BOULDER, Colo. – Head Coach, Eddie O’Sullivan, has named his best possible team to face Italy at Trafalgar Park in Nelson for the Eagle’s final match of the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC). A win for the USA would mean automatic qualification for the 2015 RWC and additional funding from the International Rugby Board (IRB). (Photo Credit: USA Rugby)
The match will be broadcast LIVE on Universal Sports TV at 2.30 a.m ET (re-aired at 8 p.m ET), and then will be shown delayed online 24 hours after the game. View the complete viewing schedule at UniversalSports.com.
In Pool C, Australia (3rd in world rankings) and Ireland (6th in world rankings) are on course for the RWC quarterfinals, with only two teams from each of the four pools advancing. The USA are currently ranked 17th and Italy are 10th. The Italians have made tremendous strides in rugby since joining the Six Nations competition in 2000. Earlier this year Italy defeated France 22-21.
“We are very excited for this final pool match, and have several players fresh for the encounter. We have a very short turn-around following the Australian match in Wellington, and have planned accordingly,” said O’Sullivan.
The Eagles have impressed at RWC 2011, starting with an inspired performance against Ireland on September 11. Despite losing 22-10, the Eagles won over thousands of fans for a brave effort, scoring near full time through Paul Emerick. During that match, prop Mike MacDonald, became the most capped USA player of all time with 63 appearances.
In the next pool match four days later, the USA defeated Russia 13-6 to record an historic win in the RWC. It was a bruising battle in which the Russians defended tremendously to keep the score line that close.
This past weekend fourteen changes were made to the team that won against Russia, as they faced Australia, winners of the RWC in 1991 and 1999. JJ Gagiano’s try against the Wallabies was one of the moments of the match at a packed Wellington Regional Stadium, with the majority of fans screaming wildly for the Eagles. Famous New Zealand commentator Murray Mexted said, “I’ve been to hundreds of matches in Wellington, and this is the loudest I have ever heard the crowd”.
Off the field, the USA squad has been heavily involved with the local communities in the various cities. This afternoon some of the players will attend the Tasman 7s, featuring 600 youth rugby players from many local regions. Tomorrow the Eagles will be at the Richmond Parade, meeting the Mayor as well as the US Ambassador to New Zealand.
On the field, Todd Clever returns to lead his country. The flanker has been vital for the United States, devastating with both ball in hand and on defense. Louis Stanfill is the blindside flank with Nic Johnson at 8th man, both possessing an outstanding work rate. The lock combination of John van der Giessen and Hayden Smith has been excellent, especially at lineout time, often providing vital steals. Up front, Mike MacDonald is set to break another record, for most appearances at the RWC in an Eagle jersey. He will surpass Alec Parker’s record of 10 appearances on Tuesday evening. Mate Moeakiola (prop) and Chris Biller (hooker) have earned starting positions following their strong performances against Russia.
Vice-captain Mike Petri, who scored a fantastic try in the Russia victory, leads the backline at scrumhalf. Roland Suniula is at flyhalf and will be full of running against the Italians, teaming up with his brother Andrew, who is at center. The physical Paul Emerick is at outside center. James Paterson has recovered from a minor injury, and is on the left wing with crowd facourite Takudzwa Ngwenya in the number 14 jersey. Chris Wyles enjoyed a superb match against Russia, and will anchor the backline at fullback.
On the bench the Eagles have plenty of firepower Phil Thiel (hooker), Shawn Pittman (prop), Scott LaValla (lock), Pat Danahy (flank), Tim Usasz (scrumhalf), Nese Malifa (flyhalf) and Blaine Scully (fullback).
The Eagles kick-off against Italy at 7.30 p.m local time on Tuesday at Trafalgar Park in Nelson, New Zealand.
15 Chris Wyles (Saracens)
14 Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz)
13 Paul Emerick (Life University)
12 Andrew Suniula (Chicago Griffins)
11 James Paterson (Highlanders)
10 Roland Suniula (Boston Rugby)
9 Mike Petri (New York Athletic Club)
1 Mike MacDonald (Leeds Carnegie)
2 Chris Biller (San Francisco Golden Gate)
3 Mate Moeakiola (Bobigny 93)
4 John van der Giessen (Unattached)
5 Hayden Smith (Saracens)
6 Louis Stanfill (New York Athletic Club)
7 Todd Clever (Suntory Sungoliath) *Captain
8 Nic Johnson (Unattached)
16 Phil Thiel (Life University)
17 Shawn Pittman (London Welsh)
18 Scott LaValla (Stade Francais)
19 Pat Danahy (Life University)
20 Tim Usasz (Nottingham RFC)
21 Nese Malifa (Glendale)
22 Blaine Scully (Unattached)
15 Andrea Masi
14 Tommaso Benvenuti
13 Gonzalo Canale
12 Gonzalo Garcia
11 Mirco Bergamasco
10 Luciano Orquera
9 Fabio Semenzato
1. Salvatore Perugini
2. Leonardo Ghiraldini
3. Martin Castrogiovanni
4. Quintin Geldenhuys
5. Cornelius van Zyl
6. Alessandro Zanni
7. Mauro Bergamasco
8. Sergio Parisse *Captain
16 Fabio Ongaro
17 Andrea Lo Cicero
18 Marco Bortolami
19 Paul Derbyshire
20 Edoardo Gori
21 Riccardo Bocchino
22 Luke McLean
RWC 2011 SCHEDULE | NEW ZEALAND
September 27, 2011: USA vs. Italy (Trafalgar Park, Nelson) 19.30
RWC 2011 RESULTS | NEW ZEALAND
September 11, 2011: USA 10 Ireland 22 (Stadium Taranaki, New Plymouth)
September 15, 2011: USA 13 Russia 6 (Stadium Taranaki, New Plymouth)
September 23, 2011: USA 5 Australia 67 (Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington)