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Unprecedented Time for U20s in Seeking JWRT Qualification

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Unprecedented Time for U20s in Seeking JWRT Qualification

The U20 program does produce Eagles. Ronan Murphy, David Ainu'u, Devin Short, and Ruben de Haas in action for the U20s in 2018.

The USA Men's U20s are set to face off with Canada in a two-game series in June.

The series, played June 6 and June 10 in Spartanburg, SC, will be the qualifier series for the World Rugby Trophy.

The USA players have been in assembly since May 15, and that's fairly unprecedented for the U20 program. That has allowed Head Coach Kyle Sumsion to take his time working with the players and the units.

"It's been great," Sumsion told Goff Rugby Report. "I feel really good about the team we've assembled. We've got talent across the country, a lot of home-grown talent."

There are a couple of players who play their rugby overseas, but overall it's a USA-based group. And also it's notable that these players come from a variety of programs, including professional teams and many universities. Some college programs have been reluctant to release players to the USA U20 team when the buildup seems confused or undetailed. The message this time around seems to be that the planning was good.

"We have a clear vision," said Sumsion. "And we have more support than we ever had in my time and maybe the last decade. People are seeing what [interim Head of High Performance] Scott Lawrence is bringing to the table. When we look ahead to hosting the World Cup in 2031, these guys will be 27 or 28. So we need to develop them now."

The players are athletes who have been on the radar for quite some time, added Sumsion, and they are being brought into a more cohesive system that covers the entire USA program.

"When Scott came on board we were given a timeline and a game plan," explained Sumsion. "We've have been having  conversations with players and coaches since December. We have more time in camp than ever and Scott coming in to oversee everything is an exciting development."

And there's a feeling that there is an American character being developed within the entire USA program. Big, physical, and skilled teams are the target, and that's how the team is being developed.

"Ultimately what we're looking at is work ethic," said Sumsion. "We want to be fitter and stronger; a team with a high work ethic and coachability."

But also important is winning. The U20 team is, for the most part, the last age-grade step before the senior Eagles. Yes there's a U23/College All American team, but it's much more likely for very talented players to get into the senior Eagle clubhouse after a good showing as a U20.

"We haven't qualified for the Junior World Trophy since 2016," noted Sumsion. "So my role is to qualify That goal is going to permeate everything we do. We've got to change our mindset and we're taking the field to win."

Working out at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg, the players have embraced the mentality.

"The energy's palpable," said Sumsion. "We've been really well looked after. Everything feels professional. The setup means that the coaches and players can just focus on the rugby." 

USA Men’s U20s Trophy Qualifiers Schedule

USA vs Canada | June 6
Kickoff 6PM ET
Spartanburg Regional Field at County University Stadium | Spartanburg, SC

Watch Live on FloRugby

USA vs Canada | June 10
Kickoff 6PM ET
Spartanburg Regional Field at County University Stadium | Spartanburg, SC

Watch Live on FloRugby

USA Men’s U20s Player Pool | 2023 World Rugby Trophy Qualifiers
Aidan Christians USA Hawks
Aki Pulu American Raptors
Animae Amiatu San Diego Legion / USA Hawks
Braemar Murray Stade Toulousain
Cade Crist University of California - Berkeley
Cameron McApline United Kingdom
Cole Frank Clemson University
Connor Devos Lindenwood University
Corbin Smith Hartpury University
Cormac Saint University of California - Berkeley
Declan Dolan Penn State University
Dom Besag St. Mary's College of California
Dylan Fortune Lindenwood University
Gabe Riordan Dartmouth College
Gabriel Hayden Canterbury RFC (UK)
Hayden McKay Young Glory (Old Glory DC)
Henry Duke Unattached
Holden Hahn Charlotte Cardinals
Hugh O'Kennedy Trinity College - Dublin
Leon Best Life University
Logan Ballinger Life University
Luke Schaefer Lindenwood University
Ollie Cline Central Washington University
Osi Nauer Utah Warriors
Parker Wall Indiana University
Rand Santos University of California - Berkeley
Sosaia Pongi St. Mary's College of California
Solomon Williams University of California - Berkeley
Steffan Crimp Cardiff Metropolitan University
Strider Fountaine BYU
Tommy Hannon Indiana University
Trevion Reed Queens University
Will Sherman UCLA