Match-day squad selected for AIG MJAAs’ first World Rugby U20 Trophy qualifier

SHAWNIGAN LAKE, British Columbia – Head Coach Michael Engelbrecht has selected the starting roster for Monday’s World Rugby U20 Trophy Qualifier match between the USA Rugby AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans and Canada’s under-20 team.

Shawnigan Lake School on Vancouver Island will host the first of two qualification matches, with the aggregate winner of the series advancing to May’s U20 Trophy in Portugal. Monday’s match can be viewed live online on Rugby Canada TV.

Eight of the nine players that participated in last year’s U20 Trophy in Hong Kong will start Monday’s match, including Ben Cima at scrum half and Hanco Germishuys at flanker. Christian Wiessing will lead the group as captain from the lock position.

The team arrived in Canada last Wednesday and held five training sessions at Rugby Canada’s Center of Excellence to get up to speed with the coaching staff’s game plan. Wiessing led the captain’s run at Shawnigan Lake School Sunday, which features a natural surface as opposed to the artificial turf in Langford, the site of Friday’s match.

With the players meeting for the first time since November’s Selection Camp, it was important for the coaching staff to give the young athletes a proper build up to this week’s tour.

“Players have shown incredible desire and will to be excellent at practice,” Engelbrecht said. “The coaching staff drip-fed how we want the game to be played over the weeks prior to arrival in Canada. It is quite obvious that they did their homework, as practices have been really good; we dramatically improve each and every day. There is a maturity about this group of players and a solid base of rugby intellect amongst the core group.

“One of our concerns coming in was how quickly the players can bond into a high-performing team. It has been a really good experience watching them grow together, observing the leaders emerge, and then expressing themselves on the field. This is a hard-working group that are really focused on the task at hand, which is beating Canada in match one.”

The MJAAs have also had the pleasure of welcoming Men’s Eagles Head Coach Mike Tolkin to camp. As players graduate from one age-grade team to the next, the coaching staff of the senior side ensures it is connected to the player pathway to hone future Eagles, while some – such as Cima – have already attended Eagles camps.

“It’s been a pleasure working with the staff and players of the Men’s Junior All-American program as they prepare for qualifying matches against Canada,” Tolkin said. “Everyone in the camp has been working extremely hard, and the players are motivated to take on Canada with entry into the U20 Trophy on the line. It has also been a great opportunity for me to spend time with potential Eagles up close and become familiar with them as players and people. It will be an exciting series.”

Follow live match updates on Twitter with the USA Rugby All-American account - @aarugby – and watch the first match of the two-match series at 6:30 p.m. ET on Rugby Canada TV.

AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | v Canada U20
1. James Gannon
2. Lucas Joseph
3. Valdemar Lee-lo
4. Oliver Drew
5. Christian Wiessing (C)
6. Braeden Hood
7. Jacobus Germishuys
8. Maciu Koroi
9. Louis Mulholland
10. Ben Cima
11. Seth Halliman
12. Fitou Fisiiahi
13. Ian Kinsly
14. Connor McRae
15. Scott Dean

AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | Reserves
16. Gabe Romero
17. Nick Kwasniewski
18. Victor Comptat
19. Brian Nault
20. Erik Thompson
21. Oisin Brady
22. Babapelumu Adejuyigbe

Canada U20 | v AIG Men's Junior All-Americans
1. Brendan Blaikie
2. John Shaw
3. Matt Tierney
4. Paul Cuilini
5. Adrian Wadden
6. Lucas Rumball (C)
7. Ollie Nott
8. Luke Bradley
9. Dan Joyce
10. Dylan Horgan
11. Karsten Leitner
12. Guiseppe du Toit
13. Mitch Santilli
14. Theo Sauder
15. Andrew Coe

Canada U20 | Reserves
16. Paddy Finlay
17. Conor Young
18. Cali Martinez
19. Reegan O'Gorman
20. Mitch Rothman
21. Tony Pomroy
22. Philip Berna

AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | Coaching Staff
Michael Engelbrecht - Head Coach
Luke Gross - Assistant Coach
David Williams - Assistant Coach
Peter Borlase - Assistant Coach
Marc Stcherbina - Assistant Coach
Brian Finn - Physio
Dr. Terrence Cronin - Doctor

AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | World Rugby U20 Trophy qualifier series
v. Canada U20 - Monday, March 23 - 6:30 p.m. ET - Shawnigan Lake School
v. Canada U20 - Friday, March 27 - 10 p.m. ET - Westhills Stadium