MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay – The starting XV for the Men’s Eagles’ IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Qualifier first leg against Uruguay has been selected by head coach Mike Tolkin. Kickoff between the two American squads is Saturday, March 22, at 3:00 P.M. ET.
Phil Thiel will start at hooker between looshead prop Olive Kilifi and tighthead prop Eric Fry. Kilifi earned his first two caps last fall during the Eagles’ November Tour and will make his first start Saturday. Tom Coolican, Titi Lamositele and Nick Wallace will provide front row cover from the bench.
Tim Maupin will make his third career start for the Eagles on the wing, as will Folau Niua at center. The newer players add youth to the Eagles, though Tolkin does not expect any one of them to be a step behind.
“They’re fitting in very well,” he said. “I think the important thing about those guys is most of them did two camps with us over three weeks. So they really got the system down, they’re playing with confidence, and they got some hard game time against Life University. So they’re right in with the system and the pros.”
Tolkin’s squad is not short of experience, however, as can be seen with Louis Stanfill wearing the No. 19 shirt on the bench.
“If Louis had to start we still feel confident in his ability as an impact player,” Tolkin said. “It just reflects the depth that we have now and the strength in our forward numbers.”
Todd Clever will captain the Eagles in his 55th appearance from the blindside flanker position alongside Scott LaValla at openside flanker. Hayden Smith returns to the team for the first time since his last appearance at the IRB Rugby World Cup 2011 at lock partnering Samu Manoa.
“Right now we’re really fortunate to have some size, power and athleticism in the second row,” Tolkin said. “I think the thing that really reflects that is that Tai Tuisamoa is not dressing for the game. He’s a fantastic impact player and we had to make a tough decision with him, but it reflects where we are.
“It was only a few months ago, going into November, we had injuries at locks and we were down to some thin numbers there. We’ve been very fortunate, so we’ll enjoy it while it’s here.”
Mike Petri gets the start at scrumhalf with Toby L’Estrange behind him at flyhalf. Cam Dolan will wear the No. eight jersey for the Eagles.
Andrew Suniula will play at center with Niua, while Blaine Scully will man Maupin’s opposite wing outside of Chris Wyles at fullback. Eleven of the Eagles’ starting XV are currently playing professionally overseas, while Lamositele and Luke Hume represent overseas professionals on the bench.
The Eagles have lost to Uruguay once in 12 matchups, back in 2002 in Montevideo. Since then, they have a plus-129 point differential against Los Teros in six wins, with the most recent being a two-leg series win ahead of the IRB Rugby World Cup 2011.
The Eagles are also coming off of a strong November Tour, during which they defeated Georgia – who has qualified for next year’s Rugby World Cup – and Russia.
“I think we want to play a direct, simple game to start,” Tolkin said of the game plan against Uruguay. “In our last game together when we played Russia, we put ourselves in a lot of opportunities to put points on the board but we didn’t take advantage because we played a little bit loose.
“I think our concentration coming in is to play direct, to play good territorial rugby, and to put away the opportunities when we have them.”
Watch the first leg of the IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Qualifier playoff between the Eagles and Uruguay live from Estadio Charrua on the IRB Live website. Follow live updates from Montevideo with @USARugby on Twitter.
Men's Eagles | v Uruguay
1. Olive Kilifi
2. Phil Thiel
3. Eric Fry
4. Hayden Smith
5. Samu Manoa
6. Todd Clever (C)
7. Scott LaValla
8. Cam Dolan
9. Mike Petri
10. Toby L'Estrange
11. Tim Maupin
12. Andrew Suniula
13. Folau Niua
14. Blaine Scully
15. Chris Wyles
Men's Eagles | Coaching Staff
Mike Tolkin - Head Coach
Billy Millard - Assistant Coach
Justin Fitzpatrick - Assistant Coach
Phil Bailey - Assistant Coach
Dave Williams - Strength & Conditioning Coach
Chris O'Brien - Kicking Coach
James Walton - Video Analyst
Jeff Mjaanes - Doctor
Richard Quincy, Jr. - Physio
Zach Vyhananek - Physio
Sarah Sall - Massage Therapist
Tristan Lewis - Manager