Fawsitt taps into coaching experience as Pumas await

The Eagles' Ireland-born hooker helped school US teams while playing in Pro and Major League Rugby and is now determined to earn his adopted nation automatic qualification for RWC 2023.

KUMAGAYA, 6 Oct - Hooker Dylan Fawsitt has a look of determination in his eyes that tells you the USA are desperate to show they can be more than losing battlers at this Rugby World Cup.

Victory for the Eagles on Wednesday against a wounded Argentina, who lost to England on Saturday, would be a huge step towards earning automatic qualification for Rugby World Cup 2023.

Fawsitt's side also lost to England in their opening match and to France six days later (highlights below). Two USA wins from their remaining two games could secure a third-place finish in Pool C and guarantee a spot in France in four years, by which time they hope to have made even bigger strides in the sport.

For the 29-year-old former flanker, who was born in Ireland, it is an opportunity to give back to all of those who have helped him in his pursuit of his dream to play international rugby.

Fawsitt, above, began his rugby journey at age seven in the Irish seaside town of Greystones, before playing for Ireland's famous Blackrock College where he won the Leinster Schools Cup in 2009. He was in a side that featured current Irish squad members Andrew Conway and Jordi Murphy.

He joined St Mary's College and was playing in the All Ireland League, but had a growing sense that the next big opportunity might not be around the corner.

"You think the opportunities will come – they didn't come. So, I needed to look after my future and there was an opportunity to head to the States," he said.

"It was during my Master's and it was something to fall back on. I wanted to make sure I was going to be OK just in case the rugby didn't happen.

"It was a mature decision that I didn't take lightly, to leave Ireland and move to America."

Having taken advice from Alan MacGinty (father of USA team-mate AJ, who, like Fawsitt, was born in Ireland), Fawsitt completed his Master's Degree at Life University in Georgia alongside AJ MacGinty and fellow Eagle Shaun Davies. The scholarship came about through Dan Payne, the chief executive of USA Rugby, who also ran the rugby programme at Life.

Keen to make the most of every opportunity, Fawsitt then joined the Ohio Aviators in 2016 with the launch of Pro Rugby. He also took on extra work to support himself on his student visa.

He said: "It was tough to work but I was doing anything I could to get by – washing cars and walking dogs. I was nearly coaching every team in Atlanta it seemed - Atlanta Harlequins, Atlanta Youth Rugby, all of the teams at Life University from men's and women's collegiates to the men's senior side."

The breadth of coaching Fawsitt undertook paid dividends. His experience led to opportunities in New York where he has helped install an inner-city programme using rugby's values to help improve the lives of disadvantaged kids.

He now plays in Major League Rugby with Rugby United New York.

"To be honest, all my time in America has been great," he said. "I've enjoyed every bit of it. I owe a lot to it and I'm very proud to be able to wear the jersey now and to give back."

From the east coast of Ireland to the east coast of America, Fawsitt is a man whose brown eyes look out from under a stern brow, appearing to maintain a clarity of focus at all times. Ahead of earning a 15th cap for the Eagles, he has a drive and desire to honour those who helped get him to where he is.

"We're so hungry now to get after Argentina," he said. "To finish third and qualify would just be astronomical for USA rugby as a whole. We want to build this now so it gives us every opportunity for the game to succeed in the future.

"There's definitely a belief in the camp. Now we've just got to go out and execute."

RNS nh/pr/pp/ajr