Rugby World Cup
Samoa emotional for Thretton Palamo, who chose Eagles over land of father
Rob Bartlett
September 20, 2015
Samoa make most of possession

For USA centre Thretton Palamo, playing against Samoa is always emotional. His father, Arona, played nine Test matches for the Pacific Islanders between 1979 and 1982, and Thretton himself represented Samoa at Under-20 level. However, when the age deadline approached, he opted to play for his country of birth instead.

"It was mixed emotions out there," Palamo told ESPN after he had played for the Eagles in their opening World Cup defeat in Brighton. "I played with some of these boys in the [Samoa] Under-20s. It was a cool and proud experience."

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There was also disappointment as the Eagles suffered a 25-16 defeat at Brighton Community Stadium, the scene of Japan's historic triumph over South Africa on Saturday, which dealt a serious blow to their quarterfinal aspirations. Despite a spirited performance, USA could not replicate Japan's heroics and were instead left cursing their own mistakes - which could prove costly as they hope to reach the last eight for the first time.

"It will be hard but anything can happen," Palamo said. "Japan proved that. That's what the World Cup is all about - running high on emotions - so we'll see how it goes. In our heads, we thought we had this game [against Samoa]. It's always the mistakes that we've made, which is why we couldn't get over the top today. We were in their zone five times and we messed up far too much.

"But, at the same time, you can't blame the boys. They've played their hearts out and it's tough to take."

© LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)

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The match was made available on pay-per-view television in America, the latest example of rugby's rapid rise across the States, but there was still an underlying frustration that their promising showing against Samoa was not made widely available back home.

"It's hard - even though it's the States, you get emails saying people can't see the game," Palamo said. "That's how the game grows. You need it on TV to inspire the kids who are growing up. Hopefully then you'll get some home players coming through. It's the fastest-growing sport in the States; we know it's growing but for us it's not growing as fast as we want it to."

There is still hope in the USA dressing room, though, and the Eagles now leave Brighton for Leeds and a clash against Vern Cotter's Scotland at Elland Road on Sunday. For Palamo, he will always have fond memories of England's south coast - even if he didn't get to build a sandcastle.

"Brighton is nice," Palamo said. "We were right on the beach; I'm from California so I'm used to that. The thing that shocked me was the rocks on the beach; that was kind of weird. I was expecting some sand; I wanted to make some sandcastles."

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