(Berkeley, California) 24 May 1999 -- Most of the US squad that downed Tonga and Fiji in early-round Epson Cup matches will travel to Hawaii for next month's "home" match against Japan.
The Eagles' promising beginning in San Francisco warranted repeat selections, according to US manager Rick Humm. But there's three tough matches left in the Epson Cup season, and plenty more work to be done before the World Cup arrives, Humm said today in announcing the team.
The 24-man squad includes a number of players making the most of their return to test rugby after a season of injuries. Skipper Dan Lyle headlines the list, which also features lock Alec Parker and deep backs Chris Morrow and Brian Hightower, now with two tries in two games this season.
For the US, George Sucher, Ray Lehner, Tom Billups, and Kirk Khasigian are chosen in the front row, while Parker, Luke Gross, and new cap Philippe Farner will vie for second row berths against the league-leading Cherry Blossoms. In the back row, twice-capped Shaun Paga joins Lyle, Dave Hodges, and Richard Tardits.
Kevin Dalzell, Britt Howard, and David Niu are selected at halfback, while Juan Grobler, Alatini Saulala, and Mark Scharrenberg are the center options. Hightower, Morrow, career try-leader Vaea Anitoni, and Kurt Shuman are the deep backs.
Three positions remain to be confirmed, pending availability and fitness testing, Humm said. Leading candidates include prop Bill LeClerc, concussed Saturday against Fiji, flyhalf Mark Williams, who suffered a torn tricep against Tonga, and number eight Rob Lumkong, who arrived in San Francisco requiring a knee operation to repair an injury suffered while playing American club rugby the weekend prior.
Unbeaten Japan, whose 37-34 win over Samoa last weekend added to earlier victories over Canada and Tonga, are currently in first place. The US is in second, but faces a difficult travel schedule in June, going from Honolulu on June 12 to Toronto on June 19, and then back across the Pacific to Apia to meet Samoa on June 26.
The US will add two players to the roster for the Canada and Samoa legs.
United States: Forwards: Tom Billups, Philippe Farner, Luke Gross, Dave Hodges, Ray Lehner, Dan Lyle (captain), Kirk Khasigian, Shaun Paga, Alec Parker, George Sucher, Richard Tardits. Backs: Vaea Anitoni, Kevin Dalzell, Juan Grobler, Brian Hightower, Britt Howard, Chris Morrow, David Niu, Alatini Saulala, Mark Scharrenberg, Kurt Shuman.
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