Squad selected for AIG MCAA Tour to Queensland sponsored by WellDog

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - The touring side for the 2016 USA Rugby AIG Men's Collegiate All-Americans Tour to Queensland sponsored by WellDog has been announced.

Twenty-nine young athletes will leave Los Angeles Sunday, July 31, for a three-match tour of Australia. The support of WellDog has been instrumental in funding the tour as well as scheduling matches with Darling Downs Select Side, Brothers Rugby Football Club, and Queensland Premier Barbarians. WellDog previously sponsored the Stars and Stripes Camp held at California State University, Maritime Academy, from which six attendees went on to receive senior international caps following Rugby World Cup 2015.

"Touring to a foreign country to play against high-quality opposition is an inherent part of rugby," Head Coach Gavin Hickie said. "We have been very fortunate to have WellDog sponsoring the AIG Men's Collegiate All-Americans Tour to Queensland and we are very excited by the challenge ahead.

"It is important to test ourselves against international competition to get a measure of where our age-grade teams excel and/or need development. This tour to Queensland will provide us with a lot of data on our players, which we will share with the Eagles coaching staff."

College 7s Dave Sitton Memorial Trophy winner Dylan Audsley is one of five Saint Mary's College representatives in the side, a list that also includes Youth Olympian Vili Helu, and College 15s National Champion Life University is represented by Alex Maughan and Cody Melphy. Men's Eagles Sevens pool player Tua Laei leads a pack of four student-athletes from Brigham Young University, while Cody Jerabek and Mason Pedersen are currently in the midst of the inaugural PRO Rugby season with Sacramento Express and San Diego Breakers, respectively.

Lindenwood University's Deion Mikesell and Central Washington University's Aladdin Schirmer were capped by Eagles Head Coach John Mitchell in the Americas Rugby Championship competition in February, and have gone back to their collegiate programs as members of the first Eagles Development Training Group and Eagles Elite Training Squad, respectively. Audsley is also a member of the EETS, designed to track athletes against the Eagles' standards as it relates to fitness, skills, and overall game plan.

Mikesell was an AIG Men's Junior All-American that qualified for the World Rugby U20 Trophy prior to his senior debut, while Malon Al-Jiboori, Pedersen, and Chance Wenglewski went to Zimbabwe for the under-20 tournament. Their progression through the ranks showcases the cohesiveness between the age-grade programs and the senior national teams, as well as the strength of the collegiate game.

"The Collegiate All-American staff have worked closely with our Junior All-American head coach, JD Stephenson, to get his input on players who performed at the U20 Trophy earlier this year," Hickie said. "Together we have identified players who we feel can continue to perform at the next level.

"The MCAA coaching staff is excited to work with these players. Along with our Eagle Eye Scout Network, we have identified this group as strong candidates for future Eagles honors. This tour will be a vital step in their development and preparation for that next step. We want to win every game we play, but individual and team performance is what the players will be assessed on."

A short assembly prior to the first match day Saturday, Aug. 6, will give Hickie and his coaching staff little time to prepare the MCAAs for what promises to be three high-level games. As several players will have collegiate teammates in the squad, the MCAAs should have a hint of familiarity. BridgeAthletic's technology has already assisted the team's assembly, and will prove useful through the end of the month with players spread out across the country.

"We are under no illusion of the challenges that lie ahead on tour," Hickie said. "Our first goal as a group is to perform. We are currently working with the players through BridgeAthletic and are monitoring their workload. Within the next few days, the players will receive their playbooks and will be expected to understand our systems before we meet.

"Once we arrive in Australia, we will have a tough couple of days acclimatizing to the time difference, weather, and two-a-day training sessions before we ease off the workload and get into games."

Toowoomba's Gold Park Sporting Club will host the MCAAs' first match of the Tour to Queensland Aug. 6 before Crosby Park and Ballymore Stadium in Brisbane host the second and third match days, respectively, Wednesday, Aug. 10, and Sunday, Aug. 14. Any live stream details around the MCAA Tour to Queensland will be confirmed at a later date.

AIG Men's Collegiate All-Americans | Tour to Queensland sponsored by WellDog
Malon Al-Jiboori - Lindenwood University
Dylan Audsley - Saint Mary's College of California
Tanner Barnes - Central Washington University
Niall Barry - University of California, Los Angeles
Alec Barton - Saint Mary's College of California
Roland Blackiston - California State University, Long Beach
Zach Bonte - University of California, Los Angeles
Nick Boyer - University of California, Berkeley
Bryce Campbell - Indiana University
Chad Gough - University of Utah
Wes Hartmann - Kutztown University
Viliami Helu - Saint Mary's College of California
Matt Jensen - Brigham Young University
Cody Jerabek - Sacramento Express (PRO) / University of Wyoming
Timothy Katz - James Madison University
Conor Kearns - Trinity College Dublin
Faaitua Laei - Brigham Young University
Vetekina Malafu - Kutztown University
Alex Maughan - Life University
Cody Melphy - Life University
Deion Mikesell - Lindenwood University
Kevin O'Connor - Saint Mary's College of California
Mason Pedersen - San Diego Breakers (PRO) / University of Arizona
Mike Ruther - University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Aladdin Schirmer - Central Washington University
Alexander Vorster - Brigham Young University
Dino Waldren - Saint Mary's College of California
Chance Wenglewski - Lindenwood University
Calvin Whiting - Brigham Young University

AIG Men's Collegiate All-Americans | Coaching Staff
Gavin Hickie - Head Coach
Justin Hickey - Manager
Greg McWilliams - Assistant Coach
James Willocks - Assistant Coach
Ben Schuler - Athletic Trainer

AIG Men's Collegiate All-Americans | Tour to Queensland sponsored by WellDog
v. Darling Downs Select Side - Saturday, Aug. 6 @ 17:00 AET - Gold Park Sporting Club, Toowoomba, Australia
v. Brothers Rugby Football Club - Wednesday, Aug. 10 @ 18:00 AET - Crosby Park, Brisbane, Australia
v. Queensland Premier Barbarians - Sunday, Aug. 14 @ 16:00 AET - Ballymore Stadium, Brisbane, Australia