Emotional opener for MacDonald
NEW PLYMOUTH, 9 Sept. - US Eagles prop Mike MacDonald is preparing himself for a barrage of mixed emotions when he takes the field for his team’s opening match against Ireland at Stadium Taranaki on Sunday.
Not only will he become the USA’s most-capped player with a tally of 63 Test matches, the fact the match falls 10 years to the day after the 9/11 terror attacks adds further poignancy.
“I’m ecstatic it’s happening when it is,” MacDonald said. “It’s a great occasion, being the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the first game of the World Cup. It really means a lot for me that it has come at this time.
“You can say a lot of things now, but in the heat of the moment the emotion is going to hit.”
Inside centre Andrew Suniula and fly half Roland Suniula join MacDonald in the 15 announced by USA's Irish-born head coach Eddie O’Sullivan on Friday.
They will be the first pair of brothers to take the field at Rugby World Cup 2011.
Rewarded for good form
A natural playmaker, Roland was preferred to the more experienced Nese Malifa, although O’Sullivan has kept his options open by naming Malifa on the bench.
“It’s quite a form thing. Nese has been our 10, Roland has been our centre, but he (Roland) has had a very good year domestically and with the US Sevens team,” the coach said.
”And we swung him off the bench in the Churchill (Cup) quite a few times and he did very well.”
New Zealand-born James Paterson will assume kicking duties in Malifa’s absence, while full back Chris Wyles has not fully recovered from an ankle injury and has been replaced by 23-year-old Blaine Scully.
Wyles is a key player for USA and O’Sullivan said he was reluctant to risk him ahead of the clash with Russia on 15 September.
“There are some tight calls. But this is the team we want to put on the field bar Wyles.
“He would have been in the team if he was fit. He almost made it but there would have been a risk that if he played Ireland, there would be a pretty good chance that he missed the Russia game.”
There were few other surprises from O’Sullivan with Phillip Thiel preferred to Chris Biller at hooker and Louis Stanfill and captain Todd Clever assigned to patrol the flanks. Paterson, Scully and Takudzwa Ngwenya - scorer of RWC 2007's “try of the tournament” - will form a pacy back three.