Eagles selected for Italian Summer Series clash

"Camp was a mixture of combining quickly as one, establishing our culture, and learning our standards as quickly as possible. Camps are critical to our growth physically and mentally, and very important to our team identity and the climate we want to create within the team." John Mitchell, Men's Eagles Head Coach

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - Nate Augspurger will earn his first international cap Saturday, June 18, at the play-making position of scrum half when the Men's Eagles open their Summer Series against Italy at Avaya Stadium.

Augspurger is the only Eagle set to make his debut in the match-day starting XV, with captain Todd Clever reaching the 67-cap mark to tie Mike MacDonald as the U.S.'s all-time caps leader. The test against Tier One Italy - in Clever's home town of San Jose - kicks off live on The Rugby Channel at 6 p.m. PT. The full match replay will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network Sunday, June 19, at 9 p.m. ET.

The Eagles have not assembled since the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship competition in which they went unbeaten in three home matches over successive weekends. The time between the ARC and the two-test Summer Series has given Head Coach John Mitchell and staff the ability to bring players in line with the new benchmarks of the national team with the Eagles Elite Training Squad.

"The ARC was much more a development team, whereas this team has genuine experience from overseas, professional sevens players, and the players that played well in the ARC have been rewarded," Mitchell said. "From the camp here we've eliminated some players that haven't met our standards, and some players have missed selections because of lack of conditioning and the number of penalties they've given away.

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"Camp was a mixture of combining quickly as one, establishing our culture, and learning our standards as quickly as possible. Camps are critical to our growth physically and mentally, and very important to our team identity and the climate we want to create within the team."

One of four starting XV Men's Eagles Sevens players from the residency program at the Olympic Training Center in southern California, where Mitchell's Eagles have been training since June 5, Augspurger lines up alongside Guinness Pro12 Champion and fly half AJ MacGinty to complete the half-back pairing. Shalom Suniula, a No. 9 and No. 10 in his 16-test career, earns a start at inside center alongside Thretton Palamo.

Will Holder rounds out the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series stars in the back line between wings Taku Ngwenya and Blaine Scully having already made three appearances in the U.S. kit in 2012. His last appearance came in the Eagles' Houston matchup with the Italians, the most recent meeting between the two nations.

Andrew Durutalo was a standout for the sevens program for several years prior to a Rugby World Cup campaign in 2015 that led to a contract with Super Rugby's Japanese expansion franchise, and will make his first appearance under Mitchell with loose forwards Clever and Cam Dolan.

Sevens Head Coach Mike Friday linked up with the Eagles' returning coaching staff - including the likes of Rob Hoadley and Marty Veale - to bring Mitchell's game plan to life at the OTC, as well as to bring the attacking potential of the professional athletes to the fore. Apart from New York Athletic Club's Nate Brakeley, starting at lock with Greg Peterson Saturday, and Old Blue of New York's Harry Higgins, the match-day squad is fully professional.

"Mike's been fantastic, a great complement," Mitchell said of one of the newer additions to his staff. "With a large number of coaches, as well, it's wonderful to have enough resources to deliver the micro within the macro of the attacking and defensive frameworks.

"I'm working with a competent coaching group, the team management has improved its processes in this assembly; this competency allows the program to focus on the players' strengths, culture, and more importantly mentor the player in his role clarity and his skill sets."

Potential debutantes waiting in the wings are Higgins, Tony Lamborn, Angus MacLellan, and Stephen Tomasin, while San Diego Breakers Joe Taufete'e and Mike Te'o are available from the bench along with Chad London and Ben Tarr of the Denver Stampede.

Italy opened its post-RBS 6 Nations account under new head coach Conor O'Shea with a 30-24 defeat to Argentina Saturday, June 11, in South America. The Italians have made a single change to that team, with a match against Canada on the horizon following the weekend's match against the Eagles.

Despite not having a match at the onset of the international test window, Mitchell's assembly at the OTC has replicated the load of a test week to prepare the team to perform under pressure and fatigue.

"We've taken a look at Italy in the 6 Nations and the match against Argentina," Mitchell said. "O'Shea's in a very similar circumstance to ourselves; he's already been saying that he believes he can create an exceptional Italian side if he can get them fit. He will be trying to grow and develop the group through similar challenges. They have good talent and stayed in the contest at the weekend for a long time, and fought their way back into it at the end.

"This week has been primarily focused on the preparation for Italy. Our sessions are very specific and timings this week have been pretty well on the money. You can't have overloads in terms of time on feet. We have a couple sessions Thursday and a captain's run, so we're getting into the final stages of our preparation before we need to bring performance."

The Eagles will be looking to make history Saturday in toppling a Tier One nation. Tickets are still available for the match at Avaya Stadium, which is set to kick off on The Rugby Channel at 6 p.m. PT.

Men's Eagles | v. Italy
1. Titi Lamositele
2. James Hilterbrand
3. Chris Baumann
4. Nate Brakeley
5. Greg Peterson
6. Andrew Durutalo
7. Todd Clever (C)
8. Cam Dolan
9. Nate Augspurger
10. AJ MacGinty
11. Blaine Scully
12. Shalom Suniula
13. Thretton Palamo
14. Taku Ngwenya
15. Will Holder

Men's Eagles | Reserves
16. Joe Taufete'e
17. Ben Tarr
18. Angus MacLellan
19. Stephen Tomasin
20. Harry Higgins
21. Tony Lamborn
22. Chad London
23. Mike Te'o

Italy | v. USA
1. Andrea Lovotti
2. Ornel Gega
3. Lorenzo Cittadini
4. Quintin Geldenhuys
5. Marco Fuser
6. Maxime Mbanda
7. Simone Favaro
8. Andries Van Schalkwyk
9. Edoardo Gori (C)
10. Carlo Canna
11. David Odiete
12. Tommaso Castello
13. Michele Campagnaro
14. Leonardo Sarto
15. Luke McLean

Italy | Reserves
16. Oliviero Fabiani
17. Sami Panico
18. Pietro Ceccarelli
19. Valerio Bernabo
20. Sebastian Negri
21. Guglielmo Palazzani
22. Tommaso Allan
23. Giovanbattista Venditti

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