I guess you could say the heat is on.
We're down to the final Americas Rugby Championship (ARC) match, against a very difficult Uruguayan team here in Montevideo on Saturday [kick-off 1.40 p.m. ET], and at the same time it is very hot -- it got up to 40 degrees celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on our last full day of training.
Even so, the boys have handled all of it very well. I remain immensely impressed with how hard the players are working and how much it means to them to represent their country. I know that the ARC is still a relatively new competition, but it's obvious to me that winning it matters to the guys, and they have an enormous amount of pride.
That makes it easier for me as a coach.
This weekend against Uruguay I think will be our toughest assignment so far. We're away from home. We're playing a team that is playing very well and has a good rugby history, and we're playing a team that has an opportunity to win this competition if they beat us.
Uruguay have got it all to play for, and last week they put Chile to the sword more so than we did the week before. The atmosphere will also be quite volatile, but from what I have seen from the U.S. players, and their composure, we should be able to handle it, and the experienced players who have been here before will help.
It's an intense environment and it's made even more intense because the stakes are so high. The guys know this is a very good Uruguayan team.
So how do we approach this? We have to focus on what we've done well, and play our own game and not get drawn into Uruguay's. We've got to be better at certain things, especially just maintaining our mental focus through 80 minutes.
I don't think any coach thinks a team puts in a full 80 minutes, but I know we've had periods where we haven't played well. We haven't really played well enough for long enough. That speaks to concentration.
We've defended well, but I don't think we've defended brilliantly yet, and we can't afford to let in soft tries. The best teams in the world maintain their levels of concentration better, and we need to improve on that. We've chopped and changed our team a bit and when you do that, there's more chance of that concentration drop-off happening, and that's one reason I've tried hard to keep consistency in selection.
I did make a few changes for this week's game, with the most noticeable probably being that we have brought in Paul Lasike in at inside-center, and moved Bryce Campbell to the outside-center position. It will be very interesting to see what Paul does with more time. With Nick Civetta on a suspension, Brendan Daly gets a start in the second row.
All of the guys have been working really hard and for some of them, I know they're disappointed not to get a chance to play. But that doesn't mean I haven't been impressed. Maybe now isn't quite their time.
Hopefully now is this team's time, because it won't be easy.