AIG MJAAs Filter Camp assembling at Lindenwood University

ST. CHARLES, Mo. - The USA Rugby AIG Men's Junior All-Americans Filter Camp for the upcoming World Rugby U20 Trophy qualifier against Canada begins Friday, Jan. 15, at Lindenwood University.

Thirty-four athletes will work with interim Head Coach JD Stephenson, as well as the Lindenwood director of rugby's Camp coaching staff, to familiarize themselves with the attacking and defensive strategies ahead of the Feb. 13 battle with Canada's under-20s. The winner of the one-off playoff will represent North America in the U20 Trophy in Zimbabwe.

The MJAAs were felled twice by Canada in 2015, but the athletes chosen for the two-match series in British Columbia padded their international experience under the tutelage of the coaching staff, including former Eagles Luke Gross and David Williams. Unavailable for December's Winter Camp, longtime age-grade standouts and 2015 selections Ben Cima and Hanco Germishuys return to the MJAAs for the Filter Camp. Nick Kwasniewski and Darien Pickett also represented the U.S. against Canada, and pushed on through the Arizona assembly to garner an invite to the weekend's camp.

In all, 20 Filter Camp attendees were at Casa Grande Academy the week prior to the Christmas holiday. The additional athletes, including Boys High School All-Americans alumni Connor Cudeback, Siaso Mahoni, and Joeli Tikoisuva, were unable to attend Stephenson's previous camp, but have kept in touch with the coaching staff to work out availability for 2016.

"The interim work between assemblies has focused on player and team development of those identified in the process and the implementation of our systems, policies, and practices, of which the foundation was laid in the December Camp," Stephenson said. "This has been carried out through weekly Skype calls, email and phone discussions with unit-specific groups, and the availability of our online resources to the playing group as a whole."

Six athletes play for senior clubs across the country and two others attend school abroad, while the remaining young men continue to juggle the new academic semester - in high school or college - with their aspirations to advance through the ranks of the national team pathway. D1A Rugby's University of Arizona, Cal Poly State University, Life University, Lindenwood University, and Louisiana State University will each be without at least one student-athlete during the duration of the Camp.

Following the assembly in Austin, Texas, and the match - to be held alongside the USA Men's Eagles' Americas Rugby Championship clash with the Canadian senior side - the MJAAs' schedule for 2016 will fall into place. With a defeat of Canada and entry into the U20 Trophy, the MJAA athletes would travel to Africa for competition dates in the final two weeks of April.

"When we discuss the buy-in of players and coaches alike to the All-American program, those involved understand the strain that the absence from school can place on their academics and their respective rugby program's cohesion," Stephenson said. "In the two upcoming assemblies, we have been sure to build in study halls and utilize tutors for the players to ease the burden on their academics and try not to overwhelm them mentally during the assembly process to avoid player burnout when they head back to their program.

"We are extremely grateful to the programs that assist in the identification process of players and put forward players. We hope that we can continue to add value to that player through continued development on and off the pitch and the ability to represent their country at the highest age-grade level."

AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | Filter Camp

Malon Al-JibooriLindenwood UniversityFlanker
Steven BranhamUniversity of ArizonaHooker
Benjamin CimaUniversity of Maryland, Men, 15sFly half
Sean ColemanUniversity of ArizonaLock
Brian Collins Flanker
Connor CudebackCal Poly State University, Men, 15sProp
Ruben de HaasLittle Rock Junior StormersScrum half
Brennan FalconLouisiana State UniversityFlanker
Jacobus GermishuysGlendale RaptorsFlanker
Rodney Giles Fly half
Zach HaleyMetropolisHooker
Brian HannonUniversity of ArizonaFly half
Dan HostetlerUniversity of Cardiff, WalesHooker
Jihad KhabirAmerican International CollegeFly half
Nick KwasniewskiGrand Canyon UniversityProp
Siaso MahoniLife WestLock
Deion MikesellLindenwood UniversityWing
Blake NicholasSacramento RugbyLock
Mason PedersenUniversity of ArizonaProp
Darien PickettGrand Canyon UniversityProp
Hayden PotgieterSanta Barbara City CollegeFly half
Roman SalanoaKahuku High SchoolProp
Will Ben SimsTrinity College DublinCenter
Lui SitamaAmerican International College 
Tyler SousleyUniversity of ArizonaWing
Austin TaefuTempe Old DevilsScrum half
Veuki TaumefolauLas Vegas IrishNumber 8
Lorenzo ThomasLindenwood UniversityCenter
Joeli TikoisuvaMetropolisWing
Duncan Van SchalkwykLife UniversityFly half
Joshua WarnockPennisula GreenLock
Chance WenglewskiLindenwood UniversityProp
Mitchell WilsonLife UniversityFull back
Will FifitaRocky Mountain Rebels Rugby 7sCenter

AIG Men's Junior All-Americans | Coaching Staff

JD Stephenson - Interim Head Coach

Justin Goonan - Strength and Conditioning & Skills Coach

Pete Borlase - Forwards Coach

James Walton - Video Analyst

Michael Engelbrecht - Backs Coach & Manager

David Fee - Skills Coach

Scott Lawrence - Technical Advisor

Kevin Battle - Skills Coach & Academy Manager