Match roster announced for Eagles’ clash with All Blacks at Soldier Field

CHICAGO – Men’s Eagles Head Coach Mike Tolkin has selected 23 players to face the New Zealand All Blacks in a historic match at a sold-out Soldier Field Nov. 1.

Making his 60th appearance in an Eagles shirt, Todd Clever will captain the side wearing No. 6 alongside Scott Lavalla. The flankers will go up against Victor Vito and Sam Cane in black.

Three Aviva Premiership stars – Eric Fry, Samu Manoa, and Hayden Smith – make up the tight five. Phil Thiel, who spent time with Smith’s Saracens earlier this year before being chosen for the Eagles Select XV in the 2014 IRB Americas Rugby Championship, will sit between Fry and Olive Kilifi in the scrum.

Danny Barrett will make his third start and earn his fourth Eagles cap at No. 8 in front of veteran Mike Petri at scrum half. Barrett’s second consecutive start follows his replacement of Cam Dolan for the Eagles’ defeat of Canada during the Summer Series. Since the Eagles’ first win against the neighbors in five years, Barrett has trialed at Gloucester Rugby and helped the Men’s Eagles Sevens win the Bowl at Gold Coast Sevens.

In 2013, Adam Siddall burst onto the national team scene with six caps and a starring role in the Eagles’ narrow loss to the New Zealand Maori All Blacks in front of a sold-out crowd at PPL Park. He recently returned from injury in the ARC and will line up behind Petri at fly half.

Andrew Suniula also returns to the Eagles following an injury sustained at BBVA Compass Stadium in June. Suniula’s performances in the American Rugby Premiership for Old Blue of New York and the ARC for Tolkin’s Eagles Select XV have proven his readiness for Saturday’s match.

Seamus Kelly, who joined Barrett on trial at Gloucester after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, will partner Suniula in the centers in his fifth consecutive start.

Edinburgh’s Brett Thompson, scorer of the match-winning try in Sacramento, Calif., returns to the wing in the red, white, and blue, as does Leicester’s Blaine Scully. Chris Wyles will earn his 45th cap at full back.

While the top-ranked team in the world poses a challenge to any opposition, the Eagles’ opponent did not play a part in the selection process for the match at Soldier Field. In total, only three changes were made to the starting XV from the last match of the summer.

“Our selections were based more on how we wanted to play,” Tolkin said. “[The All Blacks] present a big challenge, so worrying too much about them would be counter productive.

“We had the line-up in place in our heads already and just confirmed it with training this week.”

The Eagles playing in the Premiership were released from their clubs a week early for the match, which was not scheduled within the IRB’s Regulation 9 window. Tai Tuisamoa of London Scottish in the Greene King IPA Championship was also released and will be available as a reserve. Veterans Mate Moeakiola and Louis Stanfill will also begin the match on the bench and could provide experienced, fresh legs in the latter stages of Saturday’s clash.

The All Blacks will be without the services of Richie McCaw, though Kieran Read will act as captain. Dan Carter could play a role from the bench.

While the All Blacks have not played an international test in the United States since 1980, the Eagles have not been to the state of Illinois since a Tier One matchup with Wales in 2009. Both teams have felt the palpable energy in the Windy City, which is set to erupt Saturday at the home of the National Football Leagues’ Chicago Bears.

“Chicago is an exciting city and they have made a great effort to promote this game and it shows,” Tolkin said. “I’m glad it is taking place here.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT, with a pre-match show airing on Universal Sports an hour earlier. NBC will provide the live broadcast for the match beginning at 2:30 p.m. CT.

Match sponsor AIG will provide a live webstream of the match on the All Blacks website to viewers in 127 countries without broadcast rights.

For live match updates, follow @USARugby on Twitter and join the social media conversation with the #USAvAllBlacks hashtag.

Men's Eagles | v New Zealand All Blacks
1. Eric Fry
2. Phil Thiel
3. Olive Kilifi
4. Samu Manoa
5. Hayden Smith
6. Todd Clever (C)
7. Scott Lavalla
8. Danny Barrett
9. Mike Petri
10. Adam Siddall
11. Brett Thompson
12. Andrew Suniula
13. Seamus Kelly
14. Blaine Scully
15. Chris Wyles

Men's Eagles | Reserves
16. Tom Coolican
17. Nick Wallace
18. Mate Moeakiola
19. Tai Tuisamoa
20. Louis Stanfill
21. Shalom Suniula
22. Folau Niua
23. Tim Stanfill

New Zealand All Blacks | Starting XV
1. Joe Moody
2. Nathan Harris
3. Charlie Faumuina
4. Jeremy Thrush
5. Patrick Tuipulotu
6. Victor Vito
7. Sam Cane
8. Kieran Read (C)
9. TJ Perenara
10. Aaron Cruden
11. Charles Piutau
12. Sonny Bill Williams
13. Ryan Crotty
14. Cory Jane
15. Israel Dagg

New Zealand All Blacks | Reserves
16. Keven Mealamu
17. Owen Franks
18. Ben Franks
19. Brodie Retallick
20. Liam Messam
21. Augustine Pulu
22. Daniel Carter
23. Julian Savea

USAvAllBlacks | Saturday, Nov. 1
Pre-game show on Universal Sports: 2 p.m. CT
NBC Coverage: 2:30 p.m. CT
Kickoff: 3 p.m. CT