World Rugby U20 Trophy qualification on the line

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(ISN) – LANGFORD, British Columbia – The USA Rugby AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans head into their second match against Canada’s under-20 team in the span of five days with a few changes made to the starting XV.

The MJAAs led for more than 70 minutes in the first match of the World Rugby U20 Trophy qualifier Monday before succumbing to a last-second penalty and ensuing penalty goal to fall, 24-23. With the aggregate winner of the series advancing to the under-20 tournament in Portugal, the MJAAs are by no means defeated following the loss.

“I think the teams are quite evenly matched, hence the one-point score differential,” MJAA Head Coach Michael Engelbrecht said. “Both teams bring combinations of power, speed, and skill in different positions across the board.”

Prop James Gannon, one of the returners from last year’s Junior World Rugby Trophy in Hong Kong, will wear the no. three jersey Friday as opposed to lining up at loose head. Val Lee-lo will start the match as a reserve, while Darien Pickett and Gabriel Romero will shore up the scrum at loose head prop and hooker, respectively.

Seth Halliman was instrumental in the MJAAs’ second try of Monday’s loss, but will suit up as a reserve Friday with replacement Paula Hafoka set to earn time on the win. Flanker Wesley Parker also replaces Monday starter Braedon Hood, who will wear no. 19.

Christian Weissing will again captain the side with Ben Cima as vice captain in the play-making position of fly half. Cima scored 13 points with his boot Monday.

Friday’s match kicks off at 10 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on Rugby Canada TV. Follow live match updates on Twitter from Westhills Stadium at Rugby Canada’s Center of Excellence with @aarugby.

AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans | v Canada U20
1. Darien Pickett
2. Gabriel Romero
3. James Gannon
4. Oliver Drew
5. Christian Wiessing (C)
6. Wesley Parker
7. Jacobus Germishuys
8. Maciu Koroi
9. Louis Mulholland
10. Ben Cima
11. Paula Hafoka
12. Fitou Fisiiahi
13. Ian Kinsley
14. Connor McRae
15. Scott Dean

AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans | Reserves
16. Nick Kwasniewski
17. Valdemar Lee-lo
18. Austin Bush
19. Braeden Hood
20. Erik Thompson
21. Oisin Brady
22. Seth Halliman

Canada U20 | v AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans
1. Cali Martinez
2. Patrick Finlay
3. Matt Tierney
4. Paul Cuilini
5. Reegan O’Gorman
6. Lucas Rumball
7. Ollie NOtt
8. Luke Bradley
9. Dan Joyce
10. Dylan Horgan
11. Karsten Leitner
12. Guiseppe du Toit
13. Mitch Santilli
14. Theo Sauder
15. Andrew Coe

Canada U20 | Reserves
16. John Shaw
17. Brendan Blaikie
18. Conor Young
19. Mitch Rothman
20. Tony Pomroy
21. Philip Berna
22. Brandon Waeyan

AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans | World Rugby U20 Trophy qualifier series
v. Canada U20 – L 24-23
v. Canada U20 – Friday, March 27 – 10 p.m. ET – Westhills Stadium