USA captain Joseph Paulo believes that the Tomahawks can be the catalysts for a Rugby League revolution in America, as his side embarks on their first-ever Rugby League World Cup against Cook Islands at the Memorial Stadium, Bristol, on Wednesday evening (8.00pm).
Paulo, who plies his trade in the NRL for Parramatta Eels, wants to use Rugby League World Cup 2013 as a springboard from which to catapult the game into the national limelight in America. And having hinted at their potential with a victory over France in their World Cup warm-up match, Paulo insists the dream is achievable.
“We were happy with that victory over France and people are now looking at us a bit differently,” said Paulo. “We are not just here to make up the numbers, we are here to compete.
“For sure we can do something at this tournament, we really want to and that was our motto, ‘shock the world’. We are just ready to do our thing when we can.
“Obviously we want to win games, but our focus is to compete and to really develop our domestic players – they are going to take a lot out of this and they are going to create great memories and have fun.
“I look at my team and we don’t have big names, we don’t have many Super League or NRL players, but we have heart and I think ‘Wow, we just beat France.’
“I was just so proud of the boys and their efforts. France are a big team and I thought before the match that it was going to be a tough game.
“It was the biggest victory for the Tomahawks and to be a part of making that history is just great, and hopefully we can create some more history.
“I am pretty excited for the tournament, we have got a lot of confidence and we have got good team bonding going on. Our first game is against the Cook Islands, so that is our focus at the moment.”
The USA went through an unsettling period during their preparations for RLWC2013, until their coaching vacancy was filled by former Castleford coach Terry Matterson. He now leads the American side into a tournament that Paulo hopes will change his country’s attitude towards Rugby League.
“Terry is a great coach, he has just brought a great mood into the team,” said Paulo. “He has told us to enjoy it, to make the most out of it and to make memories out of it. For three or four weeks, it is an experience you are never going to get again.
“Obviously we are starting from the ground upwards, but this is great for the Tomahawks, we are setting it up for the next generation of Rugby League players.
“I just hope that from this tournament we can hopefully progress and do something special that will convince 1,000 kids in America to pick up a rugby ball and play Rugby League.
“You look at every team here and we have probably got the biggest population. Just being a part of the tournament, hopefully we can make a difference in some way.
“We are pretty much the ambassadors for American Rugby League so it is a challenge for us to put in the performances and it will be special times when kids start to play the sport.”
USA head coach Terry Matterson has named his 19 man squad to play Cook Islands at Memorial Stadium on Wednesday (20:00)
1. Kristian Freed
2. Bureta Faraimo
3. Michael Garvey
4. Loto Tagaloa
5. Matt Petersen
6. Joseph Paulo (C)
7. Craig Priestly
8. Junior Paulo
9. Joel Luani
10. Eddy Pettybourne
11. Clint Newton
12. Matt Shipway
13. Daniel Howard
14. Tui Samoa
15. Mark Offerdahl
16. Stephen Howard
17. Les Soloai
18. David Marando
19. Judah Lavulo