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U20s Get Ready for Canada

National Teams

U20s Get Ready for Canada

Nafi Maafu was a HS All American, and is now part of the U20 quad for Edmonton. Dan Bandoni photo.

There’s the little matter of the USA Under 20 team having to play Canada this week in a two-game series in Edmonton, and it’s going to be a tough series.

Last year, the two teams played a one-off, a game that the USA won 19-18 on a last-second penalty goal from Ben Cima. Cima won't be back as he has aged out of the program, but the lon try-scorer in the game, Lorenzo Thomas, will be back.

"I feel pretty good about what we can do," said Thomas. "Last year I got hurt and missed the Junior World Trophy, so I am looking to redeem myself a little bit. Coach Stephenson is preparing us well. We’re building the culture so when we go in we know who’s who and how each player approaches the game."

That would be Head Coach JD Stephenson, who was forced into a roster change just before the team arrived in Alberta. Noah Niumataiwalu came down with an illness and won't be able to play. As a result, Eamonn Matthews out of St. Bonaventure University will come in. Niumataiwalu was looking to be a combined fullback/center/scrumhalf. But Matthews is a straight #9 and the former Xavier HS All American will battle with Ruben de Haas at halfback.

Out wide, Cristian Rodriguez is hoping to build on a strong spring that saw him named Young 7s Player of the Month by GRR.

"We had a day break [after the CRC] and then to Canada," said Rodriguez, who missed out on his HS All American chance due to injury, and so is now in his first official international assembly. "It's a quick turnaround but it should be really fun. I’m really excited for and my first taste of international rugby."

Stephenson has picked a very athletic, mobile team designed to make the most of their possession, and Canada, meanwhile, seems to be looking to win with power.

The series opens up Tuesday, June 13 at Ellerslie Rugby Park in Edmonton. The second game is also at Ellerslie and will be on June 17. The aggregate score winner will qualify for the World


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