CHARLESTON, S.C. – Men’s Eagles Head Coach Mike Tolkin has announced the starting roster for the first leg of the 2015 IRB Rugby World Cup Qualifier against Canada at Blackbaud Stadium.
In his 51st cap, Todd Clever will captain the Eagles at the number eight position in their 50th all-time match against the rivals to the north. Canada owns the advantage with a 36-12-1 record, but the Eagles go into Saturday’s match with history on their side.
The last time the Eagles defeated Canada was in Charleston four years ago in a Rugby World Cup Qualifier. Of the 23 players named for Saturday’s match, Clever, Chris Biller, Takudzwa Ngwenya, Mike Petri, Shawn Pittman, Louis Stanfill, Roland Suniula and Chris Wyles were a part of the 12-6 win in 2009.
“We are excited to be back in Charleston and Blackbaud Stadium,” Tolkin said. “It was a good atmosphere and result in 2009.
“Experience is a major factor in big-time games, so we are happy to have that connect [of eight players returning from 2009]. The younger players in the team bring energy and obviously fresh athleticism.”
The Eagles also welcome back Samu Manoa of Aviva Premiership club Northampton. Manoa played in the attendance record-setting match against Ireland at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston this June but took time off after a busy season with the Saints and a call-up to the Barbarians.
Five consecutive losses to Canada, Ireland, Tonga, Fiji and Japan this summer have been disappointing for the Eagles, but the first foray into the IRB Pacific Nations Cup and step up in level of competition will benefit them in the future.
“We started to become more patient in our approach and game management became better, as well as execution,” Tolkin said of the Eagles as they finished their Pacific Nations Cup campaign.
Canada came out on top 16-9 in the Pacific Nations Cup clash in May in Edmonton and went on to score a total of 99 points in their five summer tests, with wins against Fiji and Tonga.
“The focus this week is on playing against Canada’s strengths and weaknesses,” Tolkin said. “We have mentally prepared to do our jobs properly and then things will fall into place. We also have to keep in mind what’s at stake.”
The two-leg qualifier will determine the Americas 1 position at the 2015 Rugby World Cup England. The aggregate winner of the two matches will be matched-up against France, Ireland, Italy and the Europe 2 qualifier. The aggregate loser will go on to face Uruguay in a home-and-home series to determine the Americas 2 qualifier.
“The earlier we can get into the Rugby World Cup the better,” Tolkin said. “It allows you more preparation time, lessens the amount of time we would have to get professionals back, and it secures us into the tournament – you never want to keep going through many qualification rounds.”
Watch the Eagles from Charleston on Universal Sports Saturday, August 17, from 6:30 P.M. ET. Tickets can still be purchased from Blackbaud Stadium.
Men’s Eagles | vs. Canada
1. Shawn Pittman
2. Chris Biller
3. Eric Fry
4. Louis Stanfill
5. Samu Manoa
6. Scott LaValla
7. Peter Dahl
8. Todd Clever (C)
9. Mike Petri
10. Toby L'Estrange
11. Blaine Scully
12. Andrew Suniula
13. Seamus Kelly
14. Takudzwa Ngwenya
15. Chris Wyles