Compressed Schedule Headaches
Following the release of the finalized match schedule and venues for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, the American National Rugby League will now busy itself with formalizing plans for the Tomahawks’ Cup campaign.
The USA has three Group D matches in England and Wales in what will be a compressed schedule. The Americans will play all three of those contests within one week.
The Tomahawks open up against the Cook Islands at Memorial Stadium in Bristol on Wednesday, October 30. That game will be followed by what is already shaping up as a pivotal contest for the USA when it takes on co-hosts Wales at the famous Racecourse Stadium at Wrexham on Sunday, November 3.
The Tomahawks’ final preliminary round game sees them face off against Scotland in a Group D/C crossover match at Salford City Stadium on Thursday, November 7.
The winner of Group D will advance to the opening round of the 2013RLWC playoffs, but it will be a very tough and unenviable assignment as they will go up against the winner of Group A, which contains the likes of world #1 Australia and #3 England. Both of those countries are expected to go through to the money rounds.
Given their current #11 world ranking by the RLIF, the Tomahawks should be expected to handle #16 Cook Islands in their first game, and given #10 Scotland’s patchy recent form and what appears to be an inconsistent buildup to the World Cup, the USA should be rated a better than even money chance of posting a W in that one, leaving the Welsh game as a potential Cup campaign make or break contest.
However, because of the nature of the USA’s compressed schedule, the Tomahawks’ coaching staff will need to deal with additional variables.
Head coach Matt Elliott and assistant coaches Marcus Vassilakopoulos and Steve Johnson will be forced to weigh up the option of resting their gun starters against the Cook Islands in order to ensure they have their strongest possible lineup to field against Wales, although in doing so they could risk an upset loss against the Cooks, not to mention potential injuries, which could end up derailing the Tomahawks’ campaign.
A compressed schedule creates an unenviable scenario for the Tomahawks coaches and none of this is lost on American National Rugby League president David Niu, who is very much aware of the permutations associated with a compressed schedule, and as such, is already mapping out options for the USA’s national team.