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TOKYO, Japan – USA Rugby Men’s Eagles Head Coach Mike Tolkin will hope a few days’ extra rest will give his side a boost in Tokyo Sunday, when the Eagles face Japan in the IRB Pacific Nations Cup.
A disappointing campaign so far in the Eagles’ first year in the competition has not changed Tolkin’s strategy of going for the win, despite being at the bottom of the table with three losses. Japan, coming off of an historic win against Wales last weekend, defeated table-topper Canada Wednesday to earn its first win of the competition.
“They are hitting their peak this summer,” Tolkin said of Sunday’s opposition. “We expect a clinical team who is fit and who play with pace and tenacity. There is not much room for error versus Japan.”
The Eagles last played Wednesday in Nagoya, losing to Fiji 10-35. Louis Stanfill filled in at captain for the rested Todd Clever and earned his 11th consecutive start, dating back to the Eagles’ 10-27 loss to Italy at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Stanfill starts again Sunday at lock beside the returning Brian Doyle, who came on in the 33rd minute of the Fiji match.
“The cornerstone of Louis [Stanfill's] game is heart and brawn and he has brought that into every game,” Tolkin said. “His individual stats remain steady and he really leads by his attitude towards each game and his pride in the jersey. He did a super job in filling in as captain.”
Clever will captain the Eagles Sunday and will be rejoined in the starting lineup by Chris Wyles, Andrew Suniula, Mike Petri, Shawn Pittman and Chris Biller, who were each rested for portions of Wednesday’s match. Scott LaValla, not on the roster for the midweek loss, returns at blindside flanker.
Suniula helped a younger Eagles squad score the first try of 2013 Wednesday, but it was still not enough to earn the first win. Tolkin knows the step up in competition with the new-look IRB Pacific Nations Cup will only help the Eagles going forward, for both the experienced and younger players.
“We are not where we aimed to be at this point in the competition, but the step up is exactly what we needed,” he said. “Given that this is our first go-around in the tournament with a challenging travel schedule this summer, we will now be able to approach the next one far better prepared and with a greater amount of experienced young players.”
Men's Eagles | vs. Japan
1. Shawn Pittman
2. Chris Biller
3. Eric Fry
4. Brian Doyle
5. Louis Stanfill
6. Scott LaValla
7. Peter Dahl
8. Todd Clever (C)
9. Mike Petri
10. Toby L'Estrange
11. James Paterson
12. Andrew Suniula
13. Adam Siddall
14. Luke Hume
15. Chris Wyles