Women's Eagles prepared for Canada challenge at Super Series

SALT LAKE CITY - Women's Eagles Head Coach Pete Steinberg has chosen a young starting XV for the team's second Women's Rugby Super Series match, a Tuesday kickoff against Canada at Regional Athletic Complex.

Stacey Bridges will continue to captain the side that held a half-time lead over France last Friday before the Women's RBS 6 Nations champion proved its quality in a 19-13 victory. Tuesday's opponent, Canada, scored more than 50 points against England Friday in a Women's Rugby World Cup 2014 Final rematch. The rivalry match between the Eagles and Canada is scheduled to kick off from Regional Athletic Complex at 5 p.m. MT live on The Rugby Channel.

Bridges' partner in the second row, Molly Kinsella, was one of six substitutes made by Steinberg as the Eagles looked to cut into an 11-point deficit in the latter stages of the second half against France. Catherine Benson held her own in the front row for 30 minutes, and earns a start outside Katy Augustyn and opposite Hope Rogers. The tight five is the same as that of the Eagles side that defeated Canada last year in the same tournament.

"I don't think we're the underdog going in against Canada; last time we played them we beat them," Steinberg said. "But I don't think we go in as favorites, either. I think it's going to be a well-contested match just as it was last year.

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"France came in as 6 Nations champions, a team that's played five times this year. We were happy with the performance even if we weren't necessarily happy with the outcome. It's a little different coming into the Canada game because it's a team we know we can beat, it's a team we have beaten recently, and we have players that have beaten Canada."

An all-star collegiate back row sees Brigham Young University's Jordan Gray in her fifth consecutive start at No. 8 dating back to last year's Super Series. She will anchor the scrum between flankers Elizabeth Cairns, who lined up against Gray in Pennsylvania State University's Women's D1 Elite Final victory in May, and Life University debutante Nicole Strasko, named Most Valuable Player in this year's USA Rugby College 7s Women's Division I National Championship.

Jenny Lui brought her experience and a refreshing tempo to Steinberg's attack from the 60th minute against France, and gets the starting nod over Deven Owsiany in the No. 9 shirt in front of Kimber Rozier. Cheta Emba and Saskia Morgan return to their positions on the wings, while Jessica Wooden will bring along debutante Nate Serevi and Jenn Sever in the centers.

"Choices in selection have been based around our desire to rotate because we feel we have depth in the squad, as well as the opportunity for us to be able to see more players," Steinberg said. "It's always hard for us to balance wanting to win the tournament - and we still have a chance to win the tournament - but at the same time we're not at the point where we can just focus on the players that we think are going to the World Cup; we still have to find out who they are.

"Some of these younger players need to be given the opportunity. Everyone's playing for a chance to start against England."

Serevi's Central Washington University Wildcats did not make it to any National Championship matches this spring following a season in which they reached Finals in both 15s and sevens, but the young center has accumulated quite a bit of domestic and international experience in the past year with multiple All-American teams and Seattle Saracens. Her midfield partner, Sever, recently won a Club Division II National Championship with Life West in the club's first competitive season. Sever's club teammate, Megan Foster, has also been named to the bench for a second consecutive match, with the California State University, Chico, graduate an unused reserve in round one.

Starters Friday, Tiffany Faaee, Joanna Kitlinski, Owsiany, Christiane Pheil, and Alycia Washington will give Steinberg options for the young side starting against Canada. Naya Tapper scored the Eagles' second of two tries against France with her first touch and offers an extra level of pace and strength to a quality group of backs, while Jamila Reinhardt could receive her first international cap from the bench.

"A big theme we've had over practice is the 'small things,' and really having the players bring the intensity they'd bring to a game and executing the 'small things,'" Steinberg said. "We've been pretty hard on the players around body position, ball presentation, execution of the catch-pass, and really put some pressure on them to execute in practice in hopes it transfers over to the game."

Tuesday's first match at Regional Athletic Complex in Salt Lake City is between Canada's developmental Maple Leafs and the recently-selected USA Rugby AIG Women's Collegiate All-Americans, set for 1 p.m. MT. The curtain-raiser, as well as the 3 p.m. MT England-France and 5 p.m. MT Canada-USA games, will be broadcast live on The Rugby Channel to subscribers.

Women's Eagles | v. Canada
1. Catherine Benson
2. Kathryn Augustyn
3. Hope Rogers
4. Stacey Bridges (C)
5. Molly Kinsella
6. Elizabeth Cairns
7. Nicole Strasko
8. Jordan Gray
9. Jennifer Lui
10. Kimberly Rozier
11. Cheta Emba
12. Jenn Sever
13. Nate Serevi
14. Saskia Morgan
15. Jessica Wooden

Women's Eagles | Reserves
16. Joanna Kitlinski
17. Tiffany Faaee
18. Jamila Reinhardt
19. Alycia Washington
20. Christiane Pheil
21. Deven Owsiany
22. Megan Foster
23. Naya Tapper

Canada | v. USA
1. Carolyn McEwen
2. Jane Kirby
3. Deleaka Menin
4. Laura Russell (C)
5. Kayla Mack
6. Barbara Mervin
7. Latoya Blackwood
8. Jacey Murphy
9. Chelsea Guthrie
10. Emily Belchos
11. Katie McNally
12. Andrea Burk
13. Alex Tessier
14. Brittany Waters
15. Julianne Zussman

Canada | Reserves
16. Julia Folk
17. Demie Stamatakis
18. Olivia Demerchant
19. Tyson Beukeboom
20. Fabiola Forteza
21. Brianna Miller
22. Anais Holly
23. Frederique Rajotte

Women's Eagles | Women's Rugby Super Series
v. France - L 19-13
v. Canada - Tuesday, July 5 @ 5 p.m. MT
v. England - Saturday, July 9 @ 3 p.m. MT