TOULOUSE, France >> Little has been expected of the United States ahead of its tournament debut at the upcoming rugby league World Cup.
After a remarkable victory in their only warm-up match, however, they could be ready to surprise some people.
The USA Tomahawks pulled off a surprise 22-18 win over fourth-ranked France in Toulouse on Friday, for one of the country’s best results.
“This is a real shot in the arm for USA rugby league,” U.S. coach Terry Matterson said. “We have traveled far and wide to get here.”
The Tomahawks, who will play Wales, the Cook Islands and Scotland in group matches at the World Cup starting Oct. 26 in England and Wales, have players in its 24-man squad that have experience in Australia’s NRL and Europe’s Super League so will not be the pushovers some had expected.
“I just want the guys to play to the best of their ability in the three World Cup games and if they do that we have a chance at winning each,” Matterson added.
The victory in the south of France was even more surprising given the team’s build-up to the match.
They only held their first World Cup training session the day before the match. In the week leading up to playing France, the players spent 39 hours travelling in planes, trains, buses and cabs.
Meanwhile, Matterson, an Australian who is an assistant coach at NRL side North Queensland Cowboys, was only appointed to his role 13 days ago after Matthew Elliott and Brian Smith stepped down.
Four key players — Eddy Pettybourne, Ryan McGoldrick, Clint Newton and Joel Luani — were also missing.
However, Mike Garvey, David Marando, Matt Shipway and Kristian Freed scored tries for the 12th-ranked Tomahawks, who held on in the closing stages despite being reduced to 12 players after a yellow card.
“At the end of the day this was a friendly and it served its purpose but it will give us a lot of confidence,” Matterson said.
The Tomahawks’ first World Cup group match is against the Cook Islands on Oct. 30.