Throwback Thursday: U.S. 'out-Franced' in Spain World Cup

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A unique form of pool play at Women’s Rugby World Cup 1998 prioritized winning for knockout seedings, meaning the Women’s Eagles had their most important matchup in just their second game of the tournament. With a loss, they would be kept from a Final for the first time in four world championships.

France’s women’s team had kicked off international play 15 years earlier, and had a standard set before it by a men’s team that had finished in the top three of the Rugby World Cup in three of four quadrennials. The French had finished third in their ’94 WRWC campaign, but had never played the U.S. before the ’02 meeting.

“I know we were the better team, and I know the players know they were the better team,” former Eagle and ’02 assistant coach Tam Breckenridge said. “France knew we were more athletic and that we would want to run on them. They really slowed the game down and did the stuff France does that’s frustrating and takes you out of your own game plan. We weren’t able to adjust to some of that.

“That was a pivotal game we needed to win and should’ve won, but didn’t. That was the one regret we had in the tournament.”

The disappointing, 21-9, result against France did not lower morale in the squad, which understood the loss meant a highest-possible placing at the World Cup would be outside the top four. Australia also kept the U.S. to a lone try in a 17-5 Fifth-Place Semifinal win, however, before Martin Gallagher’s side finished strong against Spain, 23-5, to capture seventh place.

“The team pulled together and played really well overall,” Breckenridge said. “We had good athletes in the forwards and backs. We knew what to expect going into games. You just lose that one game and all of a sudden your back’s against the wall, playing for fifth or seventh. We were a better team that didn’t get a chance to show it.

“That’s the way those tournaments are.”

After capping 23 players and leading the Eagles to a 5-6 record as head coach, Gallagher resigned in the summer of 2002. He cited personal and professional commitments elsewhere as reasons for leaving, but also recognized it was “a good time for USA Rugby and the Women’s National Team to explore new options and look forward to the next World Cup cycle.”

Later that year, the Eagles got a new head coach; one with which they were very familiar.

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USA Women’s Eagles | Women’s Rugby World Cup 2002

Hedwig Aerts – New York Rugby Football Club

Kristin Baja – Washington Furies Rugby Football Club

Libby Caplan – University of Northern Iowa

Jen Crouse – Beantown Women’s Rugby Football Club

Kim Cyganik – Maryland Stingers Women’s Rugby Football Club

Stacey Davis – East Bay Bulldogs Women’s Rugby Club

Shari Dahlberg – Wisconsin Women’s Rugby Football Club

Jill Fenske – University of California, Los Angeles Women’s Rugby

Nancy Fitz (C)Washington Women’s Rugby Football Club

Stacey Foley – Keystone Rugby Club

Cynthia Gehrke – Wisconsin Women’s Rugby Football Club

Heather Hale (VC)Washington Women’s Rugby Football Club

Patty Jervey – Atlanta Harlequins Women’s Rugby Club

Ellie Karvoski – New York Rugby Football Club

Liz Kirk – Seattle Rugby Football Club

Phaidra Knight – Wisconsin Women’s Rugby Football Club

Elizabeth Lake – Minnesota Valkyries Rugby Football Club

Kerry McCabe – Beantown Women’s Rugby Football Club

Becky Metzger – Maryland Stingers Women’s Rugby Football Club

Meredith Ottens – Minnesota Valkyries Rugby Football Club

Inés Rodriguez – Keystone Rugby Club

Myra Sandquist-Reuter – Twin Cities Amazons

Jen Sikora – Keystone Rugby Club

Katie Stewart – New York Rugby Football Club

Bex Wallison – New York Rugby Football Club

Alex Williams – Berkeley Women’s All Blues Rugby Club

Martin Gallagher – Head Coach

Tam Breckenridge – Forwards Coach

George Metuarau – Backs Coach

James J. Sullivan, Ph.D – Strenth & Conditioning Coach

Katie Wilson – Team Physiotherapist

Jane Tierney – Team Manager