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USA Women Select to Face Italy in WXV2 Finale

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USA Women Select to Face Italy in WXV2 Finale

Lock Hallie Taufoou has been solid for the USA. Katie Benson (left) earns her 40th cap. Photo Johan Rynners World Rugby via Getty Images.

USA Women's 15s Interim Head Coach Milton Haig announced his matchday 23 to meet Italy in the final WXV 2 match in Cape Town.

USA v. Italy kicks off at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday, October 28, live on RugbyPass TV. 

Haig has made several changes to Saturday’s roster. Hooker Paige Stathopoulos on the starting 15 with Kathryn Treder as a finisher. Keia Mae Sagapolu will get the start at tighthead prop. In the backs, Katana Howard starts at inside center while Summer Harris-Jones is named right wing. On the bench, Alivia Leatherman will have a chance to earn her first USA Eagles cap. Leatherman, a standout from Notre Dame College, played well with the USA Women’s U23s during the tour of Brazil this summer, earning an invite to the WXV camp. 

Veteran Catie Benson will step out for her 40th cap this Saturday, becoming only the 5th USA Women’s Eagle to achieve that mark. Benson will start at prop for all three matches this tour. In another benchmark, No. 8 Rachel Johnson will also earn her 25th cap against Italy. 

"I'm very honored," Benson said about the milestone. "With the Eagles who came before me they played three to five test matches a year and now we have this ability to play 10 to 12. So I'm very honored. hopefully I can get some more and every time I borrow that jersey I try to make it better."

She used the term "borrow" because, Benson added, the USA jersey doesn't belong to the player; you borrow it for one game and hope to get to use it again. 

The USA’s last meeting with Italy was in their opening match at the 2021 Rugby World Cup one year ago, where Italy upset the Eagles 22-10. In that game the USA had few answers for Italy's backline attack, who broke through for some long-range tries. Italy heads into this weekend with two wins in South Africa and leading the WXV2 standings, while the USA does have a chance to win the tournament if they beat Italy with a bonus point, deny Italy any bonus points, and hope Japan beats Scotland.

But likely it's not about that, but about taking one further step along a road to just getting better.

"We're excited about this selection," said Haig. "It gives a few players an opportunity to show what they've learned over the last three weeks and gives some of our younger players an opportunity as well. This is a really big game for us. We've had an eight day turnaround, so have had plenty of rest and time to do our preparation to put a good game plan in place. We're excited about the opportunity to play on Saturday, and we're hoping the athletes that put on the jersey this weekend get us a win for the USA."

USA Women’s Eagles Roster | USA v Italy
Name Club Caps
1. Catie Benson Sale Sharks 39
2. Paige Stathopoulos Beantown RFC 3
3. Keia Mae Sagapolu Leicester Tigers 5
4. Hallie Taufoou Beantown RFC 13
5. Erica Jarrell Beantown RFC 4
6. Freda Tafuna Lindenwood University 5
7. Tahlia Brody Leicester Tigers 6
8. Rachel Johnson Exeter Chiefs 24
9. Taina Tukuafu Lindenwood University 5
10. Gabby Cantorna Exeter Chiefs 23
11. Lotte Clapp Saracens 12
12. Katana Howard Sale Sharks 16
13. Kate Zackary (C) Ealing Trailfinders 34
14. Summer Harris Jones USA Sevens 2
15. Tess Feury Leicester Tigers 21
16. Kathryn Treder Loughborough Lightning 14
17. Alivia Leatherman Notre Dame College Debut
18. Charli Jacoby Colorado Gray Wolves 22
19. Jenny Kronish Beantown RFC 11
20. Rachel Ehrecke Colorado Gray Wolves 9
21. Carly Waters Colorado Gray Wolves 22
22. Kristin Bitter Rhinos Rugby Academy 2
23. Emily Henrich Beantown RFC 11