Lyle Assumes Captaincy as US Bids to Regain Momentum
(Tokyo, Japan) 14 June 1996 -- Determined to reverse the trend of two consecutive injury-time losses, the USA National Team announced a change of captains along with a much revamped lineup for Sunday's Pacific Rim test with Japan at Tokyo's Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.
In the wake of a troubling 22-19 loss to Hong Kong, standout flanker Dan Lyle takes the helm in place of halfback Andre Bachelet. Lyle, who recently turned down a contract with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings to compete for the Eagles, played a key role in OMBAC's winning the 1996 national championship last month. A veteran of six caps, he's sometimes been called the best player in the US side.
Six changes accompany Lyle's debut as leader. In the forwards, Tim Kluempers, Sean Allen, and Bill LeClerc comprise the front row -- each player will earn his initial cap -- while Mark Scharrenberg returns at inside center, Tomasi Takau moves to wing, and Maika Sika comes in at fullback. (With a lingering infection, LeClerc's fitness is questionable. Should he fail, Ray Lehner will join the front rankers.)
Though replaced as skipper, Andre Bachelet retains his test place at halfback. Bachelet captained the USA for six matches, compiling a 2-4 record. "I have no regrets and only good feelings about Andre Bachelet's term as captain," head coach Jack Clark commented after announcing the side. "The Eagles needed to be tougher and more passionate, and Andre brought these qualities to the team.
But the Eagles are a team in transition, and our best course now is to trust the captaincy to Dan Lyle. He brings great leadership and confidence to the role."
Meanwhile, in making an unprecedented number of changes, coach Clark and staff have clearly indicated unhappiness with the team's recent shortcomings. "We played hard against Hong Kong but the result wasn't satisfactory, and it's important that there's accountability on the part of the men on the field," Clark stated.