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-Jiboori||Lindenwood University||Flanker|
|Steven Branham||University of Arizona||Hooker|
|Benjamin Cima||University of Maryland, Men, 15s||Fly half|
|Sean Coleman||University of Arizona||Lock|
|Connor Cudeback||Cal Poly State University, Men, 15s||Prop|
|Ruben de Haas||Little Rock Junior Stormers||Scrum half|
|Brennan Falcon||Louisiana State University||Flanker|
|Jacobus Germishuys||Glendale Raptors||Flanker|
|Rodney Giles||Fly half|
|Brian Hannon||University of Arizona||Fly half|
|Dan Hostetler||University of Cardiff, Wales||Hooker|
|Jihad Khabir||American International College||Fly half|
|Nick Kwasniewski||Grand Canyon University||Prop|
|Siaso Mahoni||Life West||Lock|
|Deion Mikesell||Lindenwood University||Wing|
|Blake Nicholas||Sacramento Rugby||Lock|
|Mason Pedersen||University of Arizona||Prop|
|Darien Pickett||Grand Canyon University||Prop|
|Hayden Potgieter||Santa Barbara City College||Fly half|
|Roman Salanoa||Kahuku High School||Prop|
|Will Ben Sims||Trinity College Dublin||Center|
|Lui Sitama||American International College|
|Tyler Sousley||University of Arizona||Wing|
|Austin Taefu||Tempe Old Devils||Scrum half|
|Veuki Taumefolau||Las Vegas Irish||Number 8|
|Lorenzo Thomas||Lindenwood University||Center|
|Duncan Van Schalkwyk||Life University||Fly half|
|Joshua Warnock||Pennisula Green||Lock|
|Chance Wenglewski||Lindenwood University||Prop|
|Mitchell Wilson||Life University||Full back|
|Will Fifita||Rocky Mountain Rebels Rugby 7s||Center|
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