Men’s Eagles assembly for June Summer Series announced

UPDATED June 13

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - Men's Eagles Head Coach John Mitchell has selected a squad of 34 players to assemble for Summer Series matches against Italy and Russia in northern California this June. Both matches will be streamed live on The Rugby Channel.

Eight players that made their debuts during the inaugural five-match Americas Rugby Championship - at which the Eagles placed second behind an Argentina XV side - return to the national team setup, including exciting collegiate players Deion Mikesell and Aladdin Schirmer. The Summer Series roster is the first assembly chosen by Mitchell and national team staff, whereas, upon the head coach's arrival in the United States, the Americas Rugby Championship roster had already been selected.

All but two players chosen to the squad were named to the first Eagles Elite Training Squad or Eagles Development Training Group, with uncapped forward Tony Lamborn of Super Rugby's Hurricanes and scrum half Shaun Davies having worked their way into the team based on performance.

In all, three athletes playing in Super Rugby are amongst a greater group of eight overseas professionals, with 11 in the squad currently plying their trade domestically in the new PRO Rugby competition. Unavailable for selection are new caps JP Eloff and Ben Landry, while Samu Manoa will also not be joining the Eagles in his home state of California due to injury.

"We still cannot control selection and commitment of the best team mix, and it is still a guessing game on how long it will take to get the experience we need to consistently win," Mitchell said of the selection process. "We have dropped players who have not met the conditioning standards and are non-compliant by giving away the majority of our penalties. These standards will not only allow us to compete physically with Tier One nations, but, more importantly, ensure that the game plan is effectively executed.

"It is no longer a culture of turning up to get fit and play for USA. The Eagles Elite Training Group and camps are a critical process to changing our mindset."

An Eagles squad consisting of several Rugby World Cup veterans drew with the Argentinian team at the Americas Rugby Championship, and a predominantly younger squad led by Todd Clever defeated Canada and Chile in consecutive weekends. The squad suffered late defeats at the hands of Brazil and Uruguay, however, to end the tournament, turning the focus of the Summer Series assembly to that of consistency.

Clever and Blaine Scully will act as co-captains throughout the tour as two of the most-capped and most experienced Eagles in the squad, holding a combined 95 test caps between them. They and veterans such as Taku Ngwenya will provide irreplaceable leadership to the younger players in the squad as well as the seven potential debutantes.

Tier One nation Italy and second-tier rival Russia will offer Mitchell's Eagles and the Eagles Elite Training Squad benchmark tests, with both opposition squads containing centralized players in professional setups familiar to the requirements of top-level test rugby.

"Winning on a more consistent basis will be dependent on the speed of our learning and the ability to attract and have our best athletes together at each assembly," Mitchell said. "Whoever we bring in will need to give a huge amount more than he has done before and raise his standards and levels of outputs. Only then will we deserve the right to beat Tier Ones on a consistent basis, otherwise it would have been achieved before now.

"I have the ability to guide and show them the way as long as the mindset remains open and is prepared to change."

Phil Greening, Rob Hoadley, and Marty Veale formed a formidable partnership with Mitchell throughout the Americas Rugby Championship, and keep their places on the coaching staff as defense coach, backs coach, and forwards coach, respectively. Men's Eagles Sevens Head Coach Mike Friday has been tabbed as the team's attack coach for the assembly, while Eagles Sevens Assistant Coach Chris Brown will partner former AIG Men's Collegiate All-American and sevens national team representative Alex Ross of Super Rugby's Blues as strength and conditioning coaches.

"We continue to move towards aligning our men's national teams into one program," USA Rugby Director of Performance Alex Magleby said. "The timing is right - with the Eagles Sevens on a rest period in June - to incorporate the expertise and experience of coaches Friday and Brown into the Test Assembly. It is another crucial step in our evolution to one language, one mission, one team."

The team will assemble at the United States Olympic Committee's Olympic Training Center June 5-17 prior to traveling north to San Jose, where the Eagles will host Italy at Avaya Stadium Saturday, June 18. A week later, the Cold War will be renewed on the rugby field as Sacramento's Bonney Field welcomes Russia Saturday, June 25.

Men's Eagles | Summer Series assembly

PlayerClub
Nate Augspurger*Men's Eagles Sevens
Chris BaumannDenver Stampede (PRO)
James BirdOld Blue of New York
Nate BrakeleyWinged Foot - New York Athletic Club
Todd CleverUnattached
Tom CoolicanSan Francisco Rush (PRO)
Shaun DaviesOhio Aviators (PRO)
Cam DolanCardiff Blues (Pro12)
Andrew DurutaloSunwolves (Super Rugby)
Seth Halliman*Central Washington University
Harry Higgins*Old Blue of New York
James HilterbrandWaratahs (Super Rugby)
Will HolderMen's Eagles Sevens
Luke HumeOld Blue of New York
Olive KilifiSacramento Express (PRO)
James KingUnattached
Tony Lamborn*Hurricanes (Super Rugby)
Titi LamositeleSaracens (Premiership)
Chad LondonDenver Stampede (PRO)
AJ MacGintyConnacht (Pro12)
Angus MacLellan*Ohio Aviators (PRO)
Deion MikesellLindenwood University
Taku NgwenyaSan Diego Breakers (PRO)
Brodie OrthDenver Stampede (PRO)
Thretton PalamoMen's Eagles Sevens
Greg PetersonGlasgow Warriors (Pro12)
Aladdin SchirmerCentral Washington University
Blaine ScullyCardiff Blues (Pro12)
Shalom SuniulaMen's Eagles Sevens
Ben TarrDenver Stampede (PRO)
Joe Taufete'eSan Diego Breakers (PRO)
Mike Te'oSan Diego Breakers (PRO)
Peter Tiberio*Men's Eagles Sevens
Stephen Tomasin*Men's Eagles Sevens
* Indicates non-capped player
Released from camp

Unavailable for selection

JP Eloff

Ben Landry

Samu Manoa

Men's Eagles | Summer Series Coaching Staff

John Mitchell - Head Coach

Phil Greening - Defense Coach

Mike Friday - Attack Coach

Rob Hoadley - Backs Coach

Marty Veale - Forwards Coach

Chris Brown - Strength and Conditioning Coach

Alex Ross - Strength and Conditioning Coach

Brian Finn - Physiotherapist

Rob Wassilak - Physiotherapist

Simon Hurry - Mental Skills

Sean Lindersmith - Manager

Men's Eagles | Summer Series 2016

v. Italy - Saturday, June 18 @ Avaya Stadium

v. Russia - Saturday, June 25 @ Bonney Field