USA Hawks ready to take down Hayne Plane in World Cup clash

USA Hawks backrower Joe Eichner isn’t backing down from anyone in his Rugby League World Cup debut — not even Fijian superstar Jarryd Hayne.
USA Hawks ready to take down Hayne Plane in World Cup clash

TRENT SLATTER, Townsville Bulletin

Eichner is one of the true homegrown American talents in the USA squad, which will give up almost 1000 games of NRL experience to Fiji in Saturday’s clash at 1300SMILES Stadium.

Eddy Pettybourne, Junior Vaivai, and Bureta Faraimo are the only Hawks to have featured in the Australian first-grade competition compared to the star-studded Bati line-up which includes Hayne, Kevin Naiqama, and Suliasi Vunivalu among their 21 NRL-contracted players.

Florida native Eichner has played just one game for the Toronto Wolfpack in the third-tier English League 1 this season along with four appearances for the USA prior to the World Cup.

But the 26-year-old said he thrived under the pressure of coming up against more experienced rivals, declaring that one-time NFL convert Hayne would be a definite target for the Hawks.

“I saw him for a little bit for the year that he was there (in the NFL). I was pulling for him to really do well,” Eichner said. “I’m excited to be running up against him. Hopefully we can lay a shot on him. This is my first World Cup and I’m looking forward to what we can do. I really want to put on a show for everybody. I play better under the pressure. It really won’t sink in until game day because I keep it in the back of my head, but it’s a once in a lifetime experience.”

USA were the surprise packets of the 2013 World Cup in England as they made the quarterfinals, even inspiring The Wiggles to pen an anthem about their feats called “Shock the World”.

That side featured considerably more NRL talents including skipper Joseph Paulo, but Eichner believed they had laid the platform for Team USA to make another fairytale run this year.

“Those boys set the stage for us and we can only go up from there. We hope we can pull out a big win against Fiji and then look towards Italy,” he said.

Eichner discovered the rugby codes during his time at the University of North Florida in 2010 before joining the Jacksonville Axemen in the USA Rugby League competition.

The 188cm forward played baseball growing up, but Eichner said he had now fallen in love with the physicality and camaraderie of rugby league.

“The camaraderie’s the biggest thing, there’s no sport like it. You make lifelong friends from every part of the world,” Eichner said.

“It’s a brutal sport and it definitely takes its toll on the body, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

2017 Rugby League World Cup

When, where: Oct. 27-Dec. 2, in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea
Teams: Australia, England, Fiji, France, Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Scotland, Tonga, United States, Wales
Last champion (2013): Australia

Team USA group stage schedule
Oct. 28: U.S. vs. Fiji, Townsville Stadium, Townsville, Australia
Nov. 5: U.S. vs. Italy, Townsville Stadium, Townsville, Australia
Nov. 12: U.S. vs. Papua New Guinea, National Football Stadium, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

How to Watch the Rugby League World Cup
Catch all the Rugby League World Cup 2017 Action with Fox Sports TV and Online. FS2 Channel features USA Hawks games with Fox Soccer Plus Channel broadcasting select tournament events. Catch all the action ONLINE with Fox Soccer Match Pass