USA Aims to Recover Winning Ways
(Berkeley, California) 28 June 1996 -- Flanker Dan Lyle leads a surprising cast into battle as the USA National Rugby Team seeks to avenge an injury-time loss during this Saturday's Pacific Rim match with visiting Hong Kong in San Francisco's Balboa Park.
Rebounding from a difficult tour of Asia, such stalwarts as Tom Billups, Andre Bachelet, and Vaea Anitoni join the newly minted Eagle skipper in seeking to reverse June 9's jarring 22-19 loss. Luke Gross and 22-year-old Alec Parker again partner at second row, but the front rank continues to change as tighthead Bill LeClerc of Aspen gains his first cap. On the other side of hooker Billups, Chris Lippert returns for a record-breaking twenty-first international to aid a team decimated by injury and unavailability.
Meanwhile, Jared Hopkins of Stanford University makes his first appearance for the United States at openside flanker. Though listed in the training squad, incumbent Richard Tardits is still recovering from a severe ankle injury suffered in late May.
Turning to the backline, coach Jack Clark has picked the same group as the one that opened the Eagles' June 16 match with Japan in Tokyo. Bachelet and Matt Alexander combine at halfback, while Tomasi Takau again begins on the left wing, pushing the dangerous Vaea Anitoni over to the right side. With four tries in his last four outings, Anitoni is the Pacific Rim's leading try scorer.
Hong Kong have brought Duane Davis in at number eight and reshuffled their backs somewhat, but field a team similar to their June 9 lineup. The Eagles led the two teams' first contest from wire-to-wire, but fell victim to a late try borne of poor decisionmaking and penalties.
"Hong Kong is an experienced rugby team, and they won't be easily defeated," coach Clark said after announcing the team. "But I'm confident that we've done all that we can do to gain the result."
USA: Maika Sika; Vaea Anitoni, Ray Green, Mark Scharrenberg, Tomasi Takau; Matt Alexander, Andre Bachelet; Chris Lippert, Tom Billups, Bill LeClerc, Luke Gross, Alec Parker, Dan Lyle (c), Jared Hopkins, Rob Lumkong.