PLEASANT Portsmouth has allowed the USA Eagles to focus on flying high at the Rugby World Cup.
That’s the view of coach Mike Tolkin as he looks for his side to be the surprise package among the 20 nations battling it out for the Webb Ellis Trophy on English soil.
The Eagles’ tournament preparations have seen them descend on the city’s Royal Navy Rugby Union base at HMS Temeraire, Burnaby Road, ahead of their curtain-raiser with Samoa in Brighton tomorrow (midday).
And coach Tolkin has paid tribute to the warm welcome his side have received in Portsmouth, insisting they have no excuses not to be at their very best on the biggest stage.
He said: ‘Portsmouth has been very good to us.
‘There are excellent facilities and the people here are good so it’s been a very pleasant stay.
‘The facilities and base we have been using have been fantastic.
‘It’s really important to have a good training base.
‘Leading up to a tournament like the World Cup, you don’t want to have any anxiety about a sub-standard facility or anything like that.
‘You just want all of your focus to be on the match.
‘Having a good facility like we do here on the naval grounds allows us to focus solely on what we are trying to accomplish.’
USA begin the tournament as rank-outsiders with the bookmakers, but Tolkin is hopeful his side can spring an upset on the big stage – with morale in the camp high.
‘We hope we can be the tournament’s surprise package,’ he said.
‘We are certainly underdogs who are capable of doing some good things.
‘We would like to move right into that role of the underdog who overachieves.
‘We are working hard to do that – 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 tomorrow.’
Tolkin, though, is expecting a tough test from Samoa.
‘Samoa are powerful in their dynamic play and have big boys out there with ability to make big plays in offloading,’ he added.
‘Their breakaway and line breaks represent a challenge and a danger so these are things we are preparing for and know are coming.’