Friday, March 21, 2014

RWC Qualifier: USA team named to face Uruguay

Photo: Troy Taormina
A very strong USA Eagles side has been named to face Uruguay in Montevideo in the first of two matches to determine which of the two countries will qualify for Rugby World Cup 2015 as Americas 2. In a testiment to the strides made in recent years the majority of the starting lineup are professional players contracted to elite clubs. 

The Todd Clever captained USA Eagles starting lineup features players contracted to the likes of the Glasgow Warriors, Leicester Tigers, London Wasps, Northampton Saints, Saracens and Stade Français. It marks a significant rise in the representation of USA Eagles in European rugby compared to the side that faced Uruguay in the identical fixture in 2009. On that occassion Clever was one of a few professional players. 

Uruguay, at the time, had Rodrigo Capó Ortega as its only player involved in the elite level of professional rugby. He was, and remains, contracted to Castres but will not face the USA due to the birth of his daughter. But with or without Capó Ortega the USA has a tremendous superiority in terms of where players play their rugby. 

Starting in the front-row are to be Eric Fry, Phil Thiel and Olive Kilifi. Of the three only Fry is playing professional rugby. This is the most striking aspect to the state of USA rugby as the front-row has been the archilles heel for the North Americans previously. With Uruguay having a respectable scrum Los Teros are certain to attempt to put the USA front-row under immeasurable pressure. 

The starting second-row is to see a new combination with two English based players starting. The biggest name in USA rugby today, Samu Manoa will partner Hayden Smith who is to play his first test match since Rugby World Cup 2011. Smith left rugby for a stint with the New York Jets playing NFL. With him back stalwart Lou Stanfill has been left out of the starting lineup. 

Stanfill, like Manoa, is a back-rower playing second-row due to the large stock of resources that the country has in the back-row. The combination named by Mike Tolkin to face Los Teros is entirely professional. An English-Japanese-French combination of Cam Dolan, Todd Clever and Scott LaValla will form a worldclass back-row which is expected to provide Uruguay with serious problems. 

Playing behind them is will be Mike Petri at scrum-half. Petri has been under pressure in recent times but will start the test in a halves combination with the English second division fly half Toby L´Estrange. The centre combination of Andrew Suniula and Folau Niua will be hungry to receieve plenty of ball and will be joined by a reliable back-three in the form of Chris Wyles, Blaine Scully and Tim Maupin. 

The selection of Maupin means Luke Hume will have to watch from the bench and with Taku Ngwenya involved in club rugby in France the selection is all the more interesting. The USA bench lacks the same calibre of players but there are, nonetheless some certain to be a part of Rugby World Cup 2015 should the USA qualify. Titi Lamositele is one in particular to look out for.

The match will be played at Charrúa Stadium in Montevideo, Uruguay. Kick-off is to be at The USA is ranked 18th in the IRB World Rankings compared to Uruguay which is 20th.The match will be shown on via livestream. It can be viewed here. Kick-off is to be at 16:00 local time or 19:00 GMT.

USA Eagles
2. Phil Thiel 
3. Eric Fry 
5. Samu Manoa 
6. Todd Clever (C) 
8. Cam Dolan 
9. Mike Petri 
11. Tim Maupin 
13. Folau Niua 

16. Tom Coolican 
17. Nick Wallace 
20. Kyle Sumsion 
22. Seamus Kelly 
23. Luke Hume

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