Recovered from a knee injury that kept him out of September's Pan American Championship, flanker Dan Lyle again captains the Eagles. Dangerous winger Vaea Anitoni, high-scoring flyhalf Matt Alexander, and backrowers Rob Lumkong and Richard Tardits from the core of his stalwarts. For the first time, the US also calls upon a host of players (such as hooker Tom Billups, lock Luke Gross, and scrumhalf Andre Bachelet) who have joined Lyle in becoming expatriate, professional ruggers in Great Britain.
Ten uncapped players join the US squad -- six for the first time -- as a result of the National Team's December 14 trials match. Among the promising newcomers: wing Brian Hightower and fullback Chris Morrow, both vital to the US National 7s Team's November qualification for the 7s Rugby World Cup in March 1997. Twice-capped lock Cliff Vogl also played his way back into the squad at the US trials.
Trialist centers Marty O'Connor and Alitini Saulala withdrew from consideration for personal reasons, while number eight Matt Winters made himself unavailable due to injury.
With matches against Wales 'A', Neath, Pontypridd, and Wales on the schedule, the visitors will have their work cut out for the them. While the Welsh teams are at mid-season, most American clubs have paused due to winter weather. And while Wales recently played Australia and South Africa, the US has been inactive.
Still, the Eagles' first visit to Wales since the fall of 1987 is a landmark occasion. A member of the Overseas XV that met Wales in a September 1980 match commemorating the Wales Rugby Union's Centenary, US coach Jack Clark ironically played his last match at Cardiff Arms Park, before his career was cut short. Assistant coach George Betzler in fact guided the 1987 tourists.
"The timing of the tour will add to what is already a great challenge,"
Clark commented after announcing the selections. "That said, we've
selected a mixed team of experienced and promising new players, and
I know that to a man, we're excited about the tour."