Ireland team manager Paul McNaughton confirmed the Irish players would be wearing black armbands in their Pool C opener in solidarity with the Eagles on what promises to be an emotional day for Americans.
Eddie O’Sullivan’s US team will also attend a 9/11 Memorial Service at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in New Plymouth on Sunday morning which, because of New Zealand’s position close to the international date line, will possibly be the first commemoration of the anniversary anywhere in the world.
O’Sullivan though, is hoping his team will be able to walk to keep emotion in check when it comes to trying to beat his former Irish charges later in the day.
“Motivation isn’t going to be an issue for these lads, they’re always easy to fire up,” O’Sullivan said.
“It’s going to be emotional. For me, part of my job is to contain the emotion. If they get too emotional, they’ll make mistakes, and if they make mistakes they’ll pay a big price,” he said.
That is not the only issue concerning O’Sullivan, whose Eagles have been handed the wrong end of the draw not once but twice in their Pool C schedule. The US will twice have to play two matches with only three full days rest after the previous game, facing Cold War rivals Russia next Thursday and then Italy on September 27, having faced the mighty Australia on the 23rd.
They are not alone in that with the USA, Namibia, Samoa and Russia all having to complete their four pool matches in just 16 days. In contrast, Ireland will complete theirs in 21 days while hosts and tournament favourites New Zealand have been given 23 days to see their way past Tonga, Japan, France and Canada.
That leaves O’Sullivan with a difficult selection dilemma, given the limited recovery time he can give his players between matches. And particularly when you consider that with just two wins in the Eagles’ World Cup record, both over Japan, in 1987 and 2003, the former Ireland coach has his best chance of achieving a third in the game against the Russians.
So, when O’Sullivan names his side to face Ireland tomorrow, there is a chance he could keep his best players in reserve for arguably the more important game three days later.
Whether that impacts on Ireland or not remains to be seen in a game they would be expected to win over any combination of US players but, understandably, Declan Kidney and his management team are preparing for a strong showing from the world’s number 18-ranked team.
Diplomacy denied Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek the opportunity to publicly state it yesterday, but it is clear the Irish squad feels there is an opportunity to make a strong statement against the Eagles and properly rationalise the poor results in August as mere pre-season teething problems.
“Well, at this level you’ve got to go in and either treat a team on how they are or what you’ve seen, or whatever or you rely on your own standards and go out there and do that,” Feek said with reference to the respective scrums.
“I think no matter what, we’ll treat the USA in all facets with respect but we’ll be going into this game with our standards and not letting those slip as well.
“So without trying to fuel the fire, we definitely want to set some really high standards and get them going, starting from now at this World Cup.”
That said, Feek is still expecting some explosive interactions with the American pack.
“The breakdown will be an area where they’ll really attack in numbers,” the former All Black said. “They’ll try and upset it. They’ll probably really try hard at those first couple of rucks and if we can be clinical in that tight five, let the loosies do their work and get the set piece right I think we can get our backs to really use their skills.
“Up front is definitely where we expect there to be fireworks but also where we need to get that sorted out.”