(Berkeley, California) 8 July 1999 -- The USA introduces just one new player to its squad for this month's abbreviated two-match tour of Australia, the next big step in its World Cup buildup.
Almost all of the 30-man roster saw playing time during this season's third-place showing in the Epson Cup Pacific Rim tournament, US manager Rick Humm said in announcing the squad. A handful of capped players return from injury, but the squad's only new addition is utility back Toby Robson of the Denver Barbarians, most likely to play in the centers since starter Mark Scharrenberg is sidelined by injury.
The USA will play Emerging New South Wales at North Sydney Oval on Wednesday, July 21, followed by powerful Queensland at Ballymore on Saturday, July 24.
The tour opener was originally scheduled to be in Canberra, but by common consent, the Australian Rugby Union and USA Rugby have canceled the fixture. The US had anticipated a Saturday match against ACT, however the game was subsequently changed to a Sunday fixture against a President's XV, which would have resulted in three matches in seven days and plenty of travel for the tourists.
Humm said that while the US had worked solely with the ARU and had no direct dealings with the state unions, it appeared the game was ill-timed for ACT. "I understand that ACT had problems with the timing of the match and player availability," he said.
"With that said, we very much look forward to our matches in Sydney and Brisbane."
The tour squad's front row includes veteran hooker Tom Billups with Kirk Khasigian his back-up, while George Sucher, Ray Lehner, Joe Clayton, and Bill LeClerc are the selected props.
And after a strong Epson Cup campaign at loose forward, Dave Hodges will likely see time at lock, joining Philippe Farner, Luke Gross, and Alec Parker. The move is possible thanks to the return of loose forwards Dougald Gillies and Rob Lumkong, both of whom have recovered from knee injuries. The backrow is headed by team captain Dan Lyle and includes Richard Tardits, Tasi Mounga, and Shaun Paga.
The tour's scrumhalves are Kevin Dalzell and Britt Howard, while flyhalf David Niu has recovered from a scratched cornea incurred during the USA's Epson Cup win over Canada. In the centers, Alatini Saulala and Juan Grobler are joined by Robson and Aspen's Tom Takau, unavailable for the Epson Cup campaign due to work commitments.
The wings are Vaea Anitoni, Brian Hightower, and Andre Blom, with fullbacks Chris Morrow and Kurt Shuman once again available for the team. Morrow is back from a concussion and mandatory stand-down period, while Shuman has completed his graduate school commitments at Oxford University.
Two more players may be added pending fitness evaluations.
The Australia tour is about the last chance for the US to fine tune its Rugby World Cup squad. "It's our objective to see all 30 players in action," said US head coach Jack Clark.
"We've been vulnerable in the past when putting a second-side team on the field, and the Waratahs development side will be no easy match for our reservists. But it will certainly be valuable experience," Clark said.
United States: Forwards: Tom Billups, Joe Clayton, Philippe Farner, Dougald Gillies, Luke Gross, Dave Hodges, Kirk Khasigian, Rob Lumkong, Dan Lyle (captain), Bill LeClerc, Ray Lehner, Fifita Mounga, Shaun Paga, Alec Parker, George Sucher, Richard Tardits.
Backs: Vaea Anitoni, Andre Blom, Kevin Dalzell, Juan Grobler, Brian Hightower, Britt Howard, Chris Morrow, David Niu, Toby Robson, Alatini Saulala, Kurt Shuman, Tom Takau.
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