(Berkeley, California) 1 February 1999--Fifty-seven players have been named to the US National Team's 1999 player pool, general manager and head coach Jack Clark announced today.
Headed by loose forward and captain Dan Lyle, who returns from a knee injury, the list includes a solid nucleus of proven internationals, among them all-time US try-scoring leader Vaea Anitoni and hooker Tom Billups, who led the '98 team in Lyle's absence.
But the deck has been significantly reshuffled since December's Inter-Territorial Tournament, a crucial National Team selection vehicle since its revival two years ago. More than 25 players picked for last year's pool--including 11 capped internationals--appear to have exited the scene.
"Our players are aware that not playing in the ITT is a calculated risk," coach Clark said in naming this year's pool. "Many players who did not attend lost their spots. A few others rolled the dice and won."
The long list of '98 pool players who skipped Tampa and consequently relinquished places includes eight former Eagles (Rob Randell, Jon Holtzman, Jay Wilkerson, Scott Yungling, Matt Alexander, Chip Curtis, Dan Kennedy, and Jason Raven) plus ten uncapped players (Todd Giuntini, Travis Kelsey, Tom Parsons, Hein Smit, Bo Buck, Paul Vogel, Matt Pickston, Gary Putterman, Geoff Alley, and Kevin Gittings).
Another eight members of the '98 pool played at the ITT, but were displaced by rivals.
Headed by Ray Cornbill, a five-man Selection Advisory Panel joined National Team head coach Clark and his assistants in Tampa, evaluating every match, conferring individually with each of the territorial coaches, and reviewing videotape footage. Eddie O'Sullivan, Michael de Jong, and John Moore round out the Eagle coaching staff, while former National Team coaches George Betzler, Clarence Culpepper, Al Little, and Dan Porter served on the panel. Bill Russell represented the 7s program.
Members of the 1999 pool are currently being notified of their status as candidates for the Pacific Rim international season and October's World Cup, and given a detailed National Team assembly schedule for the upcoming campaign.
The slate begins with an early April fitness camp to assess readiness for the Pacific Rim, which gets underway in May. The camp will be an "above the line" event, Clark said, noting that players who don't score well will see their chances of selection fall off.
Coach Clark also noted that the player pool would be fluid: "Past experience suggests that some of these players won't make it past the April fitness screening, a lot less test-level competition. On the other hand, there will no doubt be players who force their way into the pool through outstanding spring seasons."
Turning to selections, Clark observed that "We have to balance the need to give untested players an opportunity with the requirement for cohesion, which is paramount to building a team for the Rugby World Cup. It is doubtful that every single pool player will get a run, but we anticipate about 25 players will have a chance to show their stuff in the Pacific Rim games, with an additional 20 opportunities available in midweek or A matches."
As in previous years, the Eagles will spend about 100 days in various camps in the United States and abroad.
1999 US National Team Player Pool
Props: Joe Clayton, Bart Furrow, Robert Holder, Ray Lehner, Spencer Maggard, John McBride, George Sucher
Hookers: Tom Billups, Kirk Khasigian, Mas Morimoto, Quentin Peihopa
Locks: Derek Brown, John Burns, Philippe Farner, Luke Gross, Alec Parker, Eric Reed, Cliff Vogl
Flankers: Jared Allen, David Care, Olo Fifita, Dougald Gillies, Dave Hodges, Dan Lyle, Fifita Mounga, Chris Rhineheart, Steve Richards, Shane Smith, Martin Smithmeyer
Eightmen: Fili Lamenta, Rob Lumkong, Shaun Paga, Richard Tardits, Jason Walker
Halfbacks: Andre Bachelet, Kevin Dalzell, Britt Howard
Flyhalves: David Niu, Grant Wells, Mark Williams
Centers: Ray Green, Juan Grobler, Alatini Saulala, Mark Scharrenberg, Chris Schlereth, Kurt Shuman, Tomasi Takau, Mose Timoteo
Wings: Vaea Anitoni, Dave DiSorbo, Brian Hightower, JoJo McKenzie, Rich Portale, Rich Schurfeld
Fullbacks: Andre Blom, Steve Hiatt, Chris Morrow
© USA National Rugby Team
USA National Rugby Team
2802 10th Street
Berkeley, CA 94710