Following last week's loss to Fiji, head coach Duncan Hall has simply swapped hookers and bought Hayward's Roger Grant in at right wing, a spot vacated by Vaea Anitoni who returned to the United States due to a family emergency. In the front row, Golden Gate's Robbie Flynn gets the nod over Kirk Khasigian as the two continue a season-long contest for the starting slot.
St. Louis prop John McBride, meanwhile, has recovered from a stomach bug and will play tighthead. Slated to start against Fiji, McBride was sidelined by illness. His recovery puts Ray Lehner on the bench.
The stability in the starting line-up is partly testament to a strong performance in Apia last week, where the Eagles dominated much of the possession, but could not break the Fijian defense.
Coach Hall expects his side will be able to play Tonga close as well, particularly if the Eagles can adapt quickly to the Tongan team's physical approach.
"They will hit hard," Hall said. "A lot will depend on the first 20 minutes. We've got the capacity to weather the storm."
There may be literal storm conditions to deal with as well. Heavy rains this week have hampered training and left water puddled on the match pitch. Hall says it won't affect the Eagles' game plan, but a soft pitch may help the visitors by negating some of Tonga's pace advantage.
The Eagles return to San Francisco from Nuku'alofa to host their final Epson Cup Pacific Rim contest against Samoa on July 15th.
United States: Kurt Shuman; Roger Grant, Philip Eloff, Alatini Saulala, Malakai Delai; Grant Wells, Kevin Dalzell; Joe Clayton, Robbie Flynn, John McBride, Luke Gross, Philippe Farner, Dave Hodges (captain), Kort Schubert, Olo Fifita. Reserves: Mose Timoteo, Link Wilfley, Juan Grobler, Jason Gillam, Matt Kane, Ray Lehner, Kirk Khasigian.
© USA National Rugby Team
Scott Compton, Media Relations
Hudson Rugby Fieldhouse
Berkeley, California 94720 4426
phone 510.643.1971 / fax 510.643.2192