Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
Following a tough fought Tour-opening loss to professional English club Saracens, the USA is prepared to take on Portugal in the first ranking test of the November Tour. A different look Eagles squad will take the field on Saturday at University Stadium in Lisbon.
The time has now come to see what the full-strength Eagles squad is capable of achieving. The team named is possibly the strongest and most experienced side to take the field in some time.
Most of the professional Eagles are available for selection and many of them have been standouts for their respective clubs this season. Kevin Swiryn and Todd Clever join the starting lineup after their Churchill Cup absences this summer and will contribute professional experience and leadership to the Eagles squad.
The Eagles’ front row should prove to be a handful for the Portuguese with Shawn Pittman, Mate Moeakiola, and Phil Thiel providing a strong platform for the rest of the pack at scrum time. The engine room for the scrum will consist of locks John van der Giessen and Scott Lavalla.
The American loose forwards are big, strong, fast, and tenacious; everything loose forwards should be. Captain Todd Clever starts at openside flanker with Louis Stanfill on the blindside. Nic Johnson gets another start at eight, providing an attacking threat from the base of the scrum and a strong link to the backline.
Tim Usasz and Nese Malifa will link up to mount the American attack against Portugal. Eagle newcomer, Setareki Tulievuka, gets his first cap at outside center with Andrew Suniula playing inside center.
The high-powered American back three will be a constant concern for the Portuguese defense. Speedsters Takudzwa Ngwenya and Kevin Swiryn will start on the wings, with an in-form Chris Wyles at fullback.
The Eagles look to capitalize on attacking opportunities and have more possession than they had in the Saracens match. Defense didn’t appear to be an issue against Saracens and the set-piece went well.
Eagles Head Coach, Eddie O’Sullivan has a strong and experienced bench with the likes of Eagle veterans Mike MacDonald and Paul Emerick on standby to fill in as needed. If MacDonald gets a run against the Portuguese, he will get his 60th cap, bringing him within two caps of the American record currently held by Luke Gross, who has 62.
Kickoff is at 10:00 a.m. EST on Saturday. After Portugal, the Eagles will travel to Scotland to take on Scotland ‘A’ and will finish their Tour with another ranking test in Georgia.
1 Mate Moeakiola (Bobigny 93), 2 Phil Thiel (Life University), 3 Shawn Pittman (London Welsh), 4 Scott Lavalla (Dublin University), 5 John van der Giessen (Bath), 6 Louis Stanfill (Mogliano), 7 Todd Clever (Suntory)*, Nic Johnson (Denver Barbarians), 9 Tim Usasz (Nottingham), 10 Nese Malifa (Glendale), 11 Kevin Swiryn (Agen), 12 Andrew Suniula (Chicago Griffins), 13 Setareki Tulievuka (Montpellier), 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz), 15 Chris Wyles (Saracens)
Reserves: 16 Chris Biller (San Francisco Golden Gate), 17 Mike MacDonald (Leeds Carnegie), 18 Jonathon Gaganio (Eastern Province), 19 Inaki Basauri (L’aquila), 20 Mike Petri (Sale), 21 Tai Enosa (Belmont Shore), 22 Paul Emerick (Ulster)