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US Faces Uphill Battle in Pan American Championship

(Ottawa, Canada) 11 September 1996 -- For the United States, the Pan American Championship has become an uphill battle.

Drawing Argentina in the round-robin tournament's opening match, on September 14 at Ottawa's Twin Elm Park, the US has been struck by a rash of injuries that greatly compromises the teamıs chances of gaining its first-ever win against the Pumas.

A little more than two weeks ago, starting lock Luke Gross broke his thumb in a training accident, and then flanker and captain Dan Lyle injured his knee in a match last Saturday. Yesterday, Gross's second-row partner, Alec Parker, also injured his knee in a training accident. All three are out of action.

Lock Bill Leversee and flanker Jay Wilkerson have been called in as replacements, while prop Chris Lippert has been named captain in Lyle's stead.

The losses bring to seven the number of absent starters from the Eagles' early July rout of Japan. Previously, flanker Richard Tardits (family matters) and center Ray Green (work) had looked to be the key players missing.

"The unfortunate changes in personnel will make it difficult to implement the patterns of play that were successful in the Pacific Rim," coach Jack Clark commented after Parker's injury. "To a great degree, our team will be playing on heart and hustle."

The US last played Argentina in 1994, losing by 28-22 in Long Beach, California, and 16-11 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Both games were qualifying matches for the 1995 World Cup.

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