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Major Changes for Eagles as they Prepare to Face Canada

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Major Changes for Eagles as they Prepare to Face Canada

Ryan Matyas last played for the USA in 2018. David Barpal photo.

Glendale, Colo. — USA Men's 15s Head Coach Gary Gold has made seven changes to his match roster from last week as the USA faces Canada this Saturday.

The game will kick off at 7PM Mountain Time September 11 at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo. The match marks the finale of a home and away series within the Rugby World Cup qualification process. Tickets are available at www.usarug.by/RWCQ with a LIVE stream on FloRugby.com

AJ MacGinty returns to this regular flyhalf position and will captain the side. MacGinty was on the bench last week because his visa to get into Canada was delayed. Similarly, some other overseas-based pros were on the bench in part because the domestic USA players had been together longer.

With MacGinty at flyhalf, Will Magie moves to the bench.

Up front Gold has made a massive change, replacing the entire front row. David Ainu'u (Toulouse) and Joe Taufete'e (Lyon) will start at prop while Saracens #2 Kapeli Pifeleti will start at hooker. Gold is being bold here in that Taufete'e is normally a hooker, although he has played prop for the USA before. The decision is in keeping with Gold's oft-repeated desire to have the best available rugby players on the field. Taufete'e can scrum well enough at prop and can get around the field and be physical. As the top tight five try-scorer in World Rugby history, he also brings an extra dimension offensively (see GRR's assessment of the USA's maul issues).

In the backs there are big changes too. Tavite Lopeti, who made his debut as a sub last week and scored a try, starts at outside center, moving Marcel Brache to fullback and Luke Carty off the gameday 23. Lopeti demonstrated his attacking ability and also is likely a more punishing defender in the midfield than Brache. Ryan Matyas returns to wing for the first time since 2018. An aggressive, dynamic player who doesn't hesitate to take his chances, Matyas (Tempe U19s, University of Arizona) has scored six tries in 12 test matches, including one in his last USA game against Romania three years ago. 

On the bench is potential debutant Mike Dabulas, a product of the Union County Mudturtles high school team and Penn State.

The choice of Dabulas is one of versatility. Gold has opted for three backs on the bench with all three able to play multiple positions. Nate Augspurger can play scrumhalf and wing. Dabulas can play fullback, flyhalf, and possibly center. Magie can play fullback and flyhalf. With Brache capable of playing almost anywhere in the backline and Christian Dyer and Matyas also able to slot elsewhere, all of the positions are covered by several players.

The five forwards on the bench include the front row starters from last week plus young lock Siaosi Mahoni, who is an imposing presence, and flanker Andrew Guerra, who played well as a sub last week.

This is an offensive-minded team and potentially a more dynamic one, and the USA needs that as they require a win over 14 points or more to ensure a win in the two-game series.

Last week USA problems and missed opportunities led to a 34-21 loss to Canada, the first time the USA Men have lost to Canada in eight years. The Eagles put themselves behind with simple errors and a lack of urgency that allowed Canada to claw their way back in the game despite two yellow cards in the opening minutes and a number of their own penalties.  

Whoever wins the battle will face Uruguay, the South America 1 seed, on Oct 2 and Oct 9 to seal qualification to Rugby World Cup 2023 in France. Whoever loses will face Chile, also on Oct 2 and Oct 9, to continue the qualification process into next year. 

September 11 Tribute 

Saturday’s match takes place on the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, marking a significant and meaningful day in the nation’s history. 

The Eagles will honor the occasion by wearing a commemorative logo both on their warm-up shirts and as a patch on their match jerseys. A special video featuring Men’s and Women’s 15s players will appear at pregame, followed by a moment of silence to honor all those affected in 2001 as well as the recent military deaths in Kabul. 

At halftime, Lt. Col. Dr. Kat Strus will accept a commemorative flag on behalf of Friends of Flight 93, in honor of American rugby players Mark Bingham and Jeremy Glick. Bingham and Glick are known for their heroic efforts in derailing the fourth plane 20 years ago. USA Rugby encourages the community to support Friends of Flight 93 by making a donation to The National Memorial or by purchasing their own warm-up shirt in-stadium. All t-shirt profits go directly to the fund. 

Go here to make a donation to Friends of Flight 93>>

And There's a Game to be Played

“I speak for everyone when I say we are incredibly focused on making up for our performance last week," said Gold. "As a group, we are utterly disappointed in what we showed on the field against Canada; and credit where it’s due, because they took their opportunities and deserved to win. We absolutely cannot underestimate what this Canadian side can do and it is on us to put out a dramatically improved performance from last week. 

“Saturday will be a serious task for us both physically and mentally on the field and because of what that day represents to this country. Playing on the anniversary of September 11 is something our guys take very seriously and there is a huge amount of pride that goes into representing your country in a World Cup qualifier on such an important day as that.” 

USA Match-Day Roster      
Player Name Position Club Caps
1. David Ainu’u Prop Toulouse (FRA) 12
2. Kapeli Pifeleti Hooker Saracens (ENG) 5
3. Joe Taufete’e Prop Lyon (FRA) 30
4. Nate Brakeley Lock Rugby United New York 26
5. Nick Civetta Lock Rugby United New York 29
6. Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz Flanker Old Glory DC 4
7. Hanco Germishuys Flanker Rugby United New York 24
8. Cam Dolan No. 8 NOLA Gold 54
9. Ruben De Haas Scrumhalf Saracens (ENG) 20
10. AJ MacGinty (C) Flyhalf Sale Sharks (ENG) 29
11. Ryan Matyas Wing San Diego Legion 12
12. Bryce Campbell Center Austin Gilgronis 35
13. Tavite Lopeti Center Saint Mary's College of California 1
14. Christian Dyer Wing USA Sevens 3
15. Marcel Brache Fullback Austin Gilgronis 25
16. Dylan Fawsitt Hooker Rugby United New York 16
17. Chance Wenglewski Prop Rugby ATL 7
18. Paul Mullen Prop Utah Warriors 21
19. Siaosi Mahoni Lock San Diego Legion 3
20. Andrew Guerra Flanker NOLA Gold 2
21. Nate Augspurger Scrumhalf/Wing San Diego Legion 27
22. Will Magie Flyhalf/Fullback Austin Gilgronis 28
23. Mike Dabulas Flyhalf/Fullback Old Glory DC uncapped