First Eagles Elite Training Squad named

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - The first Eagles Elite Training Squad (EETS), incorporating more than 50 capped and non-capped U.S.-eligible athletes, has been announced.

Following the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship competition in which first-time Men's Eagles Head Coach John Mitchell capped 24 new players in five matches, the coaching staff and high performance staff convened to enhance the program's approach to elite athlete development.

"Congratulations to these athletes, selected to the first Eagles Elite Training Squad," said USA Rugby Director of Performance Alex Magleby. "Now the hard part comes really, with increased accountability on the athletes to meet and dramatically improve the physical and technical standards that will be required to play at the international level for the U.S. Eagles."

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The EETS will be selected biannually during the Rugby World Cup quadrennial, with athletes working day-to-day within their own professional or amateur environments to reach the Eagles standard as it relates to fitness, skills, and overall game plan. The national team strength and conditioning staff, led by Head Performance Coach Chris Brown, will monitor athletes around the world with the assistance of the players' clubs and schools.

While a main objective of the EETS is to select teams for international tests and, eventually, matches concerning the qualification and competition of Rugby World Cups, Mitchell and the coaching staff have highlighted short- to medium-term areas of need in the player pool. These needs include aligning strength and conditioning and skill sets to the Eagles' new style of play and approach, aligning identification and recruitment to said styles and approaches, and establishing and evolving standards and protocols.

"We are kidding ourselves if we think we are as fit as we can be, so we have to find a way to bridge our gap in 15s to realistically and authentically compete against Tier One nations," Mitchell said. "We cannot do this without creating a model by where the players take greater ownership for targeting and raising their standards in their total distance covered and high velocity speed percentages daily. We need to find better ways to help the player implement to be in the optimal zone daily through guidance, supervision, and updating their daily work and volume."

Athletes outside of the initial EETS are not out of contention for selections to upcoming national team assemblies and camps, and will also continue to be monitored in competition. The coaching staff hopes the players not named in the EETS will continue to rise to the challenge of representing their country on the international stage, beginning with this summer's tests against Italy and Russia in northern California.

"The past has been very much about the inputs in test week only," Mitchell said. "The Eagles Elite Training Squad's intention is more about the whole of the inputs and the discipline necessary to their preparation before test week so that, in a test match preparation, we can prepare with the right intensity and training load to bring the right performance.

"In addition, this will surface the best players and raise them to the top to help us to select and create the best USA Eagles team mix for each test match while still having time to have an eye on the development of the best future talent."

PRO Rugby - the first professional rugby union competition in the United States set to kick off April 17 in Denver and Sacramento - has augmented the on-pitch hierarchy in the United States, giving on-the-cusp professional players the ability to ply their trade at the highest level domestically. Thirteen members of the first EETS - and four in the Eagles Development Training Group (EDTG) - will be playing in the competition, while 17 of the athletes are in residency at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., with the Men's Eagles Sevens program. The upcoming Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games will remain the top priority for the sevens players in residency until their Olympic commitments have been fulfilled.

Eagles Elite Training Squad | Jan. - June 2016

Nate AugspurgerMen's Eagles SevensHalf back
Perry BakerMen's Eagles SevensWing
Danny BarrettMen's Eagles SevensLoose forward
Chris BaumannDenver (PRO)Prop
Garrett BenderMen's Eagles SevensLoose forward
James BirdOld Blue of New YorkHalf back
Tom BlissSan Diego (PRO)Half back
Nate BrakeleyWinged Foot - New York Athletic ClubSecond row
Todd CleverNewcastle Falcons (England)Loose forward
Tom CoolicanSan Francisco (PRO)Hooker
Cameron DolanCardiff Blues (Wales)Loose forward
Andrew DurutaloSunwolves (Super Rugby)Loose forward
JP EloffOhio (PRO)Center
Lemoto FilikitongaMetropolis Rugby Football ClubCenter
Eric FryNewcastle Falcons (England)Prop
Harry HigginsOld Blue of New YorkLoose forward
James HilterbrandManly Rugby Union Football ClubHooker
Will HolderMen's Eagles SevensFull back
Madison HughesMen's Eagles SevensHalf back
Pila HuihuiSan Francisco Golden GateWing
Luke HumeOld Blue of New YorkWing
Martin IosefoMen's Eagles SevensCenter
Carlin IslesMen's Eagles SevensWing
Olive KilifiSacramento (PRO)Prop
James KingSecond row
Titi LamositeleSaracens Football Club (England)Prop
Ben LandryDenver (PRO)Second row
Matai LeutaMen's Eagles SevensWing
Chad LondonDenver (PRO)Center
AJ MacGintyConnacht (Ireland)Half back
Angus MacLellanOhio (PRO)Prop
Samu ManoaRC Toulonnais (France)Second row
Al McFarlandWinged Foot - New York Athletic ClubLoose forward
Taku NgwenyaSan Diego (PRO)Wing
Folau NiuaMen's Eagles SevensCenter
Brodie OrthDenver (PRO)Second row
Thretton PalamoMen's Eagles SevensCenter
Greg PetersonGlasgow Warriors (Scotland)Second row
Ben PinkelmanMen's Eagles Sevens / Denver BarbariansLoose forward
Aladdin SchirmerCentral Washington UniversityLoose forward
Blaine ScullyCardiff Blues (Wales)Wing
Andrew SuniulaSan Diego (PRO)Center
Shalom SuniulaMen's Eagles SevensHalf back
David TameilauSan Francisco (PRO)Loose forward
Ben TarrDenver (PRO)Prop
Joe Taufete'eSan Diego (PRO)Hooker
Mike Te'oSan Diego (PRO)Full back
Zack TestMen's Eagles SevensFull back
Bruce ThomasSan Francisco Golden GateLoose forward
Brett ThompsonMen's Eagles SevensWing
Peter TiberioMen's Eagles SevensCenter
Stephen TomasinMen's Eagles SevensHalf back
Maka UnufeMen's Eagles SevensWing

Eagles Development Training Group | Jan. - June 2016

Jake AndersonSan Francisco (PRO)Wing
Dylan AudsleySaint Mary's College (D1A)Center
Demecus BeachLife UniversityProp
Ben CimaRocky GorgeHalf back
Hanco GermishuysDenver (PRO)Hooker
Alec GletzerSan Francisco (PRO)Loose forward
Seth HallimanMen's Eagles Sevens / Central Washington UniversityFull back
Kalei KonradSan Diego (PRO)Half back
Jope MotokanaSacramento (PRO)Half back
Deion MikesellLindenwood University (D1A)Wing
Christian OstbergStade Aurillac (France)Second row
Lorenzo ThomasLindenwood University (D1A)Center