(El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain) 11 April 1998 -- For tomorrow's first-ever international against Spain, the United States plans on three changes to the team that downed Portugal on Wednesday, but illness could cause a significant revamp, US head coach Jack Clark announced today.
Andre Blom replaces Chris Morrow at fullback to become the the two-week tour's third new cap. Meanwhile, Tomasi Takau comes in for Mark Scharrenberg at inside center and Jay Wilkerson takes over for David Care at openside. Care and prop John McBride earned their first caps earlier this week.
But the team could change overnight, because most of the squad continues to feel at least some effects from unfamiliar bacteria in the food and water. Somewhat common in the world of rugby touring, the effects typically show up in the form of stomach cramps.
But hooker and tour captain Tom Billups and lock Alec Parker, both scheduled to start, have been hard hit. Billups has been unable to eat much since Wednesday, taking fluids intravenously, while Parker continues to lose weight.
Billups, Parker, and the entire lineup must pass the US medical staff's fitness test before being cleared to play tomorrow. In an unusual precautionary move, even those not now slated for reserve duty will bring their playing gear to the stadium tomorrow.
Elsewhere in the forwards, McBride and Ray Lehner remain the front ranks, Luke Gross takes up at lock, and blindside Dave Hodges and number eight Rob Lumkong pack down in the third row.
Andre Bachelet and Matt Alexander form the halfback pairing, Alatini Saulala remains at outside center, and Dan Kennedy and Vaea Anitoni are unchanged at wing.
Like the US, Spain is due to play in the final round of World Cup qualifying later this year. The hosts, most of whom play professionally in France, look to be in good shape heading into tomorrow's Easter Sunday match, expected to sell out the town's 5,000-seat stadium.
"Considering the circumstances, we are expecting a doubly difficult match from the Spaniards," coach Clark noted. "We've got the wagons circled and are as prepared as can be for a victory."
United States: Andre Blom; Vaea Anitoni, Alatini Saulala, Tomasi Takau, Dan Kennedy; Matt Alexander, Andre Bachelet; John McBride, Tom Billups (c), Ray Lehner, Luke Gross, Alec Parker, Dave Hodges, Jay Wilkerson, Rob Lumkong. Reserves: Chris Morrow, Mark Scharrenberg, Kevin Dalzell; Richard Tardits, Jason Walker, Tim Kluempers, Masanao Morimoto.