AIG MJAAs Filter Camp assembling at Lindenwood University

ST. CHARLES, Mo. - The USA Rugby AIG Men's Junior All-Americans Filter Camp for the upcoming World Rugby U20 Trophy qualifier against Canada begins Friday, Jan. 15, at Lindenwood University.

Thirty-four athletes will work with interim Head Coach JD Stephenson, as well as the Lindenwood director of rugby's Camp coaching staff, to familiarize themselves with the attacking and defensive strategies ahead of the Feb. 13 battle with Canada's under-20s. The winner of the one-off playoff will represent North America in the U20 Trophy in Zimbabwe.

The MJAAs were felled twice by Canada in 2015, but the athletes chosen for the two-match series in British Columbia padded their international experience under the tutelage of the coaching staff, including former Eagles Luke Gross and David Williams. Unavailable for December's Winter Camp, longtime age-grade standouts and 2015 selections Ben Cima and Hanco Germishuys return to the MJAAs for the Filter Camp. Nick Kwasniewski and Darien Pickett also represented the U.S. against Canada, and pushed on through the Arizona assembly to garner an invite to the weekend's camp.

In all, 20 Filter Camp attendees were at Casa Grande Academy the week prior to the Christmas holiday. The additional athletes, including Boys High School All-Americans alumni Connor Cudeback, Siaso Mahoni, and Joeli Tikoisuva, were unable to attend Stephenson's previous camp, but have kept in touch with the coaching staff to work out availability for 2016.

"The interim work between assemblies has focused on player and team development of those identified in the process and the implementation of our systems, policies, and practices, of which the foundation was laid in the December Camp," Stephenson said. "This has been carried out through weekly Skype calls, email and phone discussions with unit-specific groups, and the availability of our online resources to the playing group as a whole."

Six athletes play for senior clubs across the country and two others attend school abroad, while the remaining young men continue to juggle the new academic semester - in high school or college - with their aspirations to advance through the ranks of the national team pathway. D1A Rugby's University of Arizona, Cal Poly State University, Life University, Lindenwood University, and Louisiana State University will each be without at least one student-athlete during the duration of the Camp.

Following the assembly in Austin, Texas, and the match - to be held alongside the USA Men's Eagles' Americas Rugby Championship clash with the Canadian senior side - the MJAAs' schedule for 2016 will fall into place. With a defeat of Canada and entry into the U20 Trophy, the MJAA athletes would travel to Africa for competition dates in the final two weeks of April.

"When we discuss the buy-in of players and coaches alike to the All-American program, those involved understand the strain that the absence from school can place on their academics and their respective rugby program's cohesion," Stephenson said. "In the two upcoming assemblies, we have been sure to build in study halls and utilize tutors for the players to ease the burden on their academics and try not to overwhelm them mentally during the assembly process to avoid player burnout when they head back to their program.

"We are extremely grateful to the programs that assist in the identification process of players and put forward players. We hope that we can continue to add value to that player through continued development on and off the pitch and the ability to represent their country at the highest age-grade level."

AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | Filter Camp

Name School/Club Position
Malon Al-Jiboori Lindenwood University Flanker
Steven Branham University of Arizona Hooker
Benjamin Cima University of Maryland, Men, 15s Fly half
Sean Coleman University of Arizona Lock
Brian Collins   Flanker
Connor Cudeback Cal Poly State University, Men, 15s Prop
Ruben de Haas Little Rock Junior Stormers Scrum half
Brennan Falcon Louisiana State University Flanker
Jacobus Germishuys Glendale Raptors Flanker
Rodney Giles   Fly half
Zach Haley Metropolis Hooker
Brian Hannon University of Arizona Fly half
Dan Hostetler University of Cardiff, Wales Hooker
Jihad Khabir American International College Fly half
Nick Kwasniewski Grand Canyon University Prop
Siaso Mahoni Life West Lock
Deion Mikesell Lindenwood University Wing
Blake Nicholas Sacramento Rugby Lock
Mason Pedersen University of Arizona Prop
Darien Pickett Grand Canyon University Prop
Hayden Potgieter Santa Barbara City College Fly half
Roman Salanoa Kahuku High School Prop
Will Ben Sims Trinity College Dublin Center
Lui Sitama American International College  
Tyler Sousley University of Arizona Wing
Austin Taefu Tempe Old Devils Scrum half
Veuki Taumefolau Las Vegas Irish Number 8
Lorenzo Thomas Lindenwood University Center
Joeli Tikoisuva Metropolis Wing
Duncan Van Schalkwyk Life University Fly half
Joshua Warnock Pennisula Green Lock
Chance Wenglewski Lindenwood University Prop
Mitchell Wilson Life University Full back
Will Fifita Rocky Mountain Rebels Rugby 7s Center

AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | Coaching Staff

JD Stephenson - Interim Head Coach

Justin Goonan - Strength and Conditioning & Skills Coach

Pete Borlase - Forwards Coach

James Walton - Video Analyst

Michael Engelbrecht - Backs Coach & Manager

David Fee - Skills Coach

Scott Lawrence - Technical Advisor

Kevin Battle - Skills Coach & Academy Manager