Eagles ready for RWC 2015

VIA USA RUGBY

BRIGHTON, England – The Men’s Eagles’ seventh Rugby World Cup campaign kicks off against Samoa Sunday afternoon from the seaside locale of Brighton Community Stadium.

Captain Chris Wyles (Allentown, Pa.) will lead the team from the wing for the second consecutive match, the Saracens professional’s 51st for the United States. Set for a 7 a.m. ET kickoff, the Pool B openerSept. 20 will be broadcast live to viewers in the United States on Universal Sports.

The U.S. arrived in England Saturday, Sept. 12, just one week after the final RWC warmup match against Australia at Soldier Field. Consisting of seven matches in total – including a narrow defeat to Harlequin F.C. in Philadelphia – the Eagles’ summer began against Samoa in San Jose, Calif.

Greg Peterson (Sydney, Australia) and Hayden Smith (Sydney, Australia) retain their second-row positions from the July match at Avaya Stadium, locking the front row of Zach Fenoglio (Denver), Eric Fry (Davis, Calif.), and Titi Lamositele (Bellingham, Wash.). The 20-year-old prop scored a try after entering the match as a first-half substitute, and will make his RWC debut Sunday against Sakaria Taulafo of 36 caps.

The size of the second row is followed by RWC debutants Al McFarland (Sydney, Australia), Andrew Durutalo (Suva, Fiji), and Samu Manoa (Concord, Calif.) in the pack’s back row. The forwards in the previous matchup, which included Durutalo, helped keep Samoa scoreless through more than 40 minutes in northern California.

Along with Taku Ngwenya (Harare, Zimbabwe) and Wyles on the wings, scrum half Mike Petri (Brooklyn, N.Y.) will make his third RWC appearance for the Eagles. Fly half AJ MacGinty (Dublin, Ireland), who earned his first international cap against Samoa, will see familiar faces in Seamus Kelly (Queens, N.Y.) and Thretton Palamo (Woodland, Calif.) in the centers. MacGinty set up Palamo for a try in the U.S.’s match against Harlequins, and has been instrumental as goal-kicker for the Eagles, accounting for 65 points in five tests.

The backs’ defensive duties will include getting in front of Alesana Tuilagi. A wing at Fry’s Newcastle Falcons of the Aviva Premiership, Tuilagi captained the Samoans in San Jose, scored the match’s first try, and single-footedly assisted the second with a cross-pitch chip kick.

"Tuilagi is a talented player and effective runner, but we know whomever we choose to play at wing will be able to perform their defensive responsibilities," Eagles Head Coach Mike Tolkin said.

While this summer’s World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup pitted the U.S. against two of its Pool B opponents in Samoa and Japan, the Eagles’ coaching staff was well aware both would keep game plans for England close to the vest. Against Samoa, it took the Eagles a half of test rugby to turn the tide in their favor, and nearly overcame an 18-point deficit with a strong second-half performance.

In addition, Sunday’s match will be the second time the two teams have met in RWC pool play. Ngwenya scored one of the U.S.’s two tries in a bonus-point loss in 2007, Samoa’s only win in that tournament.

"I think both teams will have some frantic energy about them with this being the opening of the World Cup," Tolkin said. "It will come down to whomever can calm down and be more composed after the first part of the match."

Phil Thiel (Traverse City, Mich.) offers a veteran presence in reserves as the only substitute with RWC experience. Folau Niua (East Palo Alto, Calif.), Shalom Suniula (Auckland, New Zealand), and Brett Thompson (Tempe, Ariz.) will provide cover for the backs, while Danny Barrett (Pacifica, Calif.), Chris Baumann (Steamboat Springs, Colo.), Cam Dolan (Ft. Myers, Fla.), and Olive Kilifi (Seattle) round out the bench.

Live match updates will be provided by @USARugby on Twitter using the "#BlueNation2015" social media hashtag. Universal Sports’ coverage of the noon local-time kickoff begins at 7 a.m. ET Sunday, with viewing options available on the NBC/Universal website.

Men's Eagles | v. Samoa
1. Eric Fry
2. Zach Fenoglio
3. Titi Lamositele
4. Hayden Smith
5. Greg Peterson
6. Al McFarland
7. Andrew Durutalo
8. Samu Manoa
9. Mike Petri
10. AJ MacGinty
11. Chris Wyles (C)
12. Thretton Palamo
13. Seamus Kelly
14. Takudzwa Ngwenya
15. Blaine Scully

Men's Eagles | Reserves
16. Phil Thiel
17. Olive Kilifi
18. Chris Baumann
19. Cameron Dolan
20. Danny Barrett
21. Shalom Suniula
22. Folau Niua
23. Brett Thompson

Samoa | v. USA
1. Sakaria Taulafo
2. Ole Avei
3. Anthony Perenise
4. Teofilo Paulo
5. Iosefa Tekori
6. Maurie Fa'asavalu
7. Jack Lam
8. Ofisa Treviranus (C)
9. Kahn Fotuali'i
10. Tusi Pisi
11. Alesana Tuilagi
12. Rey Lee-Lo
13. Paul Perez
14. Ken Pisi
15. Tim Nanai-Williams

Samoa | Reserves
16. Viliamu Afatia
17. Motu Matu'u
18. Census Johnston
19. Faifili Levave
20. Alafoti Faosiliva
21. Vavoa Afemai
22. Mike Stanley
23. Fa'atoina Autagavaia

Men's Eagles | Rugby World Cup 2015
v. Samoa - Sunday, Sept. 20 - 7 a.m. ET
v. Scotland - Sunday, Sept. 27 - 9:30 a.m. ET
v. South Africa - Wednesday, Oct. 7 - noon ET
v. Japan - Sunday, Oct. 11 - 3 p.m. ET

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