Falcons Prop Eric Fry speaks about his inclusion in the USA Eagles squad for the Americas Rugby Championship.
As Eric Fry prepares for a potential involvement as a substitute in this afternoon’s Aviva Premiership match against Harlequins, there is a second competition drawing increasingly close for preparation.
Earlier this week Loosehead Prop Fry and his Falcons’ team mate Todd Clever were both named in the USA Eagles squad for the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship which kicks off next Saturday in Houston.
Since making his debut against Tonga in the 2011 Churchill Cup match, 36-times capped Fry has become a regular fixture of the USA team, something he hopes will continue under new head coach Jon Mitchell.
“It’s an exciting time,” California-born Fry explains, “It’s sad to see Mike Tolkin go because he’s been part of the Eagles for a long time but in Jon they’ve brought in somebody who is very technically knowledgeable, and has a good record so it’ll be exciting to see what different aspects he brings to the table.”
Mitchell’s first squad includes a number of changes from that which took part in last year’s Rugby World Cup, Fry one of just eleven players to have taken part in the tournament while 12 of the squad are in line for debut international caps in the tournament.
“It’s not much of a surprise to see such a young squad; it’s a difficult window to get your internationals released for, especially with this being the first year of the tournament and with the European clubs being made aware of this window so late.
“In terms of development of US rugby though it’s great to be able to pull in depth and to get those younger less experienced guys playing in more international games. “
Including the six top ranked national rugby teams from around the Americas, the first ever Americas Rugby Championship will kick off next weekend, adding a number of all-important events to the Eagles’ annual fixture list.
Fry explains: “I think when you talk to Americans and ask them why we’re still struggling to push into that top tier, a lot of that has to do with the amount of high level international games we get. So adding another five into our calendar year is massive for us; it means a lot in terms of depth and experience and it should really help to continue to push us into that top tier.”
The Eagles’ first opponents in the tournament will be Argentina, a team that are something of an unknown quantity for Fry.
“When I played my first game for the Eagles in 2010, that was more of a developmental game against the Argentina Jaguars, but that’s the only time I’ve seen them across the pitch. I haven’t played against them any time since so they’ll be a good challenge.”
The following weekend will involve a match up against much more familiar foes when they take on Canada in Austin, Texas.
“It’s always fun to play Canada and we always play that game quite close to the northern neighbours so it’s a good game to play in!”
Tournament organisers are also hopeful that the upcoming tournament will capitalise on a buzz that’s been building steadily about USA rugby for a number of years now and help to cement the sport’s place amongst hearts and minds of the American public.
“The excitement of rugby is growing a lot, especially the last couple of years with Sevens and the Olympics and then the All Blacks coming over for the game at Soldier Fields and the 2015 World Cup.
“Just a couple of months ago there was the announcement of a professional league starting, and now you have this inaugural ARC which were trying to make like the Americas Six Nations. All of these things should really be contributing to some solid momentum which is exciting for everybody involved!”
Before heading away on international duty Eric Fry will start this afternoon's Aviva Premierhip game as a substitute for the Falcons against Harlequins (ko 3pm). Tickets for that game are still available to buy online, in person from the Kingston Park Stadium Box Office or by calling the Falcons' 24 hour Ticket Hotline on 0871 226 6060, starting from £15 for adults and £7.50 for juniors.
For more information on the USA's Americas Rugby Championship campaign click here.