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08/27/2015, 2:30pm EDT
By Admin

With 30 test caps to his name and a Facebook group dedicated to his beard, Phil Thiel is one of the most popular Men’s Eagles amongst fans. After making three appearances during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Thiel stepped away from the pitch for a year-and-a-half. Since his return in 2013, the Life University hooker has been a mainstay in the front row, recently earned captaincy for the USA Rugby Selects during their spring tour in Argentina, and donned the ‘C’ in the Eagles’ July 29 clash against Tonga.

The next opportunity to see Thiel and his infamous beard is Aug. 22 against Canada. Watch the match live on ESPN 3 and the WatchESPN digital platform.

See the Eagles take on Harlequins in Philadelphia >>

Return to Soldier Field to meet the Wallabies of Australia >>

USA Rugby: Playing club rugby for Life, you’ve won National Championships and most recently helped them win the inaugural American Rugby Premiership. Do you believe play at the senior club level has improved in recent years?

Phil: I think it has, yes. You see guys coming through that are much more prepared for the international game. There is a ton of room for improvement, especially in organization and quantity of quality games, but we are seeing competitive improvement, which is a great sign and a testament to the growth of the game and the people growing it.

USA Rugby: Many coaches tend to recruit former wrestlers to play rugby. As a former wrestler yourself, what skills and attributes do elite wrestlers have that make them desirable to rugby coaches?

Phil: The biggest things wrestling teaches you is how to leverage your own body to manipulate others, and how to work hard. In wrestling, win or lose, it’s just you on the mat, no one to point a finger at or save you if you mess up. I think that is important for rugby. It’s the ultimate team sport, but at the end of the day, you have to be accountable to yourself, and to your team, to do your job.

USA Rugby: You had a trial run with the Saracens of the Aviva Premiership last year. What was the experience like and what did it teach you about your individual game?

Phil: It taught me so much about how to think about the game. They analyze every detail, and you see that in their play and success. I basically learned that I have a lot to learn. Also, their culture was amazing and I am very thankful for my time there.

USA Rugby: Which teammates would you least like to room with on tour and why?

Phil: In all honesty I’ve never had a bad roommate on tour. Some guys snore a little or a lot, but overall we have a really good bunch of guys and we get along pretty well. I have had my own room once or twice due to circumstance, and I can tell you that is worse than any roommate I’ve ever had on the team.

USA Rugby: What’s your favorite ‘cheat-day’ meal?

Phil: Pizza or any kind of Asian buffet, those can be troublesome.

USA Rugby: What’s your post match beverage of choice?

Phil: I love a Coke the night after a game.

USA Rugby: If you could/were forced to play in the backline, which position would you play and why?

Phil: I always thought I would make a not-terrible inside center. I’m sure our centers would have fun with that if I ever had the chance to test my theory, though.

USA Rugby: What are your personal and team goals / aspirations between now and RWC 2015?

Phil: Personally, I want to perform to the best of my ability and do whatever I can to help the team succeed. As a team, I know our aspirations are to grow through our process-driven approach and reach our potential, whatever that may be. We will have opportunities to play great rugby, and we want to be ready when those opportunities arise.

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