USA EAGLES head coach Mike Tolkin has embraced his side’s Rugby World Cup underdog status and insisted: England would prefer to be in our position.
Host nation England get their campaign – and the tournament – under way this evening when they face off against Fiji at Twickenham (8pm).
In light of their home advantage, the bookmakers have made Stuart Lancaster’s men second-favourites to lift the coveted Webb Ellis Trophy, behind current world title holders New Zealand.
Unfancied USA are rank outsiders.
Tolkin, though, believes the level of expectation put on the host nation and other top teams could add ‘unneeded pressure and distractions’.
He said: ‘Any team in the world, whether it is New Zealand, England or any of the other top teams, would prefer to go into a World Cup under the radar and not have high expectations.
‘That adds unneeded pressure and distractions.
‘In that regard, being the underdogs is definitely helpful in allowing us to focus on what we are trying to accomplish.’
The Eagles have been guests of Portsmouth this past week, training at the city’s Royal Navy Rugby Union base at HMS Temeraire, Burnaby Road, in preparation for their curtain-raiser with Samoa in Brighton on Sunday.
Placed in a group also containing Scotland, South Africa and Japan, though, Tolkin accepts his side will have their work cut out to upset the odds and progress to the knockout stages.
But USA’s primary objective remains the same as all other nations – to get out of the group.
‘Going into the World Cup, we want to get out of our pool like any other team,’ said Tolkin.
‘It will be more difficult for us than others but that is our overriding goal.
‘We certainly know we have to take it one game at a time.
‘World Cup games are challenging and difficult to win.
‘But if we focus one game at a time on what we have to do to win, then the other stuff will take care of itself. That’s if we do our job on the field.’
With the pressure off and a good training camp behind them, Tolkin believes his side are primed and ready to perform on the big stage.
He said: ‘Morale is really high. The guys have been upbeat in preparing for their business.
‘Everyone at this point is just counting down the hours to get on the field on Sunday.’