LAKELAND, Fla. – The USA Rugby AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans will convene for a six-day camp just ahead of Thanksgiving in Lakeland, Fla., as preparations for next year’s Junior World Rugby Trophy begin.
This is an earlier start than the last couple of years. Goff Rugby Report went into some depth on the scheduling in an earlier article
Head Coach Billy Millard has selected 49 athletes for the Selection Camp, which will be held in Tiger Town Friday, Nov. 21, through Wednesday, Nov. 26. A few players still eligible for the MJAAs were not available for selection, including JWRT 2014 captain Oliver Drew, Hanco Germishuys, and Titi Lamositele. Flyhalf Ben Cima was also unavailable for camp, but the University of Maryland student spent time with Mike Tolkin’s Eagles Select XV at the 2014 World Rugby Americas Rugby Championship in October.
Nineteen American collegiate institutions are represented by the 49 athletes selected to Camp, including 2014 D1A Rugby Finalist Life University and 2013 USA Rugby Emirates Airline College 7s National Champion Arkansas State University.
Senior clubs Metropolis Rugby Football Club, Sacramento Lions, and Seattle Saracens also produced invitees, while Bath University in England, Blackrock College in Ireland, St. Andrews College in Scotland, and Toulon Academy in France account for six spots in Camp.
New additions to Millard’s coaching staff include Santa Monica Head Coach Marc Stcherbina (New South Wales Waratahs, Biarritz, Northampton Saints, Cardiff Blues), Denver Barbarians Head Coach Peter Borlase (Canterbury, Munster), and former MJAA Head Coach Scott Lawrence.
“We have a very strong and experienced group of coaches attending,” Millard said. “These expert eyes will assist us in selecting the right squad to move forward.”
Connecting the pathway from the Boys High School All-Americans is Assistant Coach Michael Engelbrecht, who works with BHSAA Head Coach Salty Thompson and has been with the MJAAs since early 2013. USA Rugby High Performance Coaching Manager Luke Gross and Men’s Eagles and MJAA Strength and Conditioning Coach David Williams return to Millard’s staff, as well.
The coaches will put the selected athletes through double training sessions each day of Camp to test core skills and mental toughness, while also creating an atmosphere in which positions on the pitch can be won or lost.
“We want to encourage a very competitive environment where players go head to head with other players in their positions,” Millard said. “There will obviously be developmental aspects of camp – but the main priority is to select a squad that can qualify for the JWRT in Portugal.
“Letters went out to all college coaches and I want to thank those who worked hard to put their players forward and make it happen.”
The MJAAs finished third in this year’s JWRT in Hong Kong, narrowly missing the Final after a defeat to Tonga in the final match of pool play before beating Uruguay in their last appearance. In 2015, the MJAAs will have to qualify for the ultimate under-20 competition with a two-match series against Canada.
The JWRT is scheduled for Estádio Universitário de Lisboa and National Sports Centre of Jamor in Portugal May 7-24, 2015.
“The timings are tough [with school commitments] but the World Rugby JWRT is the best development opportunity these boys will get and other countries see it as the pinnacle of their pathway progression,” Millard said. “Our job as coaches is to allow players to reach their full potential and this opportunity is something that needs to be supported to the fullest.”
Graduates of the MJAAs and JWRT currently in the player pool for the Men’s Eagles include Cam Dolan, Lamositele, and Ben Tarr, while Scott LaValla of Stade Français was a member of the first U.S. under-20 team to compete in the World Rugby Junior World Cup.
Cima was joined at the ARC assembly in October by Valdemar Lee-Lo, a Selection Camp invitee who also played in Hong Kong earlier this year.
“The MJAAs program has become a more consistent and strong source of players for the Eagles,” Tolkin said. “As we continue to coordinate more closely with the age-grade teams and the men’s national team, we receive young men who are better prepared to perform within the Eagles’ setup and understand what is expected of them when they arrive in camp.”
Following the Selection Camp in Florida, the MJAAs will assemble a final time around Christmas for a five-day preparation camp ahead of the qualifier series against the neighbors.
AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | Selection Camp
|Name||Primary position||Secondary position||Club/School|
|Jesus Aries||Loose head prop||Tight head prop|| |
|Tristan Brady||Scrum half|| ||Blackrock College (Ireland)|
|Oisin Brady||Fly half|| ||Blackrock College (Ireland)|
|Austin Bush||Flanker|| ||Arkansas State University|
|Victor Camptat||Lock|| ||Toulon Academy (RCT)|
|Sam Cowley||Full back||Fly half||Life University|
|Jason Damm||Lock||Flanker||Clemson University|
|Scott Dean||Wing|| ||Central Washington University|
|Fitou Fisiiahi||Inside center|| ||Central Washington University|
|James Gannon||Loose head prop|| ||Lindenwood University|
|Seth Halliman||Wing||Outside center||American International College|
|Junior Helu||Scrum half|| || |
|Reed Heynen||Lock|| ||UCLA|
|Braeden Hood||Flanker|| ||Texas A&M University|
|Ian Kinsley||Outside center||Inside center||Blackrock College (Ireland)|
|Nick Kwasniewski||Tight head prop|| ||Grand Canyon University|
|Valdemar Lee-Lo||Tight head prop|| ||Seattle Saracens|
|Matthew Long||Wing|| ||Cal Poly University|
|Koroi Maciu||Number eight|| ||Sacremento Lions|
|Sione Masoe||Flanker|| || |
|Alex Maughan||Hooker|| ||Life University|
|Connor McRae||Wing||Full back||Arizona State University|
|Isaiah Morris||Number eight|| ||Derry RFC, Ireland|
|Louis Mulholland||Scrum half|| ||Bath University (England)|
|Brian Nault||Number eight|| || |
|Reese Oblerin||Lock||Number eight||Davenport University|
|Wes Parker||Flanker|| ||Lindenwood University|
|Mason Pedersen||Loose head prop|| ||University of Arizona|
|Darien Pickett||Loose head prop|| ||Grand Canyon University|
|Tanner Pope||Tight head prop|| ||Arkansas State University|
|Adrian Ray||Inside center|| ||American International College|
|Cecil Rich||Loose head prop||Tight head prop||Wheeling Jesuit|
|Gabe Romero||Hooker|| ||Lindenwood University|
|Gabriel Ruflin||Flanker|| ||University of Utah|
|Allan Sakalia||Inside center||Outside center||Kutztown University|
|Kris Sheckels||Loose head prop|| ||Grand Canyon University|
|Garrett Soileau||Hooker|| ||Arkansas State University|
|Lindsey Stevens||Flanker|| || |
|Jerome Strother||Lock|| ||Metropolis Rugby Football Club|
|Pate Takivekata||Full back||Fly half||Metropolis Rugby Football Club|
|Erik Thompson||Scrum half|| ||UCLA|
|David Todd||Inside center||Flanker||Arizona State University|
|Marcus Tupuola||Outside center||Wing||Notre Dame College|
|Christian Wiessing||Lock|| ||University of Colorado Boulder|
|James Wolfer||Fly half|| ||St. Joseph's University|
|Luke Womack||Inside center|| ||St. Andrews College (Scotland)|
|Vinny Yackanin||Lock|| ||University of Arizona|
|Zach Young||Outside center|| || |
|Nikko Zuluaga||Full back||Fly half|| |
AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | Coaching Staff
Billy Millard - Head Coach
Michael Engelbrecht - Assistant Coach
Luke Gross - Assistant Coach
David Williams - Strength and Conditioning Coach
Mike Palm - Head Physiotherapist, Trainer
AIG Men's Junior All-Americans |Preparation Schedule
Thanksgiving Selection Camp: Nov. 21-26, 2014
Christmas Preparation Camp: Dec. 26-30, 2014
World Rugby Junior World Rugby Trophy Portugal: May 7-24, 2015