AIG MJAAs selected for Winter Camp

CASA GRANDE, Ariz. - Interim Head Coach JD Stephenson and the coaching staff of the AIG Men's Junior All-Americans have called on 52 under-20-eligble athletes to attend the Winter Camp at Casa Grande Academy Saturday, Dec. 19, through Tuesday, Dec. 22.

The MJAAs will play Canada's under-20 representative in Austin, Texas, Feb. 13, 2016, alongside the Men's Eagles' home Americas Rugby Championship match against the border rival's senior side. The winner of the one-off match will qualify for the World Rugby U20 Trophy, set for Zimbabwe in April.

Scott Lawrence was hired as head coach of the MJAAs in August, and stepped down from the position upon promotion in his work duties. The former head coach, who led the MJAAs to a U20 Trophy victory when USA Rugby hosted the tournament in Salt Lake City in 2012, is still assisting the program as technical director.

"Coach Lawrence has been great with information sharing and building of an online database of videos, images, and documents that will assist in continued remote development of players," Stephenson, director of rugby and head coach at Lindenwood University, said. "We are also fortunate enough to be able to utilize BridgeAthletic to ensure that the strength and conditioning component will be spot on and that players can interactively report their testing results, coaches can monitor their progression, and there is responsibility and accountability on the player to do the right thing."

Familiar names on the attendees list for the Winter Camp include Nick Kwasniewski and Darien Pickett of Grand Canyon University, who wore the red, white, and blue in the two-match Trophy Qualifier series north of the border earlier this year. Pickett, along with University of Arizona's Steven Branham, University of Colorado's Evan Clark, and American International College's Jihad Khabir, also attended the first-ever USA Rugby Men's Junior and Collegiate Stars and Stripes Camp presented by WellDog.

Eleven athletes have progressed through the national team pathway from the Boys High School All-Americans in the past 17 months, competing with Salty Thompson's squads against the likes of the under-18 teams of Argentina, Italy, and Uruguay, as well as sevens specialization at Rosslyn Park Sevens and the Las Vegas Invitational.

A number of under-20-eligible players invited to Arizona were unable to attend the Winter Camp due to conflicting schedules with school and the holiday season, as well as a few injuries, but will be considered for the camp in January prior to the final assembly in Texas ahead of match day.

Joining the players at Camp is an extensive coaching staff, including Michael Engelbrecht and Justin Goonan, who have coached high school athletes in the national team pathway at the Stars and Stripes Camp. Following training sessions Monday, Dec. 21, the coaching staff will split athletes into three teams for three 40-minute matches Tuesday, Dec. 22.

As an assistant coach at Lindenwood, Stephenson helped lead the rugby program in St. Charles, Mo., to a Division II National Championship in its inaugural season. Following the 2012-13 season, in which the Lions fell in the D1AA National Championship Final, Stephenson was promoted to head coach and director of rugby operations. Lindenwood moved to D1A Rugby's Mid-South Conference and has reached the Playoff Semifinals in both years of competition, and won the College 7s National Championship in 2015. Stephenson has also aided the age-grade national teams as a specialist coach at multiple assemblies in the past five years.

"The coaches have a diverse skill set to meet the needs of our identification piece in a limited time span for our assembly," Stephenson said. "We will therefore look to utilize our coaches' experience and expertise to take the lead in different areas, culminating in a match on the last day of camp to ensure we have seen all facets of the players' games."

The final assembly roster will be selected following the camp in January, with the location of said camp to be confirmed.

AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | 2015 Winter Camp

Name Primary Club Primary Position Birth Year
Malon Al-Jiboori Lindenwood University* Lock 1997
Steven Branham University of Arizona* Hooker 1997
Israel Brown Lee University Prop 1997
Evan Clark University of Colorado* Scrum Half 1996
Makai Clearwater Utah Valley University Flanker 1997
Ruben de Haas Little Rock Junior Stormers Scrum Half 1998
Samuel Devine Kutztown University* Flanker 1996
Dustin Dowers Lindenwood University* Prop 1996
Sone Faitau Kansas City Islanders Prop 1996
Brennan Falcon Louisiana State University* Flanker 1996
Conor Fay Virginia Tech Center 1996
William Fifita Rangeview High School Center 1997
Jeremy Fleet University of Arizona* Wing 1997
Sean Gannon Indiana University* Prop 1997
Aaron Gray Wheeling Jesuit University* Wing 1997
Zachary Haley Metropolis Rugby Hooker 1997
Brian Hannon University of Arizona* Fly Half 1996
Travis Heer Lindenwood University* Wing 1997
Dan Hostetler University of Cardiff, Wales Hooker 1997
Carter Hunchik Life University* Prop 1997
Jihad Khabir American International College Fly Half 1996
Nick Kwasniewski Grand Canyon University Prop 1996
Kyle Makaiwi Utah Valley University Fly Half 1997
Aedan Mangan University of Dayton Center 1996
Jesse Mendenhall San Diego State University* Lock 1997
Deion Mikesell Lindenwood University* Wing 1997
Ovalati Moala Life West Number 8 1996
Conner Mooneyham Life University* Center 1996
Daniel Moore Belmont Shore Rugby Wing 1997
Joseph O'Shields Kutztown University* Fly Half 1996
Richard Parker San Diego State University* Fullback 1996
Mason Pedersen University of Arizona* Prop 1996
Darien Pickett Grand Canyon University Prop 1996
Thomas Rippert Clemson University Prop 1996
Cristian Rodriguez Lindenwood University* Fullback 1997
Roman Salanoa Kahuku High School Prop 1997
Angel Santiago Kutztown University* Flanker 1997
Nathaniel Short Arizona State University Wing 1996
Will Ben Sims Trinity College Dublin Center 1996
Lui Sitama American International College Center 1996
Tyler Sousley University of Arizona* Wing 1996
King Dazem Stevenson 1823 Flanker 1996
Austin Taefu Tempe Old Devils Scrum Half 1996
Veuki Taumoefolau Las Vegas Irish Number 8 1997
Lorenzo Thomas Lindenwood University* Center 1997
Cameron Troxler Louisiana State University* Fly Half 1997
Duncan Van Schalkwyk Life University* Fly Half 1996
Alexander Walsh Arizona State University Fly Half 1996
Dante Weeks University of Arizona* Wing 1996
Chance Wenglewski Lindenwood University* Prop 1997
Mitchell Wilson Life University* Fullback 1996
Bruce Yun California State University Prop 1996
* Plays in D1A Rugby competition

AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | 2015 Winter Camp Coaching Staff

JD Stephenson - Interim Head Coach / Attack Coach

Scott Lawrence - Defense Coach

Michael Engelbrecht - Backs Coach / Manager

Paule Barford - Forwards Coach

Kevin Battle - Skills Coach

Justin Goonan - Strength and Conditioning Coach

Dennis Greenhill - Physiotherapist / Trainer