Preview: US Eagles v NZ Maori

Fri, 08 Nov 2013 08:01
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Todd Clever will lead the American charge when they face up to the New Zealand Maori in a one-off 'international' in Philadelphia on Saturday.

Todd Clever, one of America's most celebrated Rugby Union players, will lead the charge when they face up to the New Zealand Maori in a one-off 'international' in Philadelphia on Saturday.

The Maori team features six changes to the starting XV from the team that beat Canada 40-15 in the opening match of the North American tour last week.

Ash Dixon comes into the side to replace the injured Hika Elliot, with Shane Christie and Blade Thomson also joining the forwards.

The backline has also been reshuffled - with Ihaia West earning a starting spot at flyhalf and Kurt Baker and Matt Proctor coming onto the wings.

Maori coach Colin Cooper said he was really happy with the way team has come together and the number of changes reflected the depth in the squad.

"We are rewarding players that have all had great training seasons," Cooper said.

"Our challenge now is to continue working hard on getting our attacking and defence systems in place. We know USA will provide another tough match and we have huge respect for them.

"Losing Hika [Elliot] and Piri [Weepu] has robbed off of some experience, but Ash Dixon equipped himself really well when he came on and Jamison played extremely well given the short notice he had to join the starting XV.

"We have trained hard and enjoyed the warmer conditions in Philadelphia so I think we are in good shape to deliver the kind of game we want to play on Saturday.

"We certainly want to end the tour on a high note and are really looking forward to playing in front of American fans."

Eagles coach Mike Tolkin trimmed his 26-man squad down to 23-man.

Clever will captain the Eagles from the blindside flank against the visitors from the Southern Hemisphere.

Cameron Dolan, who captained the Eagles Select XV against Argentina in the opening match of the 2013 IRB Americas Rugby Championship in October, will start at No.8.

The Eagles Select XV finished second at the ARC with a 2-1 record and wins against Canada and Uruguay.

Nick Wallace, Phillip Thiel and Shawn Pittman return from the ARC at loosehead prop, hooker, and tighthead prop, respectively.

Toby L'Estrange, Select XV captain against Canada, gets the start at flyhalf.

At fullback, Adam Siddall is flanked on the wing by Luke Hume and Tim Maupin, who scored two tries in the 30-10 win against Canada.

Former USA Men's Collegiate All-American Seamus Kelly will partner Andrew Suniula at centre. Another college standout, Kyle Sumsion, will be available on the bench.

Men's Eagles Sevens player Folau Niua will also be on the bench and will be available for the other two matches of the November Tour against Georgia and Russia, before leaving with the Sevens team to the United Arab Emirates for the Dubai Sevens tournament at the end of the month.

Olive Kilifi replaced an injured Blake Burdette in Philadelphia and will start on the bench, as will Titi Lamositele – the youngest-ever capped Eagle – and ARC scrumhalf Shaun Davies.

A capacity 18,500 crowd is expected at PPL Park and conditions are expected to be dry and sunny for Saturday's match with a maximum of 15°C forecast.


United States Eagles: 15 Adam Siddal, 14 Luke Hume, 13 Seamus Kelly, 12 Andrew Suniula, 11 Tim Maupin, 10 Toby L'Estrange, 9 Mike Petri, 8 Cameron Dolan, 7 Peter Dahl, 6 Todd Clever (captain), 5 Tai Tuisamoa, 4 Scott LaValla, 3 Shawn Pittman, 2 Phil Thiel, 1 Nick Wallace.
Replacements: 16 Zach Fenoglio, 17 Titi Lamositele, 18 Olive Kilifi, 19 Graham Harriman, 20 Kyle Sumsion, 21 Shaun Davies, 22 Zach Pangelinan, 23 Folau Niua.

New Zealand Maori: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Kurt Baker, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Tim Bateman (captain), 11 Matt Proctor, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Shane Christie, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Joe Royal, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Nick Barrett, 19 Luke Katene, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Chris Smylie, 22 Jackson Willison, 23 Zac Guildford.

Date: Saturday, November 9
Venue: PPL Park, Philadelphia
Kick-off: 19.00 (00.00, Sunday, November 10 GMT; 13.00 , Sunday, November 10 NZ time)
Referee: Chris Assmus (Canada)