Throwback Thursday: a year off and a year out

Ireland will host the eighth Women's Rugby World Cup this August, 26 years since the USA Women's Eagles won the first world championship in 1991. Each Thursday leading up to the tournament, USA Rugby will be taking a look at the history of the WRWC and the Eagles' performances through the years. This month, the focus is on the 2006 WRWC in Canada.

May 11 TBT

The positive trip to Scotland in late 2014 - one win, 12-6, from one game - preceded a year of building for the Women's Eagles. The team did not play international competition throughout 2005, instead finalizing the game plan within the player pool ahead of a busy 2006.

"You're hoping players don't get hurt," Head Coach Kathy Flores said of the time between international fixtures. "Even though you have assemblies, even if you're taking the top 50 all the time, it's always a tryout. 'Who's performing on the day?'

"We needed more games [in the off year]. You'd much rather expend that energy against another team instead of against your own players. Also, it brings the camaraderie of playing together and being there for one another against someone else instead of being pitted against each other. You don't want to have to have the rivalry against each other going into a World Cup. You want the feeling of, 'We're all in this together. You get more playing time than I do but I'm rooting for you because you're my teammate.'"

Come World Cup year, the Eagles had set up a four-game preparatory slate that would test them before crossing the border to Canada. First was a UK Tour to Netherdale, Scotland, and Limerick, Ireland, respectively, in late January. Having won two of their first five matches following the '02 World Cup, the Eagles went above .500 with a 13-6 defeat of Scotland and a 23-5 win against Ireland.

Not five months later, and two months from kickoff of the World Cup, the Can-Am rivalry was renewed. The U.S. hosted two matches in Colorado against the WRWC host, splitting the results; the Eagles took game one.

"Here's the thing: I like to play Canada all the time because I think they're super physical," Flores said. "I love their physicality, they're fit, and I think they can stretch us. But I don't think the mindset of the rivalry game being an international is there or where we need it to be."

Despite a two-point loss to the Canadians in the second matchup, the Eagles were ready to improve on their seventh-place standing from 2002. The likes of the eternal Patty Jervey - in her fifth consecutive World Cup - Jen Crouse, and Meredith Ottens, among other World Cup veterans, were selected alongside younger players like Jamie Burke, Pam Kosanke, and Kristin Zdanczewicz. Ellerslie Rugby Park and St. Albert Rugby Park in Alberta welcomed the U.S. and 11 other teams for pool play, where the Eagles would seek Semifinal qualification playing against familiar foes Australia, England, and Ireland.

May 25 TBT

USA Women's Eagles | Women's Rugby World Cup 2006
Hedwig Aerts
Kristin Baja
Jamie Burke
Laura Cabrera
Erin Carter
Annie Collier
Kate Cox
Jen Crouse
Carrie DuBray
Ashley English
Heather Hale
Patty Jervey
Ellie Karvoski
Lee Knight
Phaidra Knight
Claudia Knudsen-Braymer
Pam Kosanke
Laura McDonald
Kelly McMahon
Danielle Miller
Pat Neder
Tina Nesburg
Meredith Ottens
Kate Pope
Jen Sinkler
Maurin Wallace
Keenya Warner
Kristin Zdanczewicz

Non-Rostered Reserves
Lisa Butts
Kim Magrini

Coaching Staff
Kathy Flores - Head Coach
Candi Orsini - Assistant Coach
Krista McFarren - Assistant Backs Coach
Dr. Lisa Bartoli - Team Doctor
Tracy Moens - Strength & Conditioning Coach
Katie Peterson - Manager
Sara Shouse - Manager
Anne Barry - Program Manager