I was very honored to get picked to captain the Eagles for this last Americas Rugby Championship home game against Chile, and I was also pretty excited because of the team we're putting together.
With Blaine Scully having gone back to the Cardiff Blues, head coach Gary Gold made me captain, and my first thought was not to change much. Blaine and I are two different people, but I think the team responds better to consistent leadership.
So, even though I probably wear my emotions on my sleeve a bit more than Blaine, I wasn't going to do anything too crazy. It's good that we have some guys who have stepped up in leadership roles.
We needed that experience after the first half against Chile. We got off to a good start, but it was kind of like the game against Canada. We had some decent passages of play, but we were also too loose with the ball and we made some poor adjustments to the referee and how he was calling the breakdown.
We were up 10-3 at half-time, but we knew there were some things we needed to sort out. Usually when we go into the half-time break, the guys get a minute or two to catch our breath and switch off. Then the coaches come in and we break into units and communicate through adjustments with specific groups.
Then we come together as a whole team, and the head coach addresses us. This time, Gary called to one of my teammates and said: "What do you think I'm going to say?" Instead of relaying what would have likely been a stern message, he said what needed to be said -- that we just needed to burn the first half, and focus on the second half.
So, then I get the guys for a few seconds and I reminded them that even though last year we beat Chile 57-9, it was only 17-6 at half-time. We didn't break the game open until the 45th or 50th minute. I said: "This second half we're going to have to get the party started!"
This is serious business, but it's also fun, and it's supposed to be fun for the fans, who respond positively if they see us enjoying what we're doing. Saying that was a way of getting us to relax and do the things we know we can do.
And we did pretty well. Dylan Audsley scored a great team try early on and Bryce Campbell followed with another, and we were rolling from there onto a 45-13 victory.
This team is very process-oriented, and I think we're a mentally stronger rugby team for that. It's how we maintain the emotional drive and keep the level of physicality up. But getting the crowd into the game helps us, and it helps drive that momentum. We did that.
So now we go to South America for two very tough games against Brazil and Uruguay. Everyone remembers that in 2016 we were unbeaten going to play those two countries on the road and we lost.
We embrace the reality, and the reality is, it's going to be a hostile environment. We have a target on our backs, and as a rugby country there aren't many times where we are the guys everyone is trying to take shots at. It's good to be in that situation but it's also important that our team is mentally tough enough to be able to handle being the team that's in the lead.
We're embracing the reality that it's going to be tough, but if we keep tight and keep growing as a team, we know we will get better by doing the right things.