LONDON (Reuters) - The United States suffered the biggest defeat of the Rugby World Cup when a near second-string side went down 64-0 to South Africa on Wednesday but their coach said it would have been worse in previous tournaments.
With a four-day turn-around until their last Pool B game, the U.S. made 12 changes from the team that led Scotland for 40 minutes before being overrun and were only 14 points down at halftime until the twice world champions cut loose.
But whereas New Zealand once regularly ran up 100-point winning margins and the widest at the last World Cup was South Africa’s 87-0 demolition of Namibia, U.S. coach Mike Tolkin said the narrower losses were proof progress was being made.
“I think moving forward, at this World Cup you don’t see any 80, 90, 100 points scores,” Tolkin told a news conference.
“We had a side out there with virtually no experience in a World Cup and they played against just about a full Springboks side and it’s happened on many occasions in this World Cup already so four years’ time, it will be really interesting to see what happens in these types of matches.”
Tolkin said it would have been just as interesting to see how a full-strength side would have done and that he was not alone in being frustrated at a timetable that he believed would be looked at for future tournaments.
However, he said his side were developing a belief that the more they play the top teams, realizing that they are not super human and the professional set-up he expected to be established in the United States soon would help them to catch up further.
“It’s money, when we leave this tournament our roster of 31, probably about 15 will have to go to work on Monday,” the former English teacher said.
”I think a full-time professional environment for all the players is the first step, I think more exposure to tier one teams has been a benefit for us, within the last year we’ve played New Zealand, Australia, South Africa.
“As soon as we get all those guys into a professional environment and the infrastructure is in place and World Rugby continues to invest in tier two nations, we’ll continue to get a better and more even competition.”
The Americans play Japan in their final game on Sunday.
Editing by Ed Osmond