(Berkeley, California) 30 April 1998 -- Many of the cast that helped the United States to an unbeaten April tour of Portugal and Spain will join the National Team on the three-week May road swing that opens the USA's 1998 Pacific Rim Rugby Championship season.
The US tour opens with Japan in Tokyo on May 10, followed by Hong Kong in Hong Kong on May 16 and defending champion Canada in Vancouver on May 23. The Eagles will start with some momentum following handy wins in Europe earlier this month, but in the far-flung Pacific Rim conference, road victories have been as rare as they have been vital.
Serving in the absence of injured flanker Dan Lyle, hooker Tom Billups will again captain the US. Now totaling 25 caps, the (London) Harlequins hooker won praise for his leadership during his first tour as skipper, despite battling severe stomach problems throughout the trip.
Nineteen of April's thirty tourists will travel with Billups. High-scoring wing Vaea Anitoni heads the list, along with resurgent lock Alec Parker and number eight Rob Lumkong, both of whom missed last year's Pacific Rim with season-long injuries.
Of the Iberian crew, fullback Andre Blom, halfback Kevin Dalzell, flankers David Care and David Hodges, and prop Todd Giuntini will all be looking for their first Pacific Rim caps. Blom and Care played in their first international matches last month, while Hodges and Dalzell have appeared in other US tests and Giuntini remains uncapped.
Meanwhile, hooker Sean Allen, props Chris Lippert and Mike Stanaway, lock Cliff Vogl, flyhalf Kurt Shuman, and wing Chris Schlereth all return to the National Team. Shuman, the 1997 collegiate player of the year from Penn State who's now at OMBAC, was scheduled to go on the Iberian tour until falling victim to a late injury.
Injuries in fact remain a worry: Besides Lyle, wing Brian Hightower, center Ray Green, and flanker Mika McLeod are still on the shelf. Others, like prop John McBride, had to declare themselves unavailable for professional reasons, and some of the tourists will have to join late or leave early.
"True to the spirit of American rugby, availability has played a part in our tour party," US National Team Head Coach Jack Clark commented after announcing the selections. "But I believe most of the key players are on the plane. It's up to this team to get the results."
United States: Forwards: Sean Allen, Tom Billups (captain), David Care, Todd Giuntini, Luke Gross, Dave Hodges, Ray Lehner, Chris Lippert, Rob Lumkong, Alec Parker, Mike Stanaway, Cliff Vogl, Jason Walker, Jay Wilkerson. Backs: Matt Alexander, Vaea Anitoni, Andre Bachelet, Andre Blom, Kevin Dalzell, Juan Grobler, Chris Morrow, Alatini Saulala, Mark Scharrenberg, Chris Schlereth, Kurt Shuman, Albert Tuipulotu.