Culminating in a "red-white" match, the camp offers players the chance to compete for roster spots during the Eagles' January tour of Wales and springtime Pacific Rim season. Three former National Team coaches (Ray Cornbill, George Betzler, and Clarence Culpepper) and former US flyhalf and current Denver Barbarians mentor Michael Dejong will guide the two camp squads.
Originated and paid for by the National Team to offset the ongoing lack of regular competition among USA Rugby's seven territories, the four-day camp also includes classroom and training sessions conducted by National Team coaches Jack Clark and Dan Porter.
The trialists were picked following an extensive, nationwide talent hunt, and the point of the camp is to evaluate these players, most of whom have no international experience. Many of the National Team's 1996 stalwarts -- flanker and captain Dan Lyle, lock Luke Gross, and halfback Andre Bachelet -- weren't invited to Las Vegas because their capabilities are known and because they are currently playing under contract in Britain. However, nine recent national teamers, including lock Cliff Vogl and fullback Mark Williams, will be among the mix.
The search process began with the mid-October mailing of nomination forms to over 150 officials and coaches. But the accompanying letter of explanation encouraged these targeted nominators to make and distribute copies of the form, so that anybody could nominate anyone else. The form required demographic information, athletic history, and detailed fitness data including times for the 40-yard dash and 2-mile run, and detailed fitness data measuring speed, endurance, and strength.
Nearly two-thirds of the targeted nominators -- a group that included LAU and territorial presidents and prominent coaches -- failed to return a single form. Nonetheless, 167 forms were returned, many identifying previously unknown players. The data was painstaking evaluated, and it's expected that some of the players who will miss Las Vegas will receive future invitations.
"We're very pleased with the quality of the nominations and looking forward to seeing these athletes compete for spots on the National Team," assistant coach Dan Porter commented after announcing the roster. "But we're somewhat saddened by the fact that two-thirds of our nominators failed to respond, even while others sent in incomplete and inaccurate nominations."
"We were surprised but probably shouldn't have been," added head coach Jack Clark. "It's a predictable commentary on US rugby that so few did so much. But we are indeed very pleased with the quality of the trialists."
The Las Vegas Trialists
|Travis Kelsey||Boulder, CO|
|Masanao Morimoto||San Francisco|
|Scott Bracken||San Diego|
|Brent Heinz||Colombus, OH|
|Mike Murphy||Fairfax, VA|
|Broderick Norman||Ft. Campbell, KY|
|Steve O'Boyle||San Francisco|
|George Sucher||Washington, DC|
|Jason Wood||San Diego|
|Glenn Gawrowski||New York|
|Ben Kalney||Overland Park, KS|
|Jay Keller||Washington, DC|
|Cliff Vogl||Bridgend, Wales|
|Jared Allen||Annapolis, MD|
|Jeff Chenu||San Francisco|
|Paul Harris||Raleigh, NC|
|Dave Hodges||San Diego|
|Nick Bell||Centreville, VA|
|Tom Kenney||Washington, DC|
|Jason Perez||San Diego|
|Derek Jordan||Eagle, ID|
|Kurt Shuman||State College, PA|
|Ian Stevens||Long Beach, CA|
|Tomalati Maafu||Tempe, AZ|
|Marty O'Connor||New York|
|Alitini Saulala||San Francisco|
|John Coady||Tempe, AZ|
|Nelson Curtis||Enterprise, AL|
|Brian Hightower||Aspen, CO|
|Jude Crayton||Chapel Hill, NC|
|Chris Morrow||Aspen, CO|
|Mark Williams||Aspen, CO|
|Ray Cornbill||New York|
|Clarence Culpepper||Washington, DC|
|National Team Staff:|
|Jack Clark||Head Coach|
|Dan Porter||Assistant Coach|
|Chris Byrne||Camp Manager|
|John Hisamoto||Medical Director and Physical Therapist|
|Walter Pyka, MD||Physician|
|Salty Thompson||Strength and Conditioning|
|Kurt Oeler||Media Relations|