Walking away – or flying, actually, as I’m writing this on the plane home – from this Rugby World Cup without any wins is a frustrating and disappointing thing to do. There’s no way to sugar-coat it. We Eagles are definitely feeling that pain after our 28-18 defeat by Japan in Gloucester on Sunday, and the defeats by Samoa, Scotland and South Africa. It isn’t pleasant.
But despite the results, this is a tight-knit team and each member of our squad brought his best every single day. I’m proud of their efforts and each guy has his own unique story that is truly inspiring. It has been both an honor and a privilege to play alongside them.
There are exciting things on the horizon for rugby in the US and we have an incredible group of people that will be involved in that process in one way or another. There’s good young talent within this group and the years ahead look promising.
Those young players have now been to the World Cup and seen the standard of play that is required. They know that what we brought to the table this time wasn’t good enough and they are committed to raising the bar. I’m confident they will.
Through it all, my personal best memory was to be able to share this experience with my family. My dad and my sister made it over for games, my mother- and father-in-law came to my first game of the tournament and my wife and daughter were here the entire time. Walking off the field each game to see them and hear my daughter talk about “daddy’s game” and tell me she “waved the flag” is something I will never forget.
Despite all the disappointments on the field it has been hard to walk off and see my girls and not smile, knowing how truly lucky and happy I am to have them by my side. I’m fortunate now to have some time with my family before I’m due back to work. It’s been a long summer away, from when we gathered before the Pacific Nations Cup in June, through that tournament, the warm-ups and then the World Cup in England. I’m looking forward to getting home, getting my feet back underneath me, and meeting my new students at Xavier high school in New York City.
I won’t be playing rugby for a while. The New York Athletic Club season is under way and they have done well so far in the American Rugby Premiership. While they continue to do so, I want to spend time focusing on my family and my transition back to work.
As for the Eagles, I haven’t thought about my plans beyond this World Cup – my focus has always been to put everything I had into this tournament. Now that it’s finished, my priority is my family and my work.
So I’ll do that, teaching and coaching again at Xavier. I’ll be watching the World Cup knockout rounds, though. If I’m asked to predict a winner, well, after living in Cardiff with my wife and playing in Newport there is a special place in my heart for Wales and its culture.
A few of my former Dragons team-mates are on the Wales squad and it would be amazing to see them continue, despite all their setbacks with injury so far, and that brutal defeat by Australia on Saturday. It would be an inspirational story if they lift the Webb Ellis Cup – so from here on in, I’m backing the Welsh.
About Mike Petri: Scrum-half Mike Petri has 57 caps for the USA and played at the 2007 and 2011 World Cups. His children’s book, R is for Rugby: An Alphabet Book, is now available in the US & UK through Amazon. Original article here.