KOBE, 27 Sep - The USA squad woke up on Friday morning nursing their wounds from Thursday night in more ways than one.
As well as their pride taking a battering as they conceded seven tries in the 45-7 defeat to England in Kobe, they are also counting the cost of some bruised bodies and some ill-discipline that could mean they have to face France on Wednesday without four first-choice players.
The Eagles lost young prop David Ainuu to a calf injury inside the first three minutes. Centre Paul Lasike and full-back Will Hooley were also forced to leave the field injured, while back-row John Quill was sent off for his challenge on Owen Farrell and has been handed a three-match ban, effectively ruling him out of the tournament.
Unbelievably touched by so many nice messages from family, friends and fans (both 🇺🇸 & 🏴). Despite the result it was a surreal and very proud day yesterday @rugbyworldcup in Kobe. On the mend and hope to be back soon enough #RWC19 #ThankYou— Will Hooley (@will_hooley) September 27, 2019
Having started alongside Lasike in the midfield, Marcel Brache, above centre, agreed with coach Gary Gold’s post-match comments that it had not been a credible performance.
"He’s completely right," Brache said. "We’ve been together long enough to understand what a performance we’re proud of is, and what we are capable of putting out. Last night it was not that.
"If you’re slightly off your game, suddenly the game starts stretching out and doesn’t look like a performance you can be proud of at all.
"That’s the great thing about the next few weeks. You get the opportunity to go back out again against another quality outfit in France next Wednesday. We’ll look to turn the tables from last night. It was not a performance we can be proud of."
Will Greenwood, an England World Cup winner in 2003, commended Brache’s individual effort on Instagram as "cracking midfield defence". However, having missed 54 tackles collectively, the most in any game at RWC 2019 so far, Brache knows that is an unacceptable statistic.
"That says a lot about how little ball we had and how much ball we may have gifted to England through errors around the park," he said.
"When you start playing catch-up rugby, you start drifting away from your processes and you start opening up a few spaces. You start having match-ups where fleet-footed centres like Jonathan Joseph are up against guys who shouldn’t be out that wide and you’re asking for trouble there."
The USA are having to strike a fine balance in Japan. Gold admitted ahead of the England match that his side were "severe underdogs". Yet the most oft-repeated phrase by players and staff in the build-up to their first match was that they are "not here to make up the numbers".
Brache said: "We’re optimists within reality. We’d love to continue pushing forwards in terms of world rankings. What we are realists about is that we are a growing rugby nation. We’ve got to continue to take moments like last night as ways forward, in terms of building ourselves as a formidable rugby nation and a formidable side."
The match against France in Fukuoka will provide another stiff challenge.
"We know it’s going to be an extremely tough game, especially after last night," said Brache. "We have to be extremely focused on our processes and our execution or will we get hurt. This French side have shown they are one of the front-runners for this World Cup."