This is my first time with the United States rugby team on the road, and it's a pretty important trip to South America in terms of the Americas Rugby Championship (ARC).
We had a couple of days' travel and have adjusted to the new time zone in Sao Paulo, but this trip reminds a lot of us about what happened two years ago. That was, of course, before my time, but that was when the U.S. team started the ARC unbeaten in three games, only to lose to Brazil and Uruguay in the final two games in South America. And here we are again, unbeaten, and about to play Brazil, then Uruguay.
I've been reminded of that loss to Brazil about 100 times, so I know it sticks with everyone. I think going into this weekend's game against Brazil, it's important not to take them for granted. They were up 18-3 against Uruguay at one point, have a massive kicking game, are very good with the ball in hand and will run from anywhere in the park.
Two years ago the game came down to a penalty at the last minute, and we certainly don't want to be in that position as well.
So the first job is to get the travel right, and we did the best job we could. We were smart in our balance of rest and adjusting to the time zone, but it's summer in Brazil and it's very hot and humid. Even though we knew it would be that way, still to experience it, it took us a bit by surprise. Fortunately, by accident or design, we had been training in San Diego so we've had some hot days.
The fitness of the guys has been good, and the boys have acclimatised well. We had a very good session once we got here with a lot of intensity and a lot of hard work. The players who have joined us seemed maybe a yard off the pace, which I think shows how hard the guys who have been in camp are working.
And we will need to work hard, because we showed a lot of what we can do in that game against Chile. There was a period where the ball was in play for over two and-a-half minutes, we made 26 tackles in that span before Dino Waldren forced a knock-on and grabbed the ball for us to get out of our 22.
What that showed was our discipline, our endurance, and it's nice to know we can defend for that long. But it's a double-edged sword. We don't really want to defend for that long, and against some other teams they're going to really wear you down. We want to shut them down after only a few phases. So I was really happy with the guys in one sense, but want us to be able to get the ball back quicker in another sense.
I'd also like to see us put in a full 80 minutes. Twice now we've started well and then we kind of fall off the pace for about 20 minutes. I might put that down over-enthusiasm. We get too ramped up and make too many errors. That's better than having no enthusiasm, but we need to be in control, be ruthlessly efficient.
We're working on that, and at the same time we were able to unveil more of how we want to play with the ball.
It's a lot of drawing and passing, moving the point of contact and creating space that way. We've got players who can take it into contact, but they are also able to pass it, so we encourage our guys not to be too predictable, and to use their skill set. They are enjoying it, and I think we've seen what we can really do in patches. We just need to do it for 80 minutes.