Eagles weigh in on scheduling uproar
The United States Eagles bowed out of the World Cup on Tuesday with a 27-10 loss to Italy amid an uproar over scheduling as they played their fourth match in 16 days.
"It does takes its toll, there's no question. It's a hard slog," said US coach Eddie O'Sullivan, who has previously experienced a more gentle draw when he guided Ireland at the 2003 and 2007 World Cups.
"When you get down to the back end of the pool games, a number of games in a short space of time, you pick up injuries, fatigue.
"All those games against tier ones (established teams) are real killers in terms of what they take out of the team physically and mentally, so I think we're beginning to see daylight appearing now in some other results," he added.
The television demand for leading teams to play at peak times at weekends has left the lesser sides to fill the mid-week roster, playing games as little as four days apart.
Furious Samoan midfielder Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu created an uproar by comparing the treatment of tier-two sides to "slavery, like the holocaust, like apartheid".
His outburst came after Samoa, with a four-day turnaround, lost narrowly 17-10 to a refreshed Wales coming off a seven-day break.
World Cup organisers considered Fuimaono-Sapolu's comments "inappropriate" but took no further action after he apologised.
Scotland coach Andy Robinson underscored the value of a long recovery time when questioned about his side having just three days off between Romania and Georgia, and then 10 days to recuperate before facing Argentina.
"We’ve had two tough games, so we need this break," he said.
Italy coach Nick Mallet plans only one training run in the five days before their crucial match against Ireland to decide the qualifiers from Pool C.
Former All Black Frank Bunce, who is of Samoan descent, said the short turnaround for tier-two teams penalised those "least equipped" to handle the situation, and that was reflected on the field.
"We've seen at World Cup after World Cup they start well, but tend to drop off because you can't keep that intensity up when you have to play again so soon," Bunce said.
But O'Sullivan accepted there was no easy solution given the demands on completing the tournament of 48 matches within an acceptable timeframe.
"I'd like to have more time between games... (but) we knew the plan coming in and we had a strategy for dealing with it and I'm pretty pleased that strategy worked pretty well," he said.
The United States beat Russia and ran close to tier one sides Ireland (22-10) and Italy, with their only severe hiding being a 67-5 loss to Australia when O'Sullivan elected to rest all his top players.