USA National Rugby Team


Eagles Head to Japan for Epson Cup Opener

(Berkeley, California) 22 May 2000 -- After three late changes to their squad, the Eagles left for Osaka Monday, preparing to face a Japanese side that lost its first Epson Cup match this past weekend.

Late additions for the USA include Denver Barbarians flyhalf Link Wilfley, Canadian-based wing Trevor Harrison and collegiate prospect Matt Kane at lock.

Wilfley replaces incumbent flyhalf David Niu who was forced to withdraw from the squad at the last minute due to a family medical emergency. The 20-year-old Wilfley, who earned All-American honors at Oregon State University in '99 and toured New Zealand with the USA's U-19s the year prior, will compete with Golden Gate's Grant Wells for the starting spot against the Cherry Blossoms.

Harrison, meanwhile, plays his rugby for Meralomas in Vancouver's top club competition, and boasts New Zealand club experience as well. The 6'7" Kane, a graduating senior from the University of California, has been instrumental in the Bears' last three collegiate championship runs. While the new-look Eagles squad had their first trainings under head coach Duncan Hall this weekend, the Japanese dropped their first match of the 2000 Epson Cup against Fiji, 47-22.

Fijian lock Emori Katalau's two tries were evidence Fiji's superiority in the forwards, while Japan's two tries out wide prove that the Japanese still boast world class speed. And the Eagles will need to be wary of Keiji Hirose's laser-like boot again this year. Hirose, who slotted four penalties against Fiji, kicked 20 points against the USA last June.

The American side crammed in four training sessions on the weekend, although only two were with a full contingent of players after weather-induced travel delays wrecked havoc with arrivals. Coach Hall, assisted by Ray Cornbill and Tom Billups, spent the bulk of the time in review of basic skills. The coaching staff will introduce a game plan for the Japan match, Tuesday and Wednesday in Osaka.

In other Epson Cup action this past weekend, Canada earned a 29-11 victory over Tonga, the Maple Leafs' first Epson Cup win since 1998. Led by Bristol-based professional Al Charron, the Canadians scored tries through scrumhalf Morgan Williams, fullback Winston Stanley and No. 8 Philip Murphy. Canada's next match is against the USA in Manchester, New Hampshire on June 3rd.

United States: Forwards: Troy Bartley, John Burke, Joe Clayton, Philippe Farner, Robbie Flynn, Dave Hodges (captain), Tom Kelleher, Kirk Khasigian, Ray Lehner, John McBride, Kort Schubert, Don Younger.
Backs: Andre Blom, Kevin Dalzell, Malakai Delai, Phillip Eloff, Juan Grobler, Trevor Harrison, John McGeachy, Jovesa Naivalu, Kurt Shuman, Grant Wells, Link Wilfley.

© USA National Rugby Team
Scott Compton, Media Relations
Hudson Rugby Fieldhouse
Berkeley, California 94720 4426
phone 510.643.1971 / fax 510.643.2192