USA National Rugby Team


Three More US Players Ruled Out of Iberia Tour

(Berkeley, California) 23 March 1998 -- Three more players were ruled out of the USA's upcoming tour of Spain and Portugal because of injury, bringing to eight the number of pool players recently hurt in domestic rugby.

Flyhalf Kurt Shuman and wing Rich Shurfeld suffered knee injuries, while replacement wing Chip Curtis said that a chronic groin injury still hasn't healed.

In response, the US added flyhalf Gary Putterman and wings Kevin Gittings and Jason Raven to its 28-man tour squad. All three pool players are uncapped and in fact will be making their first trip with the full US National Team, though Raven does have some Eagle 7s experience.

Shuman's injury, an MCL tear that will sideline him for three to six weeks, comes at a particularly bad time for the 1997 Penn State graduate and collegiate player of the year. Capped at fullback last season, Shuman had been slated to start at his preferred position of flyhalf in the tour's opening match, against a Portuguese Development XV. Had he played well, Shuman might have gotten the nod against Portugual, US Head Coach Jack Clark said.

An MRI evaluated by Dr. David Chao, team physician of the San Diego Chargers, revealed a nonoperable tear that can be expected to heal completely.

Last week Chao performed an ACL operation on center Ray Green, also ruled out of the Iberian trip through a club-side injury. Green's surgery included replacing the ACL and also repairing tears in the meniscus on both sides of the knee, and will keep him out of action for at least four months.

Shurfeld's knee damage is doubly unfortunate. Besides compounding the recent loss of starting test wing Brian Hightower, who underwent surgery to repair torn ligaments in his foot and will be on the shelf for about three months, it foils for the moment the test veteran's spirited comeback. Shurfeld proved himself still among the best while playing for the Midwest at December's Inter-Territorial Tournament (ITT), and would have been in the hunt for a test berth.

Curtis's groin ailment is a recurring injury he battled virtually throughout the 1997 Pacific Rim campaign, his rookie international season. A Combined Services product who first surfaced at the 1996 US trials camp in Las Vegas, Curtis's groin kept him from playing for the South at the ITT.

Shurfeld is likely out for four to six weeks, while Curtis is sidelined indefinitely.

Putterman earns his first callup on the basis of his play for Southern California during the Griffins' runnerup finish at the ITT, as well as the USA's gold medal performance at last summer's Maccabiah Games. Gittings and Raven, both known for their 7s prowess, each found room to run at the Tampa ITT, Gittings scoring an important try in the Mid-Atlantic's comeback win over the Midwest.

US management took the injury news philosophically. "The sport of rugby has become a very dynamic spectacle. But with increased velocity has come increased injury," Clark noted.

"We feel especially bad for Rich. He proved at the ITT that he's still one of America's top wings. It must have been very disappointing for him to withdraw."

One more weekend of club matches remains before the US departs for Portugal on March 30.