Match-day roster announced for Eagles’ Pacific Nations Cup opener

SAN JOSE, Calif. - The Men's Eagles kick off their 2015 World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup campaign against No. 9-ranked Samoa Saturday, July 18, at Avaya Stadium, with Chris Wyles set to captain his first match for the U.S.

All Pacific Nations Cup matches during the two-week tournament will be streamed live on ESPN 3, part of the WatchESPN platform, beginning with the curtain raiser in San Jose between Canada and Japan at 5 p.m. PT. The Eagles' clash with Rugby World Cup 2015 pool mate Samoa is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. PT.

AJ MacGinty will earn his first cap with the Eagles at fly half after impressing with the USA Rugby Selects on a three-match tour of South America. John Quill and Shalom Suniula also retain their starting positions from the tour at flanker and scrum half, respectively.

Danny Barrett and Cam Dolan have been selected to the starting XV for the Eagles in their first action with the 15s squad since returning from injury. Barrett, a mainstay on the Men's Eagles Sevens' 2014-15 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and Olympic-qualifying squads, left the U.S.'s historic match against New Zealand at Soldier Field last fall just minutes into the sold-out test. Dolan - a recent signing of Guinness Pro12's Cardiff Blues - last featured in the 2014 Pacific Nations Cup against Japan, the team's July 24 opponent.

"We haven't had the entire squad together for an extended time for well over a year, so having players like Cam, Danny, and the rest with us allows us to operate from a stronger position selection-wise," Eagles Head Coach Mike Tolkin said.

"The composition of the squad is based on balancing a strong team as well as seeing individuals play in a match situation so we can start the process of determining where strengths and weaknesses lie. We cannot wait until the World Cup is in front of us to start to evaluate players who we have not seen much of, so we need that balance. This summer presents a lot of game time."

Wyles captains the squad from the full back position, flanked by vice captain Blaine Scully on the left-hand touch line and Takudzwa Ngwenya on the opposite side. Seamus Kelly, captain of the Selects on the South American Tour, will partner Thretton Palamo in the centers. The youngest player to be capped in a World Cup, Palamo returned to the Eagles in California last year during the Pacific Nations Cup.

Veterans Scott LaValla, Mike Petri, and Andrew Suniula provide cover from the reserves, as do sevens standouts Andrew Durutalo and Zack Test. Recently selected to Barbarians FC for a match in Scotland after training with Saracens FC in England, Titi Lamositele earns his first selection to the Eagles - as a reserve - since last year's defeat of Canada in Sacramento.

Lamositele was also unavailable for selection to the AIG Men's Junior All-Americans' World Rugby U20 Trophy Qualifier series against Canada earlier this year. The Men's Junior and Collegiate Stars and Stripes Camp presented by WellDog, hosted at nearby California Maritime Academy, received a visit from the Eagles coaching staff earlier in the week. The 67 young athletes at Camp also worked with the Eagles at the team's training at the Google Campus Thursday, while Stanford University has been a gracious host for training sessions.

"Assembly time has been good," Tolkin said. "I feel that domestic-based players are better prepared to help lead and be decision-makers in our system based on camps and the South American Tour, so it hasn't been a case of just dumping in professional players from overseas and relying on them.

"That formula is not a good one for continuity as they come from various programs and systems that operate in their unique ways. With a more confident and domestic base, we can keep that continuity while the overseas-based players add additional talent and preparedness to the squad."

The Eagles last played Samoa at Rugby World Cup 2007 in France, a four-point loss for the U.S. At this year's marquee event in England, the two teams will join Japan, Scotland, and South Africa in Pool B.

While Chicago's hosting of the All Blacks was historic for its own reasons, Samoa welcomed the reigning World Cup Champions to its home for the first time in the country's 90-plus years of hosting international tests. While the home team in Apia kept New Zealand to a single try, it was not enough for a victory.

"We see Samoa as a formidable opponent who we will not downplay at all," Tolkin said. "It is a test match against a top-10 side and that is the only way to view it. We expect nothing but the best from them."

Watch the Pacific Nations Cup live on ESPN 3 and follow live match updates of the Eagles' test at Avaya Stadium on Twitter with @USARugby.

Men's Eagles | v. Samoa

1. Eric Fry

2. Phil Thiel

3. Matekitonga Moeakiola

4. Hayden Smith

5. Greg Peterson

6. Cameron Dolan

7. John Quill

8. Danny Barrett

9. Shalom Suniula

10. AJ MacGinty

11. Blaine Scully

12. Thretton Palamo

13. Seamus Kelly

14. Takudzwa Ngwenya

15. Chris Wyles (C)

Men's Eagles | Reserves

16. Zach Fenoglio

17. Chris Baumann

18. Titi Lamositele

19. Scott LaValla

20. Andrew Durutalo

21. Mike Petri

22. Andrew Suniula

23. Zack Test

Samoa | v. USA

1. Sakaria Taulafo

2. Manu Leiataua

3. Anthony Perenise

4. Teofilo Paulo

5. Faatiga Lemalu

6. TJ Ioane

7. Jack Lam

8. Vavae Tuilagi

9. Vavao Afemai

10. Patrick Faapale

11. Alesana Tuilagi (C)

12. Faialaga Afamasaga

13. Paul Perez

14. Sinoti Sinoti

15. Ah See Tuala

Samoa | Reserves

16. Motu Matuu

17. Viliamu Afatia

18. Jake Grey

19. Maselino Paulino

20. Oneone Faafou

21. Pele Cowley

22. Johnny Leota

23. Gaatoina Autagavaia

Men's Eagles | Pacific Nations Cup

v. Samoa - Saturday, July 18 - 7 p.m. PT - Avaya Stadium - San Jose, Calif.

v. Japan - Friday, July 24 - 8 p.m. PT - Bonney Field - Sacramento, Calif.

v. Tonga - Wednesday, July 29 - 3:30 p.m. ET - BMO Field - Toronto, Ontario

Finals Day (matchup/kickoff time TBD) - Monday, Aug. 3 - Swangard Stadium - Burnaby, British Columbia