Former Ireland boss O’Sullivan takes his side into its opening World Cup Pool C contest against his former charges at Stadium Taranaki tomorrow having warned his players they have to keep a lid on their feelings on such a poignant day for the American people or risk blowing their chance of an upset.
And the message seems to have sunk in, with scrum-half and vice captain Mike Petri, a native New Yorker who a decade ago was at school in Manhattan on the day two hijacked planes were flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
“Too much of anything, good or bad, can be dangerous,” said Petri, 27, whose daily commute from Brooklyn to a midtown trading bank takes him past Ground Zero.
“That is true no matter what you’re doing. There has to be a balance in everything you do, and we are aware of that. It is important we funnel it into positive energy for our performance. Ireland is one of the top teams in world rugby. A team that back home in the States we watch regularly in the Six Nations.
“Those are the guys that you’re watching, emulating and looking up to. Those are the guys that you look up to; the guys in your club team are wearing their jerseys.
“It will be a huge challenge for us… we’re really looking forward to getting off on the right foot.”
O’Sullivan yesterday named a strong team only missing first-choice full-back Chris Wyles (ankle) of Saracens, despite having an eminently more winnable fixture against Russia just four days later. Leeds prop Mike MacDonald is set to break the USA appearance record with his 63rd appearance for the Eagles to move past Luke Gross in his US record-tying eighth World Cup game.
And O’Sullivan welcomes back captain and Japanese-based flanker Todd Clever from injury in one of eight changes to the American side which lost its final warm-up game to Japan last month.
O’Sullivan insisted his full focus was on the US cause and not on Ireland and sought to downplay the impression he had an inside track on Declan Kidney’s current squad.
“It is a bit of a help,” he said, asked about his knowledge of senior Irish players.
“I can tell the players about the Irish guys in a bit more detail having worked with them, but we can’t get hung up on Ireland. I know Ireland are our opposition and it’s a strong Ireland team, but we have to focus on our own performance. You can get hung up on the opposition.
“But we have film anyway and it’s a common thing to do now, to scout the opposition. I’m sure [Ireland video analyst] Mervyn Murphy is burning the midnight oil profiling our players. You have to focus on your own game, and what we do is what’s important.”