US Picks Team for Opening Half of Pacific Rim Rugby Championship
(Berkeley, California) 2 May 1997 -- US National Team coach Jack Clark today named the 27 players slated to compete in the USA's first three Pacific Rim Rugby Championship games. The US begins its home-and-home schedule of international matches against Canada, Hong Kong, and Japan with a match in Vancouver on May 10, before traveling on a two-week trip to Asia.

Flanker Dan Lyle of Richmond, Virginia, again captains the US team. Lyle, a 6'5", 250 lb former All-American tight end, returns to the States from the powerful English club Bath, where he has been drawing rave reviews from British journalists surprised by the novelty of a top-flight American player.

With the recent advent of professional rugby, however, the British have been getting used to Yankees in their midst. Also returning from England are halfback Andre Bachelet, hooker Tom Billups, lock Luke Gross, and center Mark Scharrenberg (a native of Los Altos). Meanwhile, lock Cliff Vogl and flanker Jay Wilkerson have been living and playing in Wales. All have done well in their first year abroad.

Their teammates come from all over the US. Veteran prop Chris Lippert hails from San Diego's OMBAC club, the defending national champions; flyhalf Matt Alexander, the USA's all-time leading points scorer, competes for the Denver Barbarians; and former NFL linebacker Richard Tardits plays flanker for Life College of the Atlanta area. Two are students: Penn State's Kurt Shuman and Cal's Kats Takei will actually compete against one another in this weekend's national collegiate championship in Berkeley before taking finals and then joining the team.

The National Team players arrive in Berkeley on Sunday, May 4. They'll train at Cal for a few days before departing for Vancouver to meet archrival Canada on May 10. Next comes Hong Kong in Hong Kong on May 17, and Japan in Osaka on May 25.

In addition to the struggle for players from different club teams in America and Britain to get used to one another again, the US will also have to overcome the absence of some eight players who were unable to commit to the three-week trip. Some of these can be expected to return to the team when the US plays the home portion of its Pacific Rim schedule, billed as "Test Series '97," in June. At the same time, owing to the work commitments of US-based players--who do not support themselves by playing rugby--and the inevitable problem of injuries, as many as 10 more players are likely to join the National Team before the season is out.

"Itıll be good to see the boys again," Coach Clark stated after announcing the selections. "I'll be anxious to see their form. The road portion of this competition is very difficult, and it's a severe challenge for us."

The Pacific Rim Rugby Championship roster