USA Eagles name Major League Rugby-based side to take on All Blacks
Stripped of all their foreign-based stars due to the test match being held outside of World Rugby’s designated November test window, head coach Gary Gold has been forced to name a team comprised entirely of Major League Rugby [MLR] players.
In doing so, the former Springboks assistant coach has selected three debutants in his match day squad, including wing Ryan James, who was part of the LA Giltinis squad that claimed the MLR title earlier this year in their inaugural campaign.
The other two newbies come on the bench in the form of Utah Warriors hooker Chad Gough and San Diego Legion prop Faka’osi Pifeleti.
Devoid of their top European-based players, the Eagles will rely heavily on experienced veterans such as captain Bryce Campbell, former Northampton Saints and Cardiff Blues No 8 Cam Dolan, and Rugby United New York duo Dylan Fawsitt and Hanco Germishuys.
All four players will be tasked with stepping up in the absence of the likes of Lyon front rower and 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year nominee Joe Taufete’e, Sale Sharks playmaker AJ MacGinty, Toulouse prop David Ainu’u, Saracens pair Kapeli Pifeleti and Ruben de Haas, and Newcastle Falcon lock Greg Peterson.
In total, only five players – Campbell, Dolan, locks Nate Brakeley and Nick Civetta, and midfielder Tavite Lapeti – have retained their places in the USA’s starting lineup following their 34-15 World Cup qualifier defeat to Uruguay.
A further seven of the eight substitutes used in that game, including Fawsitt, in Montevideo two weeks ago – which leaves the Eagles still unqualified for the 2023 World Cup – have been promoted into the starting lineup.
“Facing the No 2 team in the world is an incredible challenge for anyone and, as we’ve said many times, these are the high-pressure situations we want to put ourselves in,” Gold said via a statement upon the announcement of his side.
“Matches like these can be a true test of character as they force split-second decisions in intense and hectic environments.
“This is an exciting opportunity for us to expose our younger players to the best in the world while allowing our experienced guys to be leaders and help guide the cohesion of the group.
“We are under no illusions for what lies ahead on Saturday. Our preparation has gone well, the spirit in the group is high and we look forward to having a vibrant and vocal home crowd behind us in the nation’s capital.”
The All Blacks, meanwhile, have named an experimental team to play the United States that includes a debutant in the form of Josh Lord, who has been included on the bench.
Kick-off for this weekend’s test in the American capital is scheduled for 8:30am [NZ time].
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