Women's Eagles set to kick off UK Tour against Wales
BRIDGEND, Wales -- In what will be the final three matches before the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014, the Women’s Eagles will look to stay unbeaten against one opponent while trying to capture the second victory in team history versus the other during the preparatory tour of Wales and England. The campaign, which began on Tuesday, is also being used to select the World Cup squad.
A perfect, 3-0 record is at stake on Saturday as the Eagles take on host Wales – a team the Eagles have not met since 2001. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 P.M. (8:30 A.M. ET) at Cross Keys RFC’s Paddy Park.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, England has only surrendered once to the Eagles out of the 13 meetings. The lone victory for the Eagles came 23 years ago during the World Cup 1991 Final.
Despite meeting twice on the pitch during the tour, the Eagles will only receive caps for the second meeting against the Roses. England has opted not to cap its players during either of the matches, which will also be closed to the public.
The undefeated record and un-capped performances have only pushed the excitement for Head Coach Pete Steinberg, who is eager to see what his squad can do on the pitch.
“This is a very important tour for us as it is the last preparation before the World Cup,” he said. “The opportunity of an uncapped test allows us to try some different combinations and see what works best in moving forward.”
While the performance is vital in moving forward, Steinberg is pushing his players towards victory when it counts.
“Our focus will always be on the performance, but in the test matches the outcome will be important,” Steinberg said. “We will play to win.”
The players have similar sentiments about the trip.
“I am excited about the opportunity to continue to solidify our team with these matches,” said captain Shaina Turley. “I think this is an incredible group of athletes and we are ready to win.”
The tour consists of three matches over a 14-day period. Having followed a similar schedule during the Can-Am Series of playing every three days, the World Cup-like routine has a slightly different focus for the UK tour.
With a trimmed roster, the team can now focus on combinations of players that will most likely be representing the Women’s Eagles come August.
“[The UK] tour is where we transition from a mindset of development to performance,” said Turley, the back-row forward. “I can’t wait to see what combinations work best so we can put our best foot forward in August.”
A group of 30 players have convened for the UK Tour, with nine non-traveling reserves backing the team from home.
First up for the Eagles on the UK tour is a Welsh side that finished the RBS Six Nations competition with one win (25-0 against Scotland), food for fifth place. The match will be the first non-tournament match for Wales since playing Canada in 2007. It will also be the first time since 2012 that a U.S. senior-level side has played in Wales – the Men’s Eagles last played Russia and Tonga in Colwyn Bay in November 2012.
The second leg of the UK tour pits the Women’s Eagles against England, a team that finished second in the Six Nations competition.
The Roses have claimed 12 consecutive matches against the Eagles dating back to 1993. The matches, however, will be uncapped for England, while the second match July 6 will be capped for the Eagles.
Following the tour, a roster of 26 will be named to represent the Eagles in Paris for the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014.
Marcoussis will host the pool play on August 1, 5, and 9. Additional games will be played August 13 and 17.
To follow the Eagles during the UK tour tune to the Women's Eagles page for match reports and updates and the ‘Final in ‘14’ blog for updates from the players themselves. Keep up to date with events via social media by following the team on Twitter and Facebook.