(Lisbon, Portugal) 4 April 1998 -- Seven players will debut for their country when the United States meets a Portugal Development XV in tomorrow's opening tour match, US Head Coach Jack Clark announced today.
Standing in for tour captain Tom Billups, number eight Jason Walker leads a side that's long on enthusiasm but short on international experience. Only five players have appeared in more than a handful of games for the Eagles. Walker, a veteran of 13 caps, skippered the Gentlemen of Aspen to a 1997 US club title, and the West to last year's Inter-Territorial Tournament championship.
Todd Giuntini, Mas Morimoto, and Tim Kluempers make up the front row. Giuntini and Morimoto are former All-Americans, but Kluempers has the group's lone cap. Veteran Luke Gross and first-timer Bo Buck pair at lock, while Jay Wilkerson, Richard Tardits, and Walker lend some experience in the back row.
Kevin Dalzell and Gary Puterman share one cap between them at halfback and flyhalf, while the midfield grouping of Tom Takau and Juan Grobler is a bit more seasoned. Wings Kevin Gittings and Jason Raven are both uncapped, as is fullback Andre Blum.
The team's inexperience is magnified by its unfamiliarity with one another, Clark said, but nonetheless they've been given an important job. The Development XV match is the first game on tour, and could set the tone for the 1998 international season.
"It's important to get off to a good start, making the the first match of the tour critical," Clark noted. "But it's also the first match of our international season, which adds a bit more drama."
United States: Andre Blum; Jason Raven, Juan Grobler, Tom Takau, Kevin Gittings; Gary Puterman, Kevin Dalzell; Todd Giuntini, Mas Morimoto, Tim Kluempers, Luke Gross, Bo Buck, Jay Wilkerson, Richard Tardits, Jason Walker (c). Reserves: Ray Lehner, John Mcbride, Tom Billups, Dave Hodges, Andre Bachelet, Matt Alexander, Dan Kennedy.