Premiership stars start for USA

Date published: October 30 2014

USA Eagles head coach Mike Tolkin has named his 23 players to face the All Blacks in an historic match at a sold-out Soldier Field.

USA Eagles head coach Mike Tolkin has named his 23 players to face the All Blacks in an historic match at a sold-out Soldier Field.

Making his 60th appearance in an Eagles shirt, Todd Clever will captain the side wearing six alongside Scott Lavalla.

Three Premiership stars – Eric Fry, Samu Manoa, and Hayden Smith – make up the tight five. Phil Thiel, who spent time with Smith’s Saracens earlier this year before being chosen for the Eagles Select XV in the 2014 IRB Americas Rugby Championship, will sit between Fry and Olive Kilifi in the scrum.

Danny Barrett will make his third start and earn his fourth Eagles cap at number eight in front of veteran Mike Petri at scrum-half. Barrett’s second consecutive start follows his replacement of Cam Dolan for the Eagles’ defeat of Canada. Since the Eagles’ first win against their neighbors in five years, Barrett has trialed at Gloucester and helped the Men’s Eagles Sevens win the Bowl at Gold Coast Sevens.

In 2013, Adam Siddall burst onto the national team scene with six caps and a starring role in the Eagles’ narrow loss to the New Zealand Maori All Blacks in front of a sold-out crowd at PPL Park. He recently returned from injury in the ARC and will line up behind Petri at fly-half.

Andrew Suniula also returns to the Eagles following an injury sustained at BBVA Compass Stadium in June. Suniula’s performances in the American Rugby Premiership for Old Blue of New York and the ARC for Tolkin’s Eagles Select XV have proven his readiness for Saturday’s match.

Seamus Kelly, who joined Barrett on trial at Gloucester after graduating from the University of California, will partner Suniula in the centre in his fifth consecutive start.

Edinburgh’s Brett Thompson, scorer of the match-winning try in Sacramento, returns to the wing in the red, white, and blue, as does Leicester’s Blaine Scully. Chris Wyles will earn his 45th cap at full-back.

While the top-ranked team in the world poses a challenge to any opposition, the Eagles’ opponent did not play a part in the selection process for the match at Soldier Field. In total, only three changes were made to the starting XV from their last match.

“Our selections were based more on how we wanted to play,” Tolkin said.

“[The All Blacks] present a big challenge, so worrying too much about them would be counter productive.

“We had the line-up in place in our heads already and just confirmed it with training this week.”

The All Blacks will be without the services of Richie McCaw, though Kieran Read will act as captain. Dan Carter could play a role from the bench.

While the All Blacks have not played an international test in the United States since 1980, the Eagles have not been to the state of Illinois since a Tier One matchup with Wales in 2009. Both teams have felt the palpable energy in the Windy City, which is set to erupt Saturday at the home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

“Chicago is an exciting city and they have made a great effort to promote this game and it shows,” Tolkin said. “I’m glad it is taking place here.”

USA: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Seamus Kelly, 12 Andrew Suniula, 11 Brett Thompson, 10 Adam Siddall, 9 Mike Petri, 8 Danny Barrett, 7 Scott Lavalla, 6 Todd Clever (c), 5 Hayden Smith, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Olive Kilifi, 2 Phil Thiel, 1 Eric Fry
Replacements: 16 Tom Coolican , 17 Nick Wallace, 18 Mate Moeakiola, 19 Tai Tuisamoa, 20 Louis Stanfill, 21 Benjamin Tarr, 22 Folau Niua, 23 Troy Hall

Date: Saturday, November 1
Kickoff: 15:00 local (20:00 GMT)
Venue: Soldier Field Stadium, Chicago
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Chris Assmus (Canada), tba (Canada)
TMO: tba (Canada)