Mon 29 April
AMNRL Media and Communications Director Brian Lowe files his latest report from the USA camp as the Tomahawks prepare for their first ever World Cup campaign, this week profiling the nation’s captain Apple Pope.
The captain of the USA Tomahawks is feeling pretty confident going into what is American Rugby League’s biggest achievement to date. And why wouldn’t he?
Apple Pope will lead USA in its first ever Rugby League World Cup in October and if his record as skipper is any indication, American fans should be feeling good about their team’s prospects with the talented hooker leading from the front.
The Tomahawks have won 75 per cent of their games since Pope took over as captain of the side in 2010. He made his international debut in 2009 against Jamaica in Florida in what was the inaugural Atlantic Cup game. The USA came from behind to win on that occasion and then went on to sweep the Reggae Warriors and Canadian Wolverines in the expanded Atlantic Cup series the following year.
It has been onwards and upwards since Pope took on the captaincy and he feels that the prognosis is good for the nation in the year of RLWC2013.
“I feel great! We have been working hard for a long time to get to this point and I’m just happy to be a part of it all,” said Pope.
“From a team standpoint, we are right where we want to be. The boys are working hard through our strength and conditioning program and we're getting prepared for our domestic season, as well as the several internationals we have in the lead up to RLWC2013. It's an exciting year for us and Rugby League in general.”
In its build-up to RLWC2013, the USA is slated to play Samoa in June, before squaring off against archrivals Canada three times between July and September. The Samoan game is penciled in for Hawaii, while the annual Colonial Cup series against the Wolverines will be split between Toronto and Philadelphia.
This schedule takes on extra significance this year as it will provide a platform for the Tomahawks’ coaching staff to get a closer look at domestic players vying for spots on the USA’s RLWC2013 squad.
And Pope admits it’s an imposing schedule.
”It looks like we have a few solid test matches lined up and every one of them is going to be important in our lead up to October.
“We only have a few more times to come together as a team before the World Cup, so these games will be pivotal in our selection process and overall preparation.”
Currently, the American National Rugby League has an extended Elite Player Pool that will form the basis of the Tomahawks’ RLWC2013 squad. It’s a mix of domestic and overseas-based players and eventually it will be trimmed to 24 players who will make the trip to the United Kingdom in the Red, White and Blue.
“These are great times for the USA player pool as we have an abundance of quality players keyed in from both our domestic competition and through heritage,” said Pope.
“We are going to produce some very exciting player combinations come October.”
The captain certainly has faith in his teammates and figures there’s no reason why Team USA can’t defy the odds and enjoy a successful campaign in their first World Cup.
“I rate us as good as any. We have a talented player pool, an elite coaching staff and the desire to represent our country proudly.
“The ability and preparation to win will be there, all we need is the opportunity.”
The Tomahawks face Cook Islands at the Memorial Stadium, Bristol, on October 30, Wales at the Racecouse Ground, Wrexham, on November 3 and Scotland at the Salford City Stadium on November 7.
Tickets are now on sale for RLWC2013, with 55% of tickets priced £20 or less. To make sure you will BE THERE buy now at www.rlwc2013.com or call our 24 Hour Ticket Hotline on 0844 847 2013.