US Fights to Stay in Contention for Pan Am Title
(Hamilton, Canada) 17 September 1996 -- Looking to stay in the running for the inaugural Pan American Championship, the United States today named its team to face archrival Canada in the round-robin competition's second leg at Hamilton, Canada's Mohawk Sports Complex.

Three changes come in the wake of Saturday1s 29-26 injury-time loss to Argentina. Most important, lock Luke Gross has passed a fitness test and replaces Bill Leversee at second row. Gross, a 6'9" lineout force, broke his thumb in a training accident with London's Harlequins club, and hasn't played a match since early July.

Gross's return is offset, however, by the loss of flanker Richard Tardits in a Monday morning training accident that left him with a contusion on his left leg. Jay Wilkerson takes Tardits's place in the lineup. At wing, Bobby Lockerem makes his first international appearance in place of Ed Schram.

Number eight Rob Lumkong, who sparked the USA's comeback from 16 points down by scoring the team's first try and starting off its second one, leads the forward unit. Earning his 16th cap, hooker Tom Billups ties Pat Johnson for most international appearances by a US player at that position.

Halfback Andre Bachelet and flyhalf Matt Alexander spearhead the backline. Bachelet tallied the Eagles' other try on Saturday, while Alexander totaled 16 points on six-of-nine goalkicking. Though he couldn't quite land a penalty goal at the end of play, Alexander passed the "century mark" against Argentina, and now totals 108 points in just seven international games.

Prop Chris Lippert again captains the team in the injury-enforced absence of Dan Lyle.

Wednesday's contest is not only crucial to US hopes for the Pan Am title, but also serves as a rubber match for 1996's "Can-Am" rivalry. Earlier this year, the US downed Canada 19-12 in San Francisco, but dropped a 24-20 injury-time decision in Vancouver.

"In some ways, test matches are all about adversity, and we've had our share," head coach Jack Clark commented after picking his team. "We'll play hard for a full 80 minutes, and there's a chance that'll be enough to get the result."

United States: Maika Sika; Vaea Anitoni, Juan Grobler, Mark Scharrenberg, Bobby Lockerem; Matt Alexander, Andre Bachelet; Chris Lippert (captain), Tom Billups, Ray Lehner, Luke Gross, Alec Parker, Rob Randell, Jay Wilkerson, Rob Lumkong.