USA National Rugby Team


World Cup Places at Stake as US Midweek Team Meets England 'A'

(Twickenham, England) 16 August 1999 -- Four uncapped players and five more with 13 tests shared among them feature in the United States team to meet England 'A' Tuesday night at Northampton.

Rugby World Cup roster spots could be at stake, US head coach Jack Clark said in announcing the tourists' midweek team. The task of facing a side with seven British Lions is intended to prepare the US for its Pool E matches, set to begin in seven weeks' time.

"The challenge is so severe that I don't know whether to laugh or cry," Clark said. "It will of course be a huge ask for our players.

"The only good news is many of the players don't know what a British Lion is, and therefore they're fearless."

Early tour injuries have forced the US to juggle its lineup, as flanker Richard Tardits has been ruled out for tomorrow night's first-up match.

Tardits suffered what appears to be a torn meniscus in training on Saturday, and will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging procedure today. The veteran is likely to return home for a rush arthoscopic operation, in the hope that he could be back in time for the World Cup.

Meanwhile, centers Mark Scharrenberg and Alatini Saulala are day-to-day, and will have to pass fitness tests before Tuesday evening. Altogether, the trio's absence would rob the US of 71 caps.

In forwards, hooker and 1999 US university player of the year Kirk Khasigan joins1999 debutant Joe Clayton and uncapped Marc L'Huillier in the front row. Second rowers Eric Reed and Rob Johnston also are uncapped.

The backrow trio of Shaun Paga, Dougald Gillies, and Rob Lumkong boasts a bit more experience, though only the latter was part of the USA's 1997 tour of Wales, the last time the Eagles visited one of the home unions.

Britt Howard and Mark Williams form the halfback pairing, with the Gentlemen of Aspen veteran captaining the side for the first time since a leading the US to a midweek victory over Pontypridd on that same 1997 tour.

Scharrenberg and Saulala are the centers, with Brian Hightower and uncapped 20-year-old Sinapati Uiagalelei listed at wing. Chris Morrow, like Hightower a new cap in the 1997 Arms Park test, is at fullback.

United States: Chris Morrow; Sinapati Uiagalelei, Alatini Saulala, Mark Scharrenberg, Brian Hightower; Mark Williams (captain), Britt Howard; Joe Clayton, Kirk Khasigian, Marc L'Huillier, Eric Reed, Rob Johnston, Shaun Paga, Dougald Gillies, Rob Lumkong. Reserves: Ray Lehner, Tom Billups, Dave Hodges, Fifita Mounga, Kevin Dalzell, David Niu, Kurt Shuman.

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Scott Compton
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