USA Men’s National Team Head Coach Mike Tolkin has made only two changes from the USA team that lost to Tonga June 14 as he names his starting lineup to take on Japan Sunday (local time) in Tokyo.
Taku Ngwenya is not in the 22, and Seamus Kelly will not start, and instead will be on the reserves bench.
In place of Ngwenya, Luke Hume is on the right wing, while Adam Siddall returns to outside center, where he played Wednesday against Fiji. Lou Stanfill, who captained the USA on Wednesday in their loss to Fiji, returns at lock. The veteran second row has been worked hard this spring, and will be asked to front up one more time.
On the subs bench, Cameron Dolan has been picked instead of Graham Harriman, and Liam Murphy comes in after John Quill’s knee injury rules him out.
The rest of the lineup is the same Tolkin used against Tonga, including the somewhat beleaguered flyhalf Toby L’Estrange, who has to be feeling somewhat the responsibility of a faltering offense. Tolkin’s selection there is perhaps a vote of confidence, but his choice of Siddall at center might be a way to have another outside half on the field at the same time.
Siddall will partner with Andrew Suniula, who has the dubious honor of being the only Eagle to score a try in 320 minutes of rugby this season.
The team has spent much of their time between the Fiji and Japan game on film review and meetings. Tolkin has opted not to test them too much on the training field, as this match is the USA’s third in ten days.
The coach said he was happier with the attack against Fiji.
“The guys were more focused on playing through phases and waiting for opportunities,” said Tolkin. “If we didn't drop some of the balls we did and make some dubious kicks, we may have had a better attacking result.”
On defense, the eagles gave up 35 points to Fiji, although the Fijians were somewhat fortunate.
“Defensively, we weren't too bad, but definitely were not as tight as we had been,” said Tolkin. “Having new personnel in there contributed to that. Our tackle rate was good, but a few systems breakdowns allowed holes.”
Two missed calls (a ball coming out of the scrum tunnel and a hit off the ball) contributed to two tries, but failures in team unity (such as a fractured chase on a kick) hurt, too.
Overall, said Tolkin, it has been a growth process. Not the USA faces a Japan team that has beaten both Wales and Canada in recent days.
USA Lineup to Face Japan
1. Shawn Pittman
2. Chris Biller
3. Eric Fry
4. Brian Doyle
5. Lou Stanfill
6. Scott LaValla
7. Peter Dahl
8. Todd Clever
9. Mike Petri
10. Toby L’Estrange
11. James Paterson
12. Andrew Suniula
13. Adam Siddall
14. Luke Hume
15. Chris Wyles
16. Zach Fenoglio
17. Nick Wallace
18. Phil Thiel
19. Cam Dolan
20. Liam Murphy
21. Robbie Shaw
22. Seamus Kelly
23. Blaine Scully