canada in the regional qualifying tournament because Canada will have received an automatic spot by being one of the top 4 teams in the 2014-15 IRB Women’s Sevens World Series.
The realease of players from last season and the recruitment of players from other sports has one wondering where the Eagles are headed. Former team standouts and leading try scorers Vanesha McGee and Nathalie Marchino have been let go. Marchino had some potential problems with eligibility, but one must wonder why these issues weren’t sorted before she became an integral part of the initial group of women selected for the Olympic Training Center program. Kimber Rozier is also missed. Christy Ringgenberg (age 31) who has not had a dynamic impact in matches and is often struggling to make critical tackles is still around. Kelly Griffin and Jillion Potter are still outstanding in their work rate. The added pressure on Potter of being team captain seems to have had an adverse effect on her ability to be an important part of linking moves. She was on Saturday too often leading by crashing straight ahead and taking the ball to ground. On the positive side Jessica Javelet is a breath of speed and energy that might fill a void as she makes the transition from field hockey and American football to rugby. Vix Folayan struggled to inject some speed and power outside against Canada and Australia but was successful against a much weaker China. Without Marchino and McGee to spark closing moves, Vix (with help from new comer Javelet) has to fill a try scoring gap.
Are the Eagles rebuilding or disintegrating? Has the USA’s best shot of a rugby medal in Rio disappeared in the 6 months since 3rd place at Moscow World Cup? Hopefully Day 2 in Atlanta will see a new USA team emerge from the shambles of Day 1.