LaValla to captain Eagles against Tonga

GLOUCESTER, England – The Men’s Eagles will be captained by Scott LaValla Saturday in the penultimate test of 2014 against Tonga at Kingsholm Stadium.

Following the 27-17 victory against Romania in Bucharest last weekend, in which LaValla was with his club, Stade Français, the Eagles jumped two spots in the IRB World Rankings from 18 to 16. Canada, comparatively, is ranked 17, while Tonga sits at 13.

LaValla will partner John Quill, who returned to the team for the first time since the summer of 2013, in the back row of the scrum. Matt Trouville will earn his second cap in the No. 8 position, while Todd Clever will start the match as a reserve.

Mate Moeakiola replaces an injured Olive Kilifi at tight head prop to make his first start for the Eagles since IRB Rugby World Cup 2011. Moeakiola ended a three-year cap drought in Chicago Nov. 1 as the Eagles took on the New Zealand All Blacks in front of a sold-out crowd at Soldier Field and was an unused substitute in the defeat of Romania.

Phil Thiel’s 25th cap will see the Life University graduate anchor Moeakiola and loose head prop Nick Wallace. Tom Coolican, Angus MacLellan, and Ben Tarr provide front-row cover on the bench.

John Cullen and Greg Peterson each earned their first caps for the Eagles against Romania and will get their first starting caps Saturday in the second row. Tai Tuisamoa and Kyle Sumsion join Clever in the reserves as loose forwards.

“We’re certainly resting some of our more active and veteran players as part of the overall approach, but this is also our last full Eagles assembly until the summer,” Tolkin said. “As such, we need to look at players in a full-on international match. This is why some of the younger and newer players are getting a chance to prove themselves in the year before the Rugby World Cup.”

Shalom Suniula will line up at fly half behind Mike Petri Saturday with Adam Siddall out of action. Siddall, who went a perfect four-for-four in kicking at Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf, is following the concussion protocol to become asymptomatic in order to return to training next week.

Taku Ngwenya was unavailable for selection this week with passport issues and will be replaced in the No. 14 shirt by Tim Maupin. Tim Stanfill, scorer of one of the Eagles’ three tries in Bucharest, will patrol the opposite wing. Folau Niua will make his second consecutive start at full back.

Seamus Kelly and Andrew Suniula will again line up in the centers, with Ronnie McLean and Thretton Palamo able to bring a fresh jolt to the backs from the bench. McLean has started seven of Ealing Trailfinders’ 10 SSE National League 1 matches, and has featured in all but one. The Trailfinders top the League table with 47 points from a possible 50. Palamo recently returned to action with Saracens in the LV= Cup against Ospreys last Friday.

“Ronnie is a player we have been following for the past year,” Tolkin said. “He has been a regular starter for his club and is a strong, athletic player. Ronnie is getting an opportunity, as Roland [Suniula] did and will do against Fiji, while we are here in Europe.

“If a player is selected to represent the Eagles, then we expect each of those players to contribute in a productive manner towards our team’s overall performance. However, the work that a group of players do together is the most important element of achieving success.”

Tonga traveled to Tbilisi last weekend and defeated Georgia, 23-9, to end a streak of six winless matches dating back to summer 2013. The last victory for Ikale Tahi came against the Eagles at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

“They bring different open-field ability and dynamics that Romania don’t possess, so we need to be strong up front as well as very active in open play,” Tolkin said.

Kickoff for the match at Kingsholm Stadium is set for 11:45 a.m. ET Saturday, Nov. 15, with a live stream available from IRB Live. Follow @USARugby on Twitter for live match updates.

Men's Eagles | v Tonga
1. Nick Wallace
2. Phil Thiel
3. Mate Moeakiola
4. John Cullen
5. Greg Peterson
6. Scott LaValla (C)
7. John Quill
8. Matt Trouville
9. Mike Petri
10. Shalom Suniula
11. Tim Stanfill
12. Andrew Suniula
13. Seamus Kelly
14. Tim Maupin
15. Folau Niua

Men's Eagles | Reserves
16. Tom Coolican
17. Angus Maclellan
18. Benjamin Tarr
19. Tai Tuisamoa
20. Kyle Sumsion
21. Todd Clever
22. Thretton Palamo
23. Ronald McLean

Tonga | Starting XV
1. Tevita Mailau
2. Aleki Lutui
3. Paea Fa'anunu
4. Tukulua Lokotui
5. Joe Tu'ineau
6. Sione Kalamafoni
7. Nili Latu (C)
8. Viliami Ma'afu
9. Sonatane Takulua
10. Kurt Morath
11. Fetu'u Vainikolo
12. Hermani Paea
13. Siale Piutau
14. David Halaifonua
15. Vungakoto Lilo

Tonga | Reserves
16. Elvis Taione
17. Sione Lea
18. Sila Puafisi
19. Lisiate Fa'aoso
20. Hale T Pole
21. Taniula Moa
22. Latiume Fosita
23. Otulea Katoa

Referee Appointments
Mike Fraser (NZR)
Andrew McMenemy (SRU)
Lloyd Linton (SRU)

Men's Eagles | November Tour
v Tonga - Kingsholm Stadium (Gloucester, England) - Nov. 15 @ 11:45 a.m. ET
v Fiji - Stade de la Rabine (Vannes, France) - Nov. 21 @ 1 p.m. ET