USA National Rugby Team


Eagles Squad Strengthens For South Pacific

(Berkeley, California) 23 June 2000 -- The USA welcomes back some veteran performers for the second half of the Epson Cup Pacific Rim competition, with wing Vaea Anitoni, lock Luke Gross and center Alatini Saulala heading the list of players joining the squad for the first time in 2000.

Anitoni, the Eagles' leading all-time try scorer, has juggled work committments to join the team again, while Gross has just completed a professional season in Italy and Saulala returns from a lingering hamstring injury. Between them, they boast 98 appearances for the USA.

"It is the most experienced team that has been available this year," noted USA head coach Duncan Hall. "Against the teams we are going to play, experience will be essential, if we are to be competitive."

The Eagles are 2-0 in the Epson Cup after victories over Japan and Canada, but the remaining matches promise even bigger challenges. The USA leaves Saturday for away matches against Fiji and Tonga, before returning to San Francisco to play Samoa on July 15.

While some rugby pundits are already speculating that the USA-Samoa match may decide the Pacific Rim, coach Hall is focused on the next two tests where his team will face heat, humidity, and partisan home crowds. "If Fiji live up to what they did in the Rugby World Cup, they are very dangerous," he said, "and their squad is now at its strongest."

The USA returns almost its entire starting line-ups from the Japan and Canada matches. One exception is wing Andre Blom who is unavailable due to work committments. His absence makes Anitoni's return particularly timely for the Eagles.

The USA were dangerously thin in the outside backs throughout their first three week assembly, but the return of Saulala, the call up of OMBAC's Dave Disorbo and Hayward's Roger Grant gives the Eagles some depth.

Back row help has also been added with Aspen's Jason Gillam and Hayward's Olo Fifita joining the team for the first time, while collegiate prospect Mike MacDonald joins John McBride, Ray Lehner and Joe Clayton as the squad's fourth prop.

Forwards: Joe Clayton, Philippe Farner, Olo Fifita, Robbie Flynn, Jason Gillam, Luke Gross, Dave Hodges (captain), Matt Kane, Kirk Khasigian, Ray Lehner, Mike MacDonald, John McBride, Kort Schubert, Don Younger.
Backs: Vaea Anitoni, Kevin Dalzell, Malakai Delai, Dave Disorbo, Phillip Eloff, Roger Grant, Juan Grobler, Alatini Saulala, Kurt Shuman, Mose Timoteo, 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