US Trials Match Looks Promising
(Las Vegas, Nevada) 13 December 1996 -- Forty-one of America's finest rugby players square off tomorrow in a "red-white" match that's to be the highlight of the US National Team's four-day Trials Camp in Las Vegas. Game time is 1:00 pm at UNLV's Sam Boyd Stadium. At stake: some few roster spots during the Eagles' January tour of Wales and springtime Pacific Rim season.

The US 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 Cliff Vogl and Mark Williams, are among the mix.

The Trials Camp has so far featured testing of the players' strength, speed, and endurance; training and evaluation by National Team coaches Jack Clark and Dan Porter; and an introduction to the National Team's pattern of play. But Saturday brings the true exam, a full match between two balanced squads.

Fullback Williams and flyhalf Ian Stevens will captain the red and white teams, respectively, and also steer the opposing backlines. Lock Vogl will head up the red forwards, while past collegiate All-Americans Scott Bracken, Glenn Gawronski, Dave Hodges, and Jeff Chenu form the core of the white pack. The red team is guided by former US National Team coaches George Betzler and Ray Cornbill, while the white squad is led by by former US National Team coach Clarence Culpepper and former US flyhalf and current Denver Barbarians mentor Mike Dejong.

"The trialists to a man are showing great enthusiasm for the task and appear to be open to our approach to the game," US coach Clark commented after Friday's final practice. "I have no doubt that tomorrow some of them will take a positive step in their rugby careers, and go on to contribute to the National Team's future successes."

Five trialists have withdrawn from the camp since the roster was originally announced, and three players added. Prop Brent Heinz, number eight Nick Bell, and center Finau Puloka declared themselves injured, while flanker Dave Kenkel and center Tomalati Mafu cited personal reasons. Number eight Fili Lametta and centers Marty O'Connor and Mel Raikadroke are the late additions. Mas Morimoto was injured during training and is doubtful for Saturday's trial.

Red squad: Mark Williams (c); Chip Curtis, Marty O'Connor, Boydy Wikeepa, Bobby Lockerem; Kurt Schuman, King Holmes; George Sucher, Bob Yale, Mike Murphy, Cliff Vogl, Ben Kalney, Paul Vogel, Jared Allen, Fili Lametta. Reserves: Broderick Norman, Travis Kelsey, Paul Harris, Tom Kenney, Pete Palermo, Jude Crayton.

White squad: Chris Morrow; Brian Hightower, Alitini Saulala, Mel Raikadroke, Wally Lester; Ian Stevens (c), Jason Perez; Scott Bracken, Sean Hinton, Steve O¹Boyle, Jay Keller, Glenn Gawronski, Dave Hodges, Jeff Chenu, Matt Winters. Reserves: Jason Wood, Scharl Laubscher, Britt Howard, Derek Jordan, John Coady.