(Burlington, Vermont) 6 June 1998 -- Three new internationals take the field for tomorrow's Canterbury of New Zealand Pacific Rim Rugby Championship match against Canada, US National Team head coach Jack Clark announced today.
Back from nearly a month of traveling in Asia and Canada, the United States begins a three-game homestand with a 1-2 record and six points in the competition, four points behind front-running Hong Kong. The Eagles are bit nicked up, but well-positioned in the standings.
Besides being an important league match, 1998's second meeting between the two archrivals also serves as the Can-Am Championship, an annual battle between the two North American nations. Canada narrowly defeated the US 17-15 in a May 23 meeting in Vancouver.
Some five recent US starters are unavailable for tomorrow's match, paving the way for three newcomers. Prop John McBride (knee), center Alatini Saulala (ribs), and fullback Chris Morrow (concussion) are injured, while wing Dan Kennedy remains in finals at Life Chiropractice College. Wing Brian Hightower, hoping to recover from torn ligaments in his foot in time for the homestand, hasn't yet been cleared to play.
Rookies Shaun Paga and Fifita Mounga will play in the backrow, Paga at blindside flanker and Mounga at openside. Wing C.D. Labounty gets his first chance on the wing.
Meanwhile, prop Chris Lippert will tie Kevin Swords's record for most international appearances by a US player, at 36.
Hooker and captain Tom Billups joins Lippert and Ray Lehner in the front row, while Luke Gross and Alec Parker pair at lock. Number eight Rob Lumkong joins the two new caps in the backrow.
Andre Bachelet and Matt Alexander resume their partnership at halfback, after high-scoring goalkicker Alexander missed the Vancouver contest for family reasons. Mark Scharrenberg and Tomasi Takau pair in the midfield, and Vaea Anitoni and Andre Blom join Labounty in the deep three.
Canada has chosen a veteran lineup with some ten overseas professionals, including flanker Al Charron and flyhalf Gareth Rees. After last month's win, the Canadians are 2-1 with nine points.
"To win, we'll need to play with a balanced dosage of passion and precision," coach Clark said after announcing the lineup. "It's be important that we play a bit raw and that we fly around the field, but it'll be critical that we execute precisely the handful of opportunities that will undoubtedly come our way."
United States: Andre Blom; C.D. Labounty, Tomasi Takau, Mark Scharrenberg, Vaea Anitoni; Matt Alexander, Andre Bachelet; Chris Lippert, Tom Billups (captain), Ray Lehner, Luke Gross, Alec Parker, Shaun Paga, Fifita Mounga, Rob Lumkong. Reserves: Kurt Shuman, Kevin Dalzell; Jason Walker, Dave Hodges, Bart Furrow, Sean Allen, George Sucher.