SÃO PAULO, Brazil – At least two more Men’s Eagles debuts will be made Saturday, Feb. 27, when the current Americas Rugby Championship leaders take on Brazil at Arena Barueri.
Head Coach John Mitchell and the U.S. coaching staff has dealt with player turnover throughout the first three weeks of the competition, during which the Eagles have drawn with Argentina XV and beaten Canada and Chile on home soil. Several overseas professionals have returned to their clubs, including four-try Todd Clever, whose Newcastle Falcons have allowed Eric Fry to continue to represent his country throughout the remaining two matches in South America.
Fry will begin Saturday’s match on the bench following three consecutive starting XV selections, with Demecus Beach earning his second cap for the national team in the front row. Olive Kilifi, who holds the most international appearances in the XV outside of inside center Andrew Suniula, will captain the team wearing the No. 3 jersey alongside Joe Taufete’e in the hooker’s third start of the competition.
“The guys are getting better at ownership,” Mitchell said, “because there’s an understanding, and Oli and Joe are two guys that love their teammates and care for them. Certainly guys that lead by example.”
Ben Landry and Brodie Orth have proven to be a formidable pair in the second row, using stout defensive play and strength in the set pieces to hold down the positions for two consecutive matches. While David Tameilau has rounded out the pack at No. 8 for the entirety of the ARC, flankers James King and Aladdin Schirmer joined camp in the past week and will make their U.S. debuts in the back row.
King has experience playing with the Blues and Rebels of Super Rugby, and has spent time in Japan’s Top League. Fellow debutant flanker Schirmer won the 2012 World Rugby U20 Trophy with the AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans alongside Kingsley McGowan and Mike Te’o, and has been capped on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Suniula was with the Eagles at Rugby World Cup 2015, and brings a veteran presence of two World Cup appearances and 38 caps. He will partner Mike Garrity in the midfield, with Ryan Matyas and McGowan outside them on the wings. Jake Anderson scored his first international try against Chile last weekend in a substitute appearance, and will start his second match at full back.
The half-back pairing of James Bird and Niku Kruger returns following two matches in which Tom Bliss, JP Eloff, and Te’o earned starting spots. Bliss is not available for Saturday’s match due to injury, but Eloff and Te’o are in the reserves.
Chad London carries two tries from three consecutive starts into the match, and will likewise be available as a substitute with wing Tim Stanfill.
“It’s a bit of a mixture of managing guys that have a lot of load and also looking forward to giving other players the opportunity,” Mitchell said. “We’re also looking forward to seeing if they’ve learned from their previous performances in some of the areas of the game that we wanted improved.”
All-Americans Cameron Falcon and Hanco Germishuys, the latter part of the highlight-reel U20 Trophy qualifier victory over Canada in Austin, Texas, two weeks ago, could earn their first caps from the reserves Saturday. Germishuys would follow fellow MJAA Lorenzo Thomas in making his Eagles debut during the competition, with Thomas scoring in the 64-0 shutout of Chile last weekend.
Mitchell has already awarded 20 debut caps in ARC victories against Canada and Chile, and will have match-day roster with an average age of just under 25.
“The more we look at [the Chile win] – we were very honest and not okay with our overall performance regardless of outcome,” Mitchell said. “This week’s been a challenge, as well, because we’ve had players departing and bringing in younger players. It’s almost like a brand new week of installation.
“But the culture and the climate of the group has been fantastic. There’s a sense within the group that, when you put on the American jersey, you’re going to give it everything and stick to what this team has started.”
The Eagles have never met Brazil in international competition, but bring a 16th-place World Rugby ranking into the away match at the home of the 42nd-ranked nation. Brazil’s only win in the past 10 matches was against Colombia in December, and the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games host sits at the bottom of the ARC table on two bonus points.
The match at Arena Barueri will be broadcast live on ESPN 3 (WatchESPN.com) beginning at 6 p.m. ET.
Men’s Eagles | v. Brazil
1. Demecus Beach
2. Joseph Taufete’e
3. Olive Kilifi (C)
4. Brodie Orth
5. Ben Landry
6. James King
7. Aladdin Schirmer
8. David Tameilau
9. Niku Kruger
10. James Bird
11. Ryan Matyas
12. Andrew Suniula
13. Mike Garrity
14. Kingsley McGowan
15. Jake Anderson
Men’s Eagles | Americas Rugby Championship Coaching Staff
Phil Greening – Assistant Coach
Marty Veale – Assistant Coach
Rob Hoadley – Assistant Coach
David Williams – Strength and Conditioning Coach
Paul Goulding – Video Analyst
Sean Lindersmith – Team Manager
Men’s Eagles | Americas Rugby Championship Medical Staff
Brian Finn – Physiotherapist
Alex Garibay – Physiotherapist
Dennis Greenhill – Physiotherapist
Bruce Miller – Doctor
Richard Quincy – Physiotherapist
James Ross – Doctor
Matthew Schmitz – Doctor
Ross Schumer – Doctor
Austin Taylor – Doctor
Rob Wassilak – Physiotherapist
Men’s Eagles | Americas Rugby Championship 2016
v. Argentina – D 35-35
v. Canada – W 30-22
v. Chile – W 64-0
v. Brazil – Saturday, Feb. 27 @ 6 p.m. ET – Arena Barueri (São Paolo, Brazil)
v. Uruguay – Saturday, March 5 @ 4:10 p.m. ET – Charrua Stadium (Montevideo, Uruguay)