Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
Well, that didn’t take much longer. Just hours ago, we were all still wondering about the Eagles squad and here it is. Johnson has made true to his promises of bringing youth into the Eagles side and at the same time pulled a few surprises out of his hat. With a handful of overseas professionals unable to attend, this is a golden opportunity for some of the younger players to step up and gain some valuable experience against a strong French side.
The pack’s strength looks to continue to be in the back row. The USA has alot of options and different combinations to work with in the back row, so it may take some time to work out. I was a bit surprised not to see Scott LaValla in the squad, but I also expect there to be more players getting a look heading into the Munster match in a couple weeks. As for the backs, the youngster from Georgia, Hanno Dirksen, continues his meteoric rise through the USA Rugby ranks and nabs a spot on the roster. A surprise entry into the squad is Tyrone Coppedge, a USA born Rugby League player. I’m not certain of his Union experience, but he is a solid RL performer and has represented the USA at the International level in RL. The boys from Cal litter the roster (in a good way) as one would expect from the most successful rugby program in the USA.
Forwards include Ben Barclay (University College Dublin/Ireland U20), Todd Clever (Old Mission Beach Athletic Club), Mark Crick (Potomac Athletic Club), Brian Lemay (Boston Irish Wolfhounds) Matekitonga Moeakiola (Pukekohe, N.Z.), Rikus Pretorius (California Golden Bears), Pat Quinn (Denver Barbarians), Casey Rock (Glendale Raptors), Kevin Sheahan (St. Mary’s College, Dublin) Hayden Smith (Metropolitan State College of Denver), Louis Stanfill (Cal) John Van der Giessen (Denver Barbarians), Joe Welch (Cal), Ben Wiedemer (Belmont Shore).
Backs include Justin Boyd (Dallas Harlequins), Tyrone Coppedge (South Logan Magpies, Australia) Hanno Dirksen (Trojans Rugby Club – Georgia), Chad Erskine (Rotherham, England), Gary Golding (Cal), Colin Hawley (Cal), Valenese Malifa (Belmont Shore), Mike Petri (New York Athletic Club), Blaine Scully (UCLA), Alipate Tuilevuka (Park City Haggis), Albert Tuipulotu (Beziers, France), Chris Wyles (OMBAC).
The match, which is not only the first of its kind for the city of Charleston, but also the state of South Carolina, will be hosted in part by the founder of ASM Clermont Auvergne, Michelin, and the Charleston Battery at Blackbaud Stadium, and is set to be broadcast live on ESPN Classic and ESPN360.com.