(Berkeley, California) 12 May 1998 -- Determined to get back in the winner's column, the United States will make seven changes--including five new players--for the team's Canterbury of New Zealand Pacific Rim Rugby Championship match with Japan tomorrow at Boxer Stadium.
Prop George Sucher makes his first-ever start at tighthead, while three more players are in the starting lineup for just the second time. Flanker Tasi Mounga and wings C.D. Labounty and Jason Raven all debuted for the Eagles earlier during the 1998 Pacific Rim season.
Simultaneously, prop Chris Lippert runs out for the 37th time, breaking Kevin Swords's record for most international appearances by an American player. Six times a national champion with OMBAC in his native San Diego, Lippert has captained the US on three occasions and is one of a handful of Americans to have played with the Barbarians, the world's most prestigious invitational side.
Changes to the US lineup reflect both the need to fiind the right lineup for August's World Cup qualifiers and a continung surfeit of injuries. David Care (abdominal strain), Shaun Paga (chipped ankle), Matt Alexander (bruised clavicle), and Mark Scharrenberg (calf strain) were all ruled out of consideration this week.
On the other hand, wing-fullback Dan Kennedy returns to the team for the first time since April's Iberian tour, having wrapped up his commitments at Life Chiropractic College.
Sucher joins Lippert and hooker and captain Tom Billups in the front row, while Dave Hodges moves to the second row for the first time since last summer's tour matches against Wales. Erstwhile lock Alec Parker moves to blindside flanker, while Mounga and number eight Rob Lumkong complete the back row.
In the backline, Andre Bachelet pairs with Vaea Anitoni, renewing a combination first formed in Vancouver. Tomasi Takau and the returned Alatini Saulala pair at centers, and Labounty, Raven, and Kennedy form the outside backs.
"We'll be inexperienced at the deep three and under pressure in the front row, but the team on the field is certainly capable of victory," said US head coach Jack Clark.
"After a good start on the season, our team has arrived at a crossroads. In the eyes of assistant coach Eddie O'Sullivan, 'cometh the hour, cometh the man.'"
United States: Dan Kennedy; Jason Raven, Alatini Saulala, Tomasi Takau, C.D. LaBounty; Vaea Anitoni, Andre Bachelet; Chris Lippert, Tom Billups (captain), George Sucher, Luke Gross, Dave Hodges, Alec Parker, Fifita Mounga, Rob Lumkong. Reserves: Kurt Shuman, Kevin Dalzell, Cliff Vogl, Jason Walker, Bart Furrow, Sean Allen, Ray Lehner.