Neath Match to Serve as Tour Opener
(Cardiff, Wales) 2 January 1997 -- Captained by flanker Dan Lyle, the United States takes on Neath RFC in the Eagles' opening Welsh tour match on Saturday, January 4, at Cardiff Arms Park's National Stadium.

Besides serving as captain, Lyle heads a pack that shows just one change from the eight slated to play Wales 'A' on Wednesday. Richard Tardits replaces Jay Wilkerson at openside flanker, but it remains that five of the American forwards are currently playing in Great Britain.

While Lyle has been grabbing headlines for Bath, hooker Tom Billups has been competing for Blackheath and lock Luke Gross for Harlequins. Number eight Rob Lumkong recently inked a pact with Pontypridd, while prop Chris Lippert left Rugby last month and but intends to continue on abroad.

Andre Bachelet (Reading) and Matt Alexander pair again at halfback, but the rest of the line is more of a "form" combination. Though center Mark Scharrenberg (Reading) and wing Vaea Anitoni take their familiar places, center Boydy Wikeepa, wing Brian Hightower, and fullback Chris Morrow make their first appearances for the United States. Morrow is the other replacement from Wednesday¹s team, trading places with Mark Williams, who goes to the reserves bench.

Foiled by an unusual cold snap that's recently wrought havoc on rugby matches throughout Great Britain, the USA's scheduled opening match against Wales 'A' on January 1 was cancelled because the National Stadium's ground froze and was declared unplayable.

"The team has adjusted well to the cancellation, but needs to play a match," US head coach Jack Clark commented before announcing the team. "The Neath game now becomes even more important to our buildup to the test."

United States: Mark Williams (Gentlemen of Aspen); Vaea Anitoni (Yankees), Boydy Wikeepa (Seattle), Mark Scharrenberg (Reading), Brian Hightower (Gentlemen of Aspen); Matt Alexander (Denver Barbarians), Andre Bachelet (Reading); Chris Lippert (Rugby), Tom Billups (Reading), Bill LeClerc (Gentlemen of Aspen), Luke Gross (Harlequins), Alec Parker (Gentlemen of Aspen), Dan Lyle (Bath), Jay Wilkerson (Belmont Shore), Rob Lumkong (Pontypridd). Reserves: Ray Lehner, Sean Allen, Rob Randell, Jay Wilkerson, Britt Howard, and Mark Williams.