BOULDER, Colo. – USA 15s Head Coach Eddie O’Sullivan has taken another step toward naming his Rugby World Cup (RWC) team by narrowing the squad to 36 players for the August build-up.
The squad will play a home and away series with Canada on August 6 (Toronto) and August 13 (Glendale, Colo.) before heading across the Pacific to take on Japan in their last pre-RWC fixture. All games will be shown on Universal Sports.
Several of the Eagles are currently training in Glendale, Colo., with strength & conditioning coach Dave Williams. The full team will assemble and travel to Canada on July 31 for the first of three RWC warm-up matches, starting at BMO Field in Toronto on August 6.
"The player pool is now reduced to 36 players and the final RWC squad of 30, that will travel to New Zealand, will likely come from this pool,” commented O’Sullivan.
“Although with three test matches in August, there is always the possibility of injuries, which may open up a late call up for some players who could come from inside or outside this pool of 36."
The Eagles last played Canada in 2009 as part of the RWC qualifying process, winning the first clash 12-6, and going down 41-18 in the second. Canada is currently ranked 16th on the IRB world rankings, one place ahead of the USA. Japan has improved tremendously over the last few years, moving into 12th place on the IRB world rankings.
"The three warm-up tests will be very important in terms of making the final selections for the RWC squad and getting players up to match speed before our first pool game on September 11 against Ireland.
It is also important we give players an opportunity to stake a claim for RWC spots while at the same time continue to build solid performances over the three weeks in camp," explained the Eagles Head Coach.
One omission from the squad is San Francisco Golden Gate lock Samu Manoa, who has signed a professional contract with English Premiership Club, Northampton Saints.
"Samu Manoa will not be traveling to the World Cup. He signed a contract during the spring with English Premiership side Northampton Saints. Unfortunately, a clause in his contract prevents him from traveling to the RWC. While I wish Samu every success as a professional rugby player and respect his decision to take up a contract overseas, it is disappointing we were only made aware of his unavailability for RWC as recently as three weeks ago," expressed O’Sullivan.
The Eagles squad consists of 18 forwards and 18 backs, and is boosted by the availability of several professionals that did not take part in the recent Churchill Cup.
Selected in the front row are Eric Fry, Will Johnson, Mike MacDonald, Mate Moeakiola and Shawn Pittman. MacDonald was not available last month, so the Leeds Carnegie captain will be fresh for the RWC build-up. The hookers include Chris Biller, Phil Thiel and Brian McClenahan. Both Biller and Thiel took part in the Churchill Cup, with Olympic Club’s McClenahan getting an opportunity to impress selectors.
John van der Giessen, Hayden Smith, Scott LaValla and Cameron Dolan make up the lock combinations. Dolan, who was part of the successful All-American squad that defeated the New Zealand Universities 2-1 in a three-match series this month, joins the experienced pack. The loose forwards are Inaki Basauri, Pat Danahy, JJ Gagiano, Nic Johnson, Louis Stanfill, and Todd Clever who will captain the squad.
In the backs, Saracens fullback Chris Wyles returns to action after helping his club side win the 2011 Premiership title earlier this year. Also at fullback are Blaine Scully and Mike Palefau. On the wing Taku Ngwenya is back after another excellent season at Biarritz. The three other wings are Kevin Swiryn, Colin Hawley and Zack Test.
The centers listed are Paul Emerick, Tai Enosa, Troy Hall, Junior Sifa and Andrew Suniula. The flyhalves are veteran Nese Malifa and the utility man, Roland Suniula. Lastly, the scrumhalves for the squad will be Mike Petri, Robbie Shaw and Tim Usasz.
Several versatile players in the squad could find themselves playing different positions during this tour, if required.
James Paterson, who has been playing wing for the Otago Highlanders in the Super 15, will travel with the squad if he passes a fitness test upon his arrival in Colorado at the end of July.
USA EAGLES RWC PRELIMINARY SQUAD
Inaki Basauri (L' Aquila), Chris Biller (San Francisco Golden Gate), Todd Clever (Suntory Sungoliath, Japan), Pat Danahy (Life University), Cameron Dolan (Life University), Eric Fry (Las Vegas Blackjacks), JJ Gagiano (Univ. of Cape Town), Nic Johnson (Unattached), Will Johnson (London Irish), Scott LaValla (Stade Francais), Mike MacDonald (Leeds Carnegie), Brian McClenahan (Olympic Club), Mate Moeakiola (Bobigny 93), Shawn Pittman (London Welsh), Hayden Smith (Saracens), Louis Stanfill (Mogliano), Phil Thiel (Life University), John van der Giessen (Utah Warriors)
Paul Emerick (Life University), Tai Enosa (Belmont Shore), Troy Hall (New York Athletic Club), Colin Hawley (Olympic Club), Nese Malifa (Glendale), Taku Ngwenya (Biarritz), Mike Palefau (Utah Warriors), James Paterson (Otago Highlanders), Mike Petri (New York Athletic Club), Blaine Scully (University of California - Berkeley), Robbie Shaw (Bristol Rugby), Junior Sifa (Nottingham RFC), Andrew Suniula (Chicago Griffins), Roland Suniula (Boston Rugby), Kevin Swiryn (Agen), Zack Test (Unattached), Tim Usasz (Nottingham RFC), Chris Wyles (Saracens)
RWC BUILD-UP SCHEDULE
August 6, 2011: USA v. Canada (BMO Field, Toronto, Canada)
August 10, 2011: USA Selects v. Glendale Selects (Infinity Park, Glendale CO)
August 13, 2011: USA v. Canada (Infinity Park, Glendale, CO)
August 21, 2011: USA v. Japan (Tokyo, Japan)
RWC 2011 SCHEDULE | NEW ZEALAND
September 11, 2011: USA vs. Ireland (New Plymouth)
September 15, 2011: USA vs. Russia (New Plymouth)
September 23, 2011: USA vs. Australia (Wellington)
September 27, 2011: USA vs. Italy (Nelson)