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USA Picks for Japan Clash

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USA Picks for Japan Clash

Thretton Palamo and Mike Petri make a tackling during the USA's 23-18 win over Japan earlier this year in Sacramento. David Barpal photo.

GLOUCESTER, UK (USA Rugby Release, edited) – USA Men's 15s Head Coach Mike Tolkin has named his lineup to face Japan on Sunday, with the roster almost unchanged from the team that faced Samoa and Scotland earlier in the World Cup.

The Eagles will kick off at 3pm ET, Noon PT on October 11 against Japan at Kingsholm Stadium in Gloucester. The Eagles are looking for their first win of the tournament, while Japan has already beaten South Africa and Samoa, and will be looking to get (with a little bit of help from Samoa) into the quarterfinals.

After missing Rugby World Cup 2011, Samu Manoa earns his fourth consecutive start of the 2015 tournament. The Concord, Calif., native is the only Eagle to be named to the starting XV for each of the U.S.'s Pool B matches. Manoa served as captain Wednesday, but returns the armband to Chris Wyles, who appeared as a substitute in the loss to South Africa.

"The time between matches has been a blink of the eye," said Tolkin. "Many of the players who will play versus Japan did not play on Wednesday; the players who did play have had very limited time training and mainly rest maintenance."

Men's Eagles Sevens standout Zack Test made his first Rugby World Cup appearance opposite all-time Rugby World Cup joint-top try-scorer Bryan Habana Wednesday. He will partner Taku Ngwenya as the Eagles look to replicate the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup defeat of Japan earlier this summer. Blaine Scully, who was upended in a collision with Habana on Wednesday, is not in the gameday squad.

"Zack worked very hard off the ball in both defense and attack [against South Africa] and is able to make some good ground with ball in hand," Tolkin said. "He was technically sound in most of the areas he needed to perform."

Andrew Durutalo scored the U.S.'s only try at Bonney Field in Sacramento, while AJ MacGinty kicked six penalties to nullify Japan's three tries. Including the flanker and fly half, as well as the captain at full back, 11 of Sunday's starting XV started the July 24 encounter.

The second-row duo of Greg Peterson and Hayden Smith returns to physically punish the Brave Blossoms after similar campaigns against Samoa and Scotland, while the front-row threesome of Zach Fenoglio, Eric Fry, and Titi Lamositele will look to replicate their earlier scrum successes in England. Additionally, Lamositele is one of four Eagles to have scored at Rugby World Cup 2015.


Mike Petri, along with Lamositele, was an unused substitute against the Springboks, but will make his 57th international appearance in an Eagles jersey Sunday. Debuting against South Africa in France in 2007, Petri is one of several U.S. players at their third Rugby World Cup, and is behind only Mate Moeakiola, Ngwenya, and Wyles for most World Cup caps in the 31-man roster, with seven. On the bench, Niku Kruger fills in as the halfback replacement in place of Shalom Suniula, who has been there the first two matches and started the third. Cam Dolan returns to the bench, where he has been very solid in difficult circumstances. Of the eight players on the USA bench, six are forwards, with Tolkin listing two props, a hooker, Dolan, who can play lock or loose forward, and specialist flankers Danny Barrett and John Quill. This certainly seems to point to Tolkin looking to get a better second half performance from his charges with fresh legs up front. 

In the USA's last four matches, including three World Cup games, they have scored 31 points and given up 48 in the first half, but been outscored 127-11 in the second half.

Japan shocked the greater rugby world last month with a pool-opening upset victory against South Africa, and remains in contention for a place in the knockout rounds with eight points from three matches. Eddie Jones' side will have had eight days between Sunday's match and its last match against Samoa in Milton Keynes, as opposed to the U.S.'s four days. The two nations have met twice at Rugby World Cups, with the Eagles holding a 2-0 advantage.

"This is a team that continues to grow and reach milestones," Tolkin said. "We were leading Scotland at halftime with no tries – an Eagle first versus a Tier One team. It is a team that has a great deal of emerging talent, and they will start to come into their own very soon. With veterans such as Wyles, [Louis] Stanfill, Petri, and [Phil] Thiel around, they learned to be internationals. Their talent will blossom. I think that the fans of the Eagles saw glimpses of the possibilities that this team has [at this World Cup]."

More information regarding broadcast coverage of Sunday's match can be found on the website of Universal Sports.

Men's Eagles | v. Japan
1. Eric Fry
2. Zach Fenoglio
3. Titi Lamositele
4. Hayden Smith
5. Greg Peterson
6. Al McFarland
7. Andrew Durutalo
8. Samu Manoa
9. Mike Petri
10. AJ MacGinty
11. Zack Test
12. Thretton Palamo
13. Seamus Kelly
14. Takudzwa Ngwenya
15. Chris Wyles (C)

Men's Eagles | Reserves
16. Phil Thiel
17. Olive Kilifi
18. Chris Baumann
19. Cameron Dolan
20. John Quill
21. Danny Barrett
22. Niku Kruger
23. Folau Niua

Japan | v. USA
1. Keita Inagaki
2. Shota Horie
3. Hiroshi Yamashita
4. Luke Thompson
5. Justin Ives
6. Michael Leitch (C)
7. Michael Broadhurst
8. Ryu Koliniasi Holani
9. Fumiaki Tanaka
10. Kosei Ono
11. Kotaro Matsushima
12. Craig Wing
13. Harumichi Tatekawa
14. Yoshikazu Fujita
15. Ayumu Goromaru

Japan | Reserves
16. Takeshi Kizu
17. Masataka Mikami
18. Kensuke Hatakeyama
19. Shinya Makabe
20. Amanaki Lelei Mafi
21. Hendrik Tui
22. Atsushi Hiwasa
23. Karne Hesketh