Preview USA v Ireland
Preview USA v IrelandSHARE
USA coach Mike Tolkin is thrilled that a lot of his experienced players have returned for their game against Ireland in Houston on Saturday.
Having the likes of captain Todd Clever, Takudzwa Ngwenya, Chris Wyles and Samu Manoa will be a welcome boost for the side. These players have all been playing their rugby offshore so have not be available for the USA matches leading up to this match against Ireland.
Coach Tolkin said: "I think they bring a lot of veteran leadership.
"That’s important. When we were away we had a lot of veterans out. This squad introduces veterans and pros back into the system and they’re great athletes that bring fresh, new energy.
"They exude confidence and it resonates within the squad," the coach added.
These two sides last met at the World Cup in New Zealand in 2011 in which Ireland came out on top and to be able to face them again has got the USA team and the coach really excited.
"In the World Cup you face almost all Tier One nations, so when you face a Tier One nation outside that framework it brings a lot of excitement.
"It still brings all of the possibilities and challenges of the World Cup. That’s the atmosphere in the group and the psyche of the guys in the squad going into this," Tolkin said.
Rugby is still not massive in the USA so being able to get a strong squad of players together for a game like this could prove to be a tough task but Tolkin has been able to establish his strongest possible squad for this fixture.
"We have some good players on the bench who normally would’ve started. We feel like we’re getting some good depth. Going into this game we’re going to give a good fight – the guys know what they can do and what they’re capable of," added Tolkin.
Two of his chargers, Ngwenya and Manoa, have recently been playing for the British and Irish Lions in their two fixtures against England and the British and Irish Lions and Ngwenya said it was a massive honour and privilege to represent such a well-known brand like the Barbarians Football Club.
"It’s an honour to play with the guys with the Barbos.
"But I’m back home, I get to play in Texas, I get to play with the boys again. This is where it all started. I’m just happy to be back with the family," Ngwenya mentioned.
Players to watch:
For the USA: The two players that represented the Barbarians, Takudzwa Ngwenya and Samu Manoa, will be players to look out for. They have been in good form in their domestic competitions which warranted a call up to the BaaBaa's. The captain, Todd Clever, will also be a player to watch. Clever has been huge for the Eagles in the past and this weekend will be no different. If they want to cause an upset then he is going to have to lead from the front.
For Ireland: Experienced scrumhalf Isaac Boss gets a crack in the No.9 jersey in the absence of Connor Murray – who is on British and Irish Lions duty. He will look to control the ball at the base and should have the upper-hand over his opponent. Explosive wing Simon Zebo is another player to watch out for. The wing got badly injured during the Six Nations which meant that his full talent was not seen and hopefully he can show what he capable on this tour. Explosive hooker Richardt Strauss is going to be another of the Irish players to keep an eye out for.
Head-to-head: Fergus McFadden is a relative newcomer to the Ireland side because of the absence of Tommy Bowe and he will have his work cut out marking Takudwa Ngwenya. The battle of the scrumhalves will be something to watch out for as Issac Boss will look to assert his dominance over Mike Petri at the set-piece and around the park. Richardt Strauss receives another international cap and will want to impress which means it could be a long day for Chris Biller in the middle of the USA scrum.
2011: Ireland won 22-10, New Plymouth
2009: Ireland won 27-10, Santa Clara
2004: Ireland won 55-6, Dublin
2000: Ireland won 83-3, Manchester
1999: Ireland won 53-8, Dublin
1996: Ireland won 25-18, Atlanta
1994: Ireland won 26-15, Dublin
Prediction: The USA will put up some strong resistance at the beginning of the game but as it opens up a bit the Irish should cruise home. Ireland to win by more than 20.
USA Eagles: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 Luke Hume, 13 Seamus Kelly, 12 Andrew Suniula, 11 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 10 Toby L'Estrange, 9 Mike Petri, 8 Todd Clever (Captain), 7 Scott LaValla, 6 Samu Manoa, 5 Louis Stanfill, 4 Brian Doyle, 3 Eric Fry, 2 Chris Biller, 1 Shawn Pittman.
Replacements: 16 Zach Fenoglio, 17 Nick Wallace, 18 Phil Thiel, 19 Peter Dahl, 20 John Quill, 21 Robbie Shaw, 22 James Paterson, 23 Adam Siddall.
Ireland: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Peter O'Mahony, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Mike McCarthy, 3 Mike Ross (captain), 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 David Kilcoyne.
Replacements:16 Mike Sherry, 17 Jamie Hagan, 18 Tom Court, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Felix Jones.
Date: Saturday, June 8
Venue: BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston
Kick-off: 19.30 (00.30 GMT Sunday, June 9)
Expected weather: Blazing day in Houston with a high of 32°C, cooling into the evening with the temperature for the game at a pleasant 23°C. No rain predicted.
Referee: Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Bryan Arciero (Canada), Chris Assmus (Canada)