Tuesday, June 7, 2011

USA vs Tonga - Churchill Cup Preview


After fielding a second-string side and losing badly to the England Saxons, the United States national mens rugby team has a different look to it as the Eagles get ready for their second Churchill Cup match on Wednesday. The USA Eagles will take on Tonga in a full international with IRB World Rankings on the line as well as Churchill Cup positioning with the USA needing a win to avoid finishing bottom of the table in their group. Tonga will be playing its first match before taking on the England Saxons on the weekend. It is to only be the fourth ever international match played between the two countries and the first since Rugby World Cup 2007 when Tonga defeated the USA Eagles 25-15 in Montpellier, France. The other two encounters saw one win per side with Tonga winning 29-6 in Tonga in 2000 and the USA winning 30-10 in San Francisco, California one year earlier. Such is the prospects of a big game that according to IRB World Rankings the two sides are neck-and-neck with the USA ranked 16th in the world and Tonga 17th with only 0.34 points separating the countries. Hopefully fixtures between the sides can become far more regular. Wednesday´s match will be played in the English city of Esher.

Tonga is coached by former All Black Isitolo Maka who has named Perpignan tighthead prop Kisi Pulu, as his sides captain. The Tongan side includes a number of professional players and features the return of former Brive centre, Suka Hufanga. It also features a number of amateur players. The USA, Similarly, are a combination of professional and amateur but despite 13 changes the side is not at full strength. English based professionals including those from the champion winning Saracens, Hayden Smith and Chris Wyles are not in the side. it will, however, be a much stronger side with Paul Emerick returning at centre, captain and backrower, Todd Clever starting in the backrow, Shawn Pittman in the frontrow and Kevin Swiryn on the left wing. Scott LaValla keeps his place in the secondrow after scoring the only try for the USA Eagles in Saturday´s loss to the England Saxons and will be joined by regular first choice blindside flanker, Louis Stanfill in the secondrow. This will enable the USA to have more speed around the part by effectively playing with four backrowers. John van der Giessen is thus on the bench.

Curiousity: The USA´s nick-name is the Eagles while the nick-name for the Tongan national side is Ikali Tahi which means Sea Eagle.

Key Matchup: Paul Emerick vs Suka Huffanga looms as defining for both sides. The defence of bother players will be put to the test as will the running game. Whoever gets the better of the other will go a long way to contributign to a victory for his country.

Prediction: Massive battle up front with Tonga to do well in the frtonrow and the USA to impressive in the loose. Both sides have some inexperienced backs with Kevin Swiryn of Agen looming as a key attacking weapon for the Eagles. It will be won or lost in the forwards, however, and if the USA can hold off the Tongan frontrow it will be a victory for the United States. USA to win by 7 points.

Tonga
15 Mateo Malupo
14 Viliami Helu
13 Suka Hufanga
12 Etueni Siua
11 Viliami Iongi
10 Kurt Morath
9 Soane Havea
8 Vili Ma'afu
7 Pepa Koloamatangi
6 Pasuka Mapakaitolo
5 Emosi Kauhenga
4 Sione Timani
3 Kisi Pulu (captain)
2 Ilaisa Ma'asi
1 Tonga Lea'aetoa

Reserves: 16 Atonio Halangahu, 17 Ta'u Fainga'anuku, 18 Josh Afu, 19 Paula Kaho, 20 Daniel Morath, 21 Edmond Paea, 22 Sillivenusi Kauhea Taumoepeaul

United States

15 Roland Suniula
14 Colin Hawley
13 Paul Emerick
12 Andrew Suniula
11 Kevin Swiryn
10 Ata Malifa
9 Tim Usasz
8 Nic Johnson
7 Todd Clever (captain)
6 Inaki Basauri
5 Scott Lavalla
4 Louis Stanfill
3 Shawn Pittman
2 Chris Biller
1 Mate Moeakiola

Reserves: 16 Phillip Thiel, 17 Eric Fry, 18 John van der Giessen, 19 Pat Danahy, 20 Mike Petri, 21 Taivalu Enosa, 22 Troy Hall

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