USA and Ireland National Rugby teams have named their squads for the Setanta Challenge Cup set to take place on May 31 at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, CA.
The third annual Setanta Challenge Cup kicks off the USA Eagles’ international season as they face the reigning RBS 6 Nations and Grand Slam champions, Ireland.
The match also marks former Ireland head coach Eddie O’Sullivan’s first match at the helm of the USA.
“It is great to be back coaching at the international level again and I’m looking forward to the challenge immensely,” said O’Sullivan.
“It is also an honor to face Ireland in my first test as Eagles head coach. It will be a little strange to face off against a team that I know so well, but at the same time for me that will make the occasion even more special.”
O’Sullivan named his squad off the heels of his first training camp with the domestic players last weekend (May 8-10). The US squad for this match and the subsequent test against Wales on June 6 includes a fairly even split of experience and youth in the forward pack.
Led by the USA’s 2007 Rugby World Cup props Mike MacDonald and Mate Moeakiola, the forwards include six new players to the Eagles side, while 2007 RWC players John van der Giessen and Louis Stanfill also return to lead the locks and loose forwards respectively.
Due to injury and unavailability, O’Sullivan has only been able to name one hooker and one scrumhalf in the pool. The second hooker and scrumhalf will be named early next week after reviewing this weekend’s Super League performances.
In the backline, the US has a little more experience with just four uncapped players with the Eagles XV side and five players who played in the 2007 Rugby World Cup. Namely Mike Hercus, Mike Petri, Takudzwa Ngwenya, Chris Wyles and Salesi Sika all return to give the Eagles’ backline a threatening edge.
“Despite the unavailability of 13 players, I believe we have still assembled a very competitive squad, with a good balance of youth and experience,” O’Sullivan added.
“With seven games ahead in as many weeks there is no doubt that the depth of our playing pool will be tested to the limit. Ireland is the first step on the road and judging by the energy and intensity displayed at our Denver training camp last weekend, the players are fired up for our first test of the season.”
The Ireland squad named for this upcoming match will be captained by Rory Best and also shows a mixture of youth in addition to a strong spine of experience. The Irish team will play two international matches on their tour to North America, one each against Canada and the USA.
With Leinster qualified for the Heineken Cup final on May 23, the same day as the test match against Canada, and 13 players travelling to South Africa with the British & Irish Lions, as well as any possible replacements being called up, the Ireland tour provides an opportunity for players to put themselves in the frame for next season, bringing 12 uncapped players along on tour.
“When we confirmed the tour back in January, we were always hopeful some of the provinces and players would be involved in the Heineken or Challenge Cup finals and we would also be without any players selected for the British & Irish Lions tour,” Ireland Coach Declan Kidney said.
“We felt that it would be a chance for the national management to work closely with a larger pool of players than we would normally do during the season and for players to come through at this level.
“We are continuing to try and build a squad and this tour is a real chance for players to stake a claim for the November games and next years championship.”
While several players are being rested for the tour, 12 capped players are also named in the travelling party with Peter Stringer, Bob Casey, Eoin Reddan, Mick O’Driscoll and Denis Leamy among those lending their considerable experience for the tour.
The showdown between the USA and Ireland will begin at 1 p.m. (PST). Tickets start at just $10 and are on sale at www.tickets.com or 1-800-225-2277.
“One of our goals was to increase the number of international opponents in order to make our national teams more competitive,” USA Rugby’s CEO and President of Rugby, Nigel Melville said.
“This schedule is a very good step forward in many respects. We are playing stiff competition against top international sides, which is really the only way to gauge our development. And with the increased amount of matches across the US, as well as the number of games being broadcast, this is a great opportunity for fans to get behind the Eagles and create some momentum.”
US Eagles squad:
Forwards: Chris Biller (California), Peter Dahl (Belmont Shore), Pat Danahy (Dublin University FC), JJ Gagiano (Univ. Cape Town), Nic Johnson (Denver Barbarians), Will Johnson (Oxford University), Scott Lavalla (Dublin University), Mike MacDonald (Leeds Carnegie), Courtney Mackay (Counties Manukau), Mate Moeakiola (Park City Haggis), Samu Manoa (San Francisco Golden Gate), Shawn Pittman (Bayside), Hayden Smith (Saracens), Louis Stanfill (NYAC), John Van Der Giessen (Denver Barbarians)
Justin Boyd (Dallas Harlequins), Gavin DeBortolo (Eastern Suburbs, Australia), Taivalu Enosa (Tempe), Mike Hercus (Sunshine Coast Stingrays), Ata Malifa (Belmont Shore), Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz Olympic), Mike Petri (NYAC), Salesi Sika (Sporting Agen), Lotomau Junior Sifa (Middleton), Roland Suniula (Pearl City), Kevin Swiryn (Old Puget Sound Beach), Alipate Tuilevuka (Provo Steelers), Chris Wyles (Saracens)
Not considered due to injury:
Matt Hawkins (Belmont Shore), Valenese Malifa (Belmont Shore), Alec Parker (Aspen), Rikus Pretorius (Olympic Club)
Considered but unavailable:
Todd Clever (Golden Lions), Paul Emerick (Overmach Parma), Troy Hall (Old Blue), Brian Lemay (Boston Irish Wolfhounds), Mike Palefau (Las Vegas), Thretton Palamo (San Francisco Golden Gate) Euan Sadden (Old Blue), Kort Schubert (Olympic Club), Matt Wyatt (NYAC)
Rory Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) - Captain, Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster), Ryan Caldwell (Dungannon/Ulster), Bob Casey (London Irish), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Sean Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht), Ian Dowling (Shannon/Munster), Gavin Duffy (Galwegians/Connacht), Chris Henry (Ballymena/Ulster), Denis Hurley (Cork Constitution/Munster), Ian Keatley (Galwegians/Connacht), Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster),Keith Matthews (Buccaneers/Connacht), John Muldoon (Buccanneers/Connacht), Barry Murphy (UL Bohemians/Munster), Niall O’Connor (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Mick O’Driscoll (Cork Constitution/Munster), Eoin Reddan (London Wasps), Niall Ronan (Shannon/Munster) Mike Ross (Harlequins), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster), Bryan Young (Ballymena/Ulster)