Friday night the 2nd leg of the Pacific Nations Cup (PNC) stops in Sacramento, in a double header which will feature a match between Fiji and Manu Samoa and Japan vs the USA Eagles. This game is actually a sort of a home game for a few of the Eagles players like Blain Scully, Lou Stanfill, Thretton Palamo and Eric Fry!
Eric Fry a native of Davis (a town just outside of Sacramento) grew up in the Sacramento area. Fry and his Eagle teammate Blain Scully are both products of the high school rugby powerhouse Jesuit High School in Sacramento and both went on to play in the storied UC Berkley program. At Cal, Fry was on four National Championship teams in addition to being a four time All American! Fry’s rugby résumé is impressive for an American Prop. He started to play professionally in New Zealand for the Manawatu Turbos in 2012 (they were the ITM Cup champs last season). He then went on to play professionally in the UK for the London Scottish (2012-14), before moving on to the Aviva Premiership’s Newcastle Falcons in 2014 where he is still playing today.
Fry was part of the Eagles 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC) where he broke into the starting lineup. He enters the match Friday night in Sacramento in front of the home crowd with 27 caps for the Eagles!
We caught up with Eagles starting prop, Eric Fry for a short Q&A about the game this weekend and the rest of the PNC.
Rugby Republic (RR) : What is it like to be in the pool and playing for the upcoming Rugby World Cup (RWC)?
Eric Fry: It’s an honor. These next 6 games are very important to creating a competitive team who will be able to win some games in the World Cup and I’m very grateful to be involved. It’s also a lot of fun being able to spend so much time with the team. Every national team player looks forward to these team assemblies and never more so than when it will culminate in a World Cup
RR: Being that we have one of the PNC games in Sacramento how big a deal is that for you guys personally (to have your friends, family, and old club mates be able to come see you play again)?
Eric Fry: It’s great to be able to train with the US team at Jesuit high school where I first fell in love with rugby. And Sacramento (and Nor Cal) has such a big and welcoming rugby community it’s a real treat to be able to play in front of such a passionate crowd for the second year in a row. And of course it’s great catching up with long time friends and family during the week leading up to the big game, and It’s even better to be able to hear them cheering you on during the game.
RR: How aware are you of the crowd during a game? Are you paying attention, or are you so into the game that you don’t notice, or is it a combo that are times you don’t notice it because you are in a zone, but then at times can feel the energy?
Eric Fry: Most of the time I’m too focused on the game to be aware of the crowd. During play I try to read and anticipate the oppositions and to react to what’s happening around me. Which is what I think most athletes do. But then there are those moments late at the end of a close game, or immediately proceeding a big hit or line break where the energy of the crowd is so strong you can’t help but notice it, and it fuels you to push yourself harder than you previously were.
RR: Last year it seemed like the home crowd in the game vs Canada (in Sac) was a factor for you guys. Do you agree and do you think that the crowd can assist you guys this year?
Eric Fry: I think it was a big factor. The game was in the middle of the day when the Sacramento heat is its most draining, and with out the borrowed energy from such a passionate and boisterous crowd I’m not sure we would have come away with the win. I expect the crowd will be of great help once agin this year against Japan.
RR: Do you think having these international matches here in California will help grow rugby locally?
Eric Fry: Yes of course. I think California is already a hotbed of rugby, but it certainly will only help to bolsters rugby’s popularity by exposing more people to such a great game. I have very fond memories growing up watching local college football games, but knowing what I know now I wish I had the opportunity to go watch high level rugby games.
RR: How can the pack and forwards make an impact in the rest of the PNC? (Interviewer’s forward bias).
Eric Fry: We can do our jobs. Win lineouts and scrums providing the backs with a stable platform from which to attack, and spoiling opposition attacking opportunities. Once that’s taken care of we can win the physical battles around the pitch by putting in big hits and big caries, making sure attacking breakdowns are quick and slowing down opposition possession.
RR: How important are these PNC matches this year for you all to get ready for the RWC?
Eric Fry: These four games play an integral role into forming a group of guys who play all over the US and all over the world into one cohesive team. We haven’t been able to spend this much time together since the last RWC in 2011, and even then we weren’t able to spend two consecutive months together leading into the RWC. By the time we get to England in September I’ve no doubt we’ll see a much more polished and fluid Eagles team take the pitch.
RR: Anything you want to say to the fans that will be coming to the game in Sacramento?
Eric Fry: I hope to see another sell out crowd, and I look forward to celebrating another victory with you after the game!
Thank you to Eric for taking the time out to assist, and good luck on Friday and the rest of the way. As Eagles player Danny Barrett says, #FlyEaglesFly.
Photo-Courtesy of Numinaphotos (www.numinaphotos.com). Follow Eric Fry on Twitter @FryProp