New Generation USA Eagles Given A Chance Against Canada

ROUND ROCK, Texas – Men’s Eagles Head Coach John Mitchell has named Todd Clever captain of the team to take on Canada in the second Americas Rugby Championship match Saturday, Feb. 13, at Dell Diamond.

Partnering debutants Nate Brakeley and David Tameilau in the back row, Clever will lead the Eagles with just four other capped internationals in the starting XV. Last Saturday’s opening match of the fledgling competition featuring six of North and South America’s best national teams – a 35-35 draw with Argentina XV in Houston – was not a rankings test, meaning no caps were awarded to the nine eligible players.

Prop Eric Fry and inside center Lemoto Filikitonga will serve as vice captains against Canada, with the match scheduled to be streamed live on ESPN 3 (WatchESPN.com) at 6 p.m. CT and re-aired on ESPN 2 Sunday at 7:30 p.m. CT.

“We want to grow the leadership group,” Mitchell said of his captaincy selections. “It’s not just about one person – he needs to be supported by others. We have some diversity in our group, as well. Shared leadership, a sort of co-captaincy, is something that suits certain groups these days and we have the right people to help the younger players through something that’s new for them.”

Mike Te’o led the attack from the scrum half position in the latter stages of the second half against Argentina in place of Niku Kruger, and will receive his first cap against the border rival wearing the No. 9 jersey. James Bird impressed in last week’s draw with strategic kicking and kicking for points, accounting for 15 of the team’s 35 points, and holds onto the fly half position.

Chad London will line up alongside Filikitonga in the centers, and is the only capped back outside of Luke Hume, who last saw international action against Canada in the summer of 2014. That match in Sacramento ended a seven-match losing streak to the neighbors and began a three-match win streak through 2015. Kingsley McGowan occupied the Argentine defense opposite Taku Ngwenya last weekend in his hometown of Houston, and will earn his first cap in front of full back Jake Anderson.

Not scheduled to join the Eagles until next week, Brodie Orth laid claim to a man-of-the-match performance against Argentina, and will continue to hound opposing attackers Saturday with Ben Landry in the second row. Mike Sosene-Feagai’s first cap will come between Chris Baumann and Fry in the front row, with rookie David Tameilau rounding out the pack at No. 8.

In all, just six changes were made to the starting XV that drew with a version of World Rugby’s fifth-ranked Argentine side. Ten players will receive their debut caps from the opening whistle, with five others waiting for their own on the bench in Patrick Blair, JP Eloff, Mike Garrity, Alec Gletzer, and James Hilterbrand.

“The way we think now is actually about creating a team mix as we’re not in a position where we know what our No. 1 team is,” Mitchell said of the changes, which also reflect the departure of professionals Cam Dolan, Ngwenya, Greg Peterson, and Blaine Scully. “It’s a matter of developing the depth and making sure we get to see everyone under pressure.

“We’ve got five matches [in the competition], so obviously we want people fresh in there, as well. We don’t want to tailor off; we want to get better as we go – physically, mentally, and in rugby performance.”

Following the first weekend of action in the first-year Americas Rugby Championship, Canada leads the six-team table with five points having earned a bonus-point victory at the expense of Uruguay. With its draw, the U.S. sits in third, level on three points with Argentina, with the four tries scored at BBVA Compass Stadium good for a bonus point.

Saturday’s match at Dell Diamond is scheduled for a 6 p.m. CT kickoff, with broadcast available onESPN 3 (WatchESPN.com). Live tweets will be provided by USA Rugby’s Twitter account (@USARugby).

Following the match, the AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans’ World Rugby U20 Trophy qualifier with Canada’s under-20 side will be played on the same pitch. The MJAA roster for the match will be released Friday afternoon.

Men’s Eagles | v. Canada
1. Eric Fry
2. Mike Sosene-Feagai
3. Chris Baumann
4. Brodie Orth
5. Ben Landry
6. Nate Brakeley
7. Todd Clever (C)
8. David Tameilau
9. Mike Te’o
10. James Bird
11. Kingsley McGowan
12. Lemoto Filikitonga
13. Chad London
14. Luke Hume
15. Jake Anderson

Men’s Eagles | Reserves
16. Joseph Taufete’e
17. Olive Kilifi
18. James Hilterbrand
19. Patrick Blair
20. Alec Gletzer
21. Niku Kruger
22. JP Eloff
23. Mike Garrity

Canada | v. USA
1. Hubert Buydens (C)
2. Ray Barkwill
3. Jake Ilnicki
4. Paul Ciulini
5. Callum Morrison
6. Lucas Rumball
7. Alistair Clark
8. Clay Panga
9. Gordon McRorie
10. Gradyn Bowd
11. Dan Moor
12. Nick Blevins
13. Mozac Samson
14. Phil Mackenzie
15. Pat Parfrey

Canada | Reserves
16. Eric Howard
17. Djustice Sears-Duru
18. Rob Brouwer
19. Kyle Baillie
20. Liam Chisholm
21. Michael Hamson
22. Andrew Ferguson
23. Duncan Maguire

Men’s Eagles | Americas Rugby Championship Coaching Staff
John Mitchell
Phil Greening – Assistant Coach
Marty Veale – Assistant Coach
Rob Hoadley – Assistant Coach
David Williams – Strength and Conditioning Coach
Paul Goulding – Video Analyst
Sean Lindersmith – Team Manager

Men’s Eagles | Americas Rugby Championship 2016
v. Argentina – D 35-35
v. Canada – Saturday, Feb. 13 @ 7:10 p.m. ETDell Diamond (Austin, Texas)