Throwback Thursday: small margins, big lessons

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 18 TBT

In the fifth cycle of the Women's Rugby World Cup, the USA Women's Eagles were for once not touted amongst the "elite" teams in the competition. Just four years prior in Spain, the U.S. slipped from the Final path with a pool defeat to France. It was the first time the Eagles did not compete in the Final, finishing seventh with a last-day defeat of the host nation.

When the '06 World Cup rolled around, a settled group of National Team athletes under respected head coach and former World Cup winner Kathy Flores did not need the outside motivation to perform. First up in cross-pool play, however, was the only team that had played in as many Finals as the Eagles: England. Having won 10 of 12 games leading up to the tournament in Edmonton and a 2006 RBS Women's 6 Nations Championship with an undefeated, 5-0, record, England posed one of the U.S.'s biggest challenges of pool play. Another challenge? A points system in the pool standings.

The 18-0 defeat was an obvious setback for Flores' squad, though the Eagles kept their chances of topping the pool alive with a 24-11 win against Ireland, which had previously been shut out by U.S. pool mate France, 43-0. France's similar, 24-10, score line against Australia in the second round of pool play meant the Eagles would need a victory and help from England in round three.

In a struggle of sorts, the U.S. did what it had to do in beating Australia, 10-6, while England pulled one over on France, 27-8. When the results were tallied in Pool C, however, the Eagles' nine standings points from just one bonus-point win did not overcome France's 10, relegating them to the fifth-place competition. France would go on to lose to the eventual champion, New Zealand, and beat Canada for third place.

The Eagles, on the other hand, disappointed to miss out on a fourth Final but hungry to continue strong play, bettered their output against Australia in the Semifinal rematch to advance to the Fifth-Place Final, 29-12. Scotland, also 3-1 ahead of the teams' last game of the tournament, was outmatched in a 24-0 shutout. Only England and New Zealand finished with 4-1 records or better, including 3-2 Canada and France.

"Up until that point, they hadn't structured pool play in terms of competition points," Flores said of the '06 World Cup's competition makeup. "I personally was very proud of the team having won a 4-1 record. It's unfortunate because it didn't matter; we didn't go to the next level, so to speak.

"I think what I learned going forward was making sure I'm doing my homework on how we're trying to proceed. Like if we need tries or to make certain decisions on the field - making sure we're not giving the other team extra points - all those kinds of things to think of in terms of 'mathematics' that don't necessarily have to do with your play, but do need to be taken into consideration when you're thinking of how you're trying to play the competition."

The sixth-highest scoring team in terms of points and tries, the Eagles were led on the score sheet by center Pam Kosanke with 23 points. Ellie Karvoski, in her final action with the National Team, dotted down a team-best five tries in Edmonton, with a litany of youthful talent aware of the small margins present at the international level ready for the next quadrennial.

June 1 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