Roster announced for Eagles' first Super Series test in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY - Stacey Bridges captains the Women's Eagles Friday, July 1, as the U.S. national team begins the Women's Rugby Super Series against France at Regional Athletic Complex.

Hosted by First15 Sport Performance with the help of Rugby Utah and Utah Sports Commission, the Super Series will also see Women's Rugby World Cup 2014 Finalists Canada and England rekindle their rivalry Friday. The WRWC Final rematch kicks off at 3 p.m. MT followed by the Eagles' clash with France at 5 p.m. MT, with all matches throughout the Super Series broadcast live on The Rugby Channel.

The national team has not played an international match since last year's Super Series, but has assembled large pools of talented athletes from the age-grade ranks to the senior team at National All-Star Competitions held across the country. It was from those NASCs that a touring squad was named.

"We come in as underdogs in this Series," Eagles Head Coach Pete Steinberg said. "We have three of the top four teams at the World Cup and our opponent, France, has had give games this year and were 6 Nations Champions. The NASC has certainly helped bridge the game between the domestic competition and the international game for the players, but we know that, as this is our first game for a year, the team will need to grow through this competition."

Bridges was a reserve for Steinberg's World Cup squad that traveled to France nearly two years ago, and is joined in the starting XV by World Cup veterans Katy Augustyn (hooker), Sylvia Braaten (center), Deven Owsiany (scrum half), Hope Rogers (prop), and Kimber Rozier (fly half). Braaten was called into camp prior to the team's arrival in Salt Lake City to replace Nicole Heavirland, who is at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., for Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games preparations.

Cheta Emba and Jane Paar will also have their attentions focused on Rio, but not before the end of the Super Series. Emba earned her first national team cap in Canada last year after her first season of rugby with Harvard, and went on to join the residency program at the OTC. She starts on the wing against France opposite debutante Saskia Morgan of fellow Ivy school Brown.

Paar captained the Eagles in a win against Canada last year, and will hold onto the No. 13 jersey for a fourth consecutive match outside Braaten. Rounding out the back line at full back is American Rugby Pro Training Center's Jessica Wooden, scorer of three tries in her first three international matches at last year's Super Series.

"The competition for places has been good, and it is great to see so many players from last year continue to develop and come back stronger and better," Steinberg said. "There are always combined outcomes for selection for the Women's Eagles. We have to balance our competitive desire to win games with the need to give new players experience.

"For this selection we wanted to make sure that we had a balance, and that will continue to be the case as we go through the Super Series."

Women's Premier League Most Valuable Player Joanna Kitlinski returns to the flanker position following a Women's Premier League title-winning season with Glendale Raptors, during which she was awarded the Most Valuable Player award in the National Championship Final. She partners Women's Division I National Championship Finalist Christiane Pheil, who will make her debut Friday, and Brigham Young student-athlete Jordan Gray in the back row.

Bridges and former AIG Women's Junior All-American Alycia Washington will lock the back row with the front, which features the trio of Augustyn, Tiffany Faaee, and Rogers.

There are several National Champions at Steinberg's disposal in the reserves, including front-rower Catherine Benson of the Women's Division II National Champion Life West Gladiatrix. Teammate Megan Foster could make her debut with an appearance, as would Augusta's Jamila Reinhardt and North Carolina's Naya Tapper.

At its home World Cup, France did well to make its fans happy with a win in the third-place match against Ireland. France won four of five matches against European competition - losing to Wales by two points - in this year's Women's RBS 6 Nations, as well, and carries the rank of third in the world into Friday's match.

The Eagles kick off their match against France from Regional Athletic Complex Friday at 5 p.m. MT, while the Women's Rugby Super Series begins on The Rugby Channel two hours earlier with Canada's match against England. U.S. match updates will be provided by USA Rugby's Twitter account.

Women's Eagles | v. France
1. Tiffany Faaee
2. Kathryn Augustyn
3. Hope Rogers
4. Stacey Bridges
5. Alycia Washington
6. Christiane Pheil
7. Joanna Kitlinski
8. Jordan Gray
9. Deven Owsiany
10. Kimberly Rozier
11. Cheta Emba
12. Sylvia Braaten
13. Jane Paar
14. Saskia Morgan
15. Jessica Wooden

Women's Eagles | Reserves
16. Samantha Pankey
17. Catherine Benson
18. Jamila Reinhardt
19. Molly Kinsella
20. Elizabeth Cairns
21. Jennifer Lui
22. Megan Foster
23. Naya Tapper

Women's Eagles | Women's Rugby Super Series
v. France - Friday, July 1 @ 5 p.m. MT
v. Canada - Tuesday, July 5 @ 5 p.m. MT
v. England - Saturday, July 9 @ 3 p.m. MT