By Brian Lowe, Date: 18/6/13
The USA national teamâ€™s coaching staff will incorporate lessons learned from the Presidentâ€™s XIII â€˜friendlyâ€™ against Samoa as it formulates strategies and game plans for the meat and potatoes of the 2013 season.
The American National Rugby Leagueâ€™s Presidentâ€™s XIII hosted Toa Samoa in Hawaii earlier this month in the â€˜friendlyâ€™.
USA Tomahawks assistant coach Marcus Vassilakopoulos served as coach of the Presidentâ€™s XIII and says the home team was its own worst enemy in several key areas in the 34-10 loss.
â€œSamoa’s D line speed was good and our ball control was poor, around 50 per cent or less for the game,â€ said Coach Vassilakopoulos.
â€œCouldn’t get off the back foot. Last tackle options were poor also. (We) need a better kicking game next outing.â€
The game did provide a useful exercise from the standpoint of identifying future potential national team players with the coach noting there were some good individual efforts.
â€œA new league player Keone Tawata, front row/second row, is very strong, hit like a train and ran the ball well,â€ continued Vassilakopoulos.
â€œLoto Tagaloa played well scoring both tries and Vai Notoa and Keke Misipeka were strong both playing 80 minutes in the second row.
â€œDusten Umeda also ran the ball well from dummy half, but didn’t get enough ball out on the wing.â€
The US national squad is now focusing on this summerâ€™s Colonial Cup series against archrivals Canada. Itâ€™ll be played over three months from July through September and this year it has been expanded to a three-game series. Two of the matches will be away games in Toronto.
The US holds the Cup after three straight wins since the inaugural match in 2010. The Tomahawks and Wolverines split the series in 2011, but the US retained the Cup based on aggregate points, and then swept last yearâ€™s series.
However, Coach Vassilakopoulos acknowledges the Canadians have been consistently closing the gap and it wouldn’t be prudent for the USA to make any assumptions.
â€œWe’ll need to improve our ball control against Canada and have a better line speed and kicking game,â€ he said.
At the conclusion of the Colonial Cup series, the national teamâ€™s coaching staff will pick the USAâ€™s 24-man squad that it will take to the Rugby League World Cup in the UK.
En route to RLWC2013, the Tomahawks will have a warm-up game against France in October.
USA TOMAHAWKS 2013 Schedule:
USA v Canada (Colonial Cup, Toronto, July 6)
USA v Canada (Colonial Cup, Philadelphia, August 24)
USA v Canada (Colonial Cup, Toronto, September 21)
USA v France (Toulouse, October 18)
USA v Cook Islands (RLWC2013, Bristol, October 30)
USA v Wales (RLWC2013, Wrexham, November 3)
USA v Scotland (RLWC2013, Salford City, November 7)