World Cup ’91-winner gives Women’s Eagles boost

MILL BAY, British Columbia — In preparing for the second match of the Can-Am Series, the Women’s Eagles have drawn on a local for inspiration. Living only minutes away from Shawnigan Lake School, Tam Breckenridge spoke to the team about her experiences in preparing for the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup.

As a member of the 1991 U.S.A. World Cup-winning team, the Vancouver Island resident captivated the players with her stories as an Eagle and the founding of the program.

“It was a tremendous honor for me to talk to the 2014 Women’s Eagles team,” the USA Rugby associate college director said. “I was privileged to represent the 1991 Women’s World Cup team as we marked the 23rd anniversary of our victory.”

Starting in 1987, the lock regaled the current players with how the Eagles were founded, demonstrating that, although the selection notifications were different then, the paths to the World Cup roster are still quite similar.

“We got our selection notification by letter with details of where we were assembling,” laughed Breckenridge. “When we did assemble, there were people that maybe we had heard of, but we had never played with and we just tried to be around each other and get to know each other as much as possible.”

“We wanted to have Tam provide her experience of winning a World Cup.”

“We would go out and murder each other in practice,” Breckinridge recalled. “It wasn’t that we didn’t like each other, but we were so focused on being our best for the World Cup.”

With heated practices for the Women’s Eagles during the Can-Am Series thus far, the players took a sense of relief from the message.

“It made me feel like we were preparing the best way possible to win this series and be at our best for the World Cup,” said Kimber Rozier. “It was incredibly inspiring to hear the history that Tam brought in her journey to the World Cup and that is something that I think we all will take with us and think of as we prepare for our World Cup.”

With only three days between the matches and three months exactly before the World Cup, the players drew motivation from the speech as a whole.

“The impression of it was that not much has changed [with the selection and preparation process],” said Stacey Bridges, who will start at lock Saturday for the Eagles. “The ’91 Eagles would come to an event and they didn’t really have time to prepare, didn’t know who they were playing with, and yet they overcame and still pulled together to win the 1991 World Cup.”

Pete Steinberg hoped that Breckenridge’s presence would help in bringing the team together as the ’91 team had done.

“We wanted to have Tam provide her experience of winning a World Cup,” said the head coach. “Tam is one of a select few people in the world that has played and coached in a World Cup and we wanted her to share her experience of what it takes to win.”

Bridges iterated a similar statement in that, “it’s about us coming together, enjoying the opportunity and experience, playing your best and having fun playing the game.”

However, the Eagles were not the only ones to gain from the speech.

“To walk in the room where the Eagles were meeting was very inspiring,” said Breckenridge. “The 2014 Women’s Eagles team will go on to be the role models for future rugby players throughout our country, and I look forward to watching them continue in the game, on and off the pitch.”

Concluding the speech, the Eagles showed their gratitude for a founding member of the program through a standing ovation.

Breckenridge and the Eagles won the 1991 World Cup by shutting out the Netherlands, Russia, and New Zealand before besting England in the Final. As a coach, Breckenridge joined the 2002 World Cup staff.

The Eagles now look to their final match of the Can-Am Series, which is set to kick off at 3:30 P.M. PT Saturday. Westhills Stadium is scheduled to host the fixture.

Follow the Eagles in their preparations for the 2014 IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup with behind the scenes content or follow the team on Twitter (@USAWomenEagles).