There was a distinct Irish influence in the USA’s 30-29 victory over Scotland in Houston on Saturday night.
Trailing 21-6 just before half-time, the unerring boot of AJ MacGinty helped claw the US Eagles back into the contest before they took the lead with a 59th minute try.
MacGinty, the former Connacht outhalf currently with Sale in the English Premiership, fielded a kick inside his own half before launching a Garryowen that Scottish number eight Matt Fagerson fumbled. MacGinty regathered to send Hanco Germishuys over in the corner. The 28-year-old's touchline conversion put the US 30-24 ahead.
Scotland, captained by Stuart Hogg, forced their way over the try line deep into injury time but Blair Kinghorn missed the conversion.
MacGinty is joined in the history-making American team by Cork flanker John Quill (27 caps since 2012), former Munster under-20 prop Paul Mullen and reserve hooker Dylan Fawsitt, who played flanker on the same 2009 Blackrock schools side as Jordi Murphy and Andrew Conway.
Also, US attack coach is Greg McWilliams, who previously coached St Michael’s College to their first ever Leinster schools title in 2007 and the Ireland women’s side to the 2013 Grand Slam and 2014 World Cup semi-final.
"Paul Mullan can really scrummage," McWilliams explained. "He's from Glenstal Abbey and played up to Irish 19s before coming to America for college so he's been in Texas for about seven years and has done really well this season in the MLR [new professional league].
“AJ was just class, his game management superb, kicked the ball really well and had a great assist for Hanco’s try.”
Dublin-born MacGinty slipped through the Irish talent net, with
the scrumhalf taken into the Leinster Academy at his age grade, prompting a switch to 10 in club rugby and while living in New York (when he rejected an accountancy career to become a barman). Spotted by the former US coach
playing for Life University, his performances at the 2015 World Cup got him a contract at Connacht.
Despite guiding them to the 2016 Pro 14 title, the western province released him as they decided to sign a South African outhalf who lasted only a few months. His 86 per cent kicking accuracy recently secured a new long term contract with Sale.
McWilliams works under head coach Gary Gold, the South African who previously coached in the Springbok set-up and English Premiership, as the US Eagles completed the grand slam of American rugby this season.
"Gary and our forwards coach Shawn Pittman deserve enormous credit. This was a victory built on our defence."
The US play New Zealand Maoris after Ireland versus Italy at Soldier Field, Chicago on November 3rd and they will face Joe Schmidt's men at the Aviva stadium on November 24th.
“We got to get through one more summer series game against Canada before the Maoris and a European tour that ends in Dublin, which is a great opportunity for all of us because we need to be continually testing ourselves against tier one opposition. Ireland and the Maoris is a chance to play better opposition, all with a view of being competitive when we get to Japan.”
The US World Cup Pool includes England, France, Argentina and Tonga.