USA Rugby vs Ireland: Coaching Staffs Talk to Bleacher Report

Jeff Hull@@HullatHomeContributor IIIJune 4, 2013

Todd Clever was at today's press conference in Houston.
Todd Clever was at today's press conference in Houston.Sandra Mu/Getty Images

USA Rugby head coach Mike Tolkin knows he and his squad will be in a tough spot on June 8, when they face the might of Ireland at Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium. Coach Tolkin's Irish counterpart, Les Kiss was equally cautious, as the two teams begin their final preparations for Saturday's clash.

Today was the pre-match press conference, and Bleacher Report had the chance to talk to both coaches about their preparations and their areas of focus.

For Ireland, playing in Houston brings more than just the challenge of their American opponents. Coach Kiss spoke to us about some of Ireland's innovative and cost-effective preparations for playing in the 90-degree temperatures that the team is likely to encounter this weekend.

"As anyone who has been to Ireland knows, you don't generally get the extreme weather conditions that you do here. So, our strength and conditioning coach came up with the idea of putting the guys under a bit of pressure. We wanted to show them what it is to deal with so much sweating and how much in the way of fluids they would have to take in.

So, our way of doing this was to put a garbage bag under the jersey in training, and the boys did sweat profusely. These are just some of the little things we do to make sure the players are prepared as much as possible."

While the heat is sure to be the most unique factor the Irish will have to deal with, team cohesion is surely the most important. As our exclusive Bleacher Report preview explained, Ireland have arrived in Houston with more than a dozen of their first-choice players either injured or away on leave with the British and Irish Lions tour.

Coach Kiss was clear that this was a challenge they knew they would have to address coming in.

"You are right that we have brought a lot of players that aren't used to playing with each other, and we have some young players in this team. We have started with a large focus on the basics of the game. To be truthful, we have tried to prepare our game around a good solid forward platform.

"We know that if we can get our forward pack in the right place, that we have a very talented young back line that can actually do some damage; but it won't happen if we don't create the time and space that we need to."

Meanwhile, Mike Tolkin is also battling to gel a team that has recently seen the return of stars such as Northapton's Samu Manoa and Biarritz flyer Takudzwa Ngwenya.

"As this is their first time playing together as a squad, we have really been working on continuity and continuity of play. We want to be on the same page in attack and defence and really be as continuous as we can in our game plan. 

"We have had some time with players in Colorado, prior to this match, but this will be the first time this group of players has been together, as we have had many players meet us here in Houston."

When asked what some of the other challenges were that he was discussing with his players, Tolkin joined his Irish colleague in factoring in the weather.

"It's definitely a battle against the conditions too. I think it will be harder on the Irish, but it's still a challenge. When you are playing a very physical game and the weather becomes a factor, we have to be mentally hard. We are playing a good enough opponent, and then you add in the weather on top of that. We will really have to ready ourselves mentally."

The weather conditions this weekend may indeed be intense, but the battles on the field are likely to be more so. 

The tension is building ahead of what is surely going to be one of the biggest American rugby events in 2013. 

The USA Rugby Eagles will kickoff against Ireland at Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium at 7:30pm, this Saturday.

We'll bring you a complete match report, including comments from the post-match press conference, right here, on Bleacher Report.

Jeff Hull is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

Unless otherwise stated, the quotes in this article were obtained first-hand.

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