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Lewis Expects Improved Showing From USA

Lewis Expects Improved Showing From USA

The USA suffered a nine-try 64-10 defeat by England Saxons in their Barclays Churchill Cup opener last Saturday. But Ireland ‘A’ centre Kieran Lewis is expecting a much improved performance from the Eagles tonight when the sides meet at Kingston’s Richardson Stadium (kick-off 7.05pm local time/12.05am Irish time).

The Saxons tore the Americans apart after what was a competitive first 20 minutes in Ottawa. They will hope to avoid a repeat result when Ireland ‘A’ kickstart their involvement in the tournament tonight.

Ireland ‘A’ coach Allen Clarke has included six senior-capped players in his starting line-up for the game and it will be a particularly proud moment for one of them, centre Kieran Lewis, as he gets to partner his Garryowen and Munster team-mate Keith Earls in midfield.

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Although Lewis is hoping to see plenty of the ball in the middle and out wide, the 27-year-old does not expect Ireland ‘A’ to go all-out attack in an attempt to better the Saxons’ display.

When asked about a potential game plan, he said: “We won’t be overly expansive. We’re just going to play our usual game. Try to give the USA as much respect as they deserve.

“Although they had a bad outing the last time when they lost to the Saxons, we are expecting them to play an awful lot better against us.

“We’re just going to play our usual game, be direct but be expansive when needed.”

Another player hoping to impress is Leinster’s Jonathan Sexton, who has been marked out as a potential successor to Ronan O’Gara in the Ireland number 10 jersey.

But for the moment, Sexton has his mind fully focused on guiding Ireland ‘A’ to an opening night win in Canada.

Speaking about how the squad has gelled together, he said: “Obviously we don’t know each other as well (as in our provincial teams). We’ve only been together a week but we’ve done some good sessions.

“We’re just getting used to each other now and hopefully it will click for us on Wednesday.”

Meanwhile, World Cup star Takudzwa Ngwenya has been included in the USA team for tonight’s encounter. The flying winger will be long remembered for the stunning try he scored during the tournament when he outpaced South Africa’s Bryan Habana.

‘Taku’, back on international duty after his first season with Biarritz, will take his place on the right wing.

His direct opponent will be Ireland Sevens international Brian Tuohy, who is now playing his club rugby for the Cornish Pirates in England.

Another of the Americans’ World Cup squad members, Salesi Sika, is expected to be used off a replacements bench which interestingly includes Galwegians and Connacht scrum half Robbie Shaw.

USA coach Scott Johnson said: “Between the short turnaround (after the Saxons game) and the need to see different players and what they can do, we have a pretty different squad set to take on Ireland ‘A’.

“We did try to keep a few combinations for continuity, but I’m still exploring what’s in the squad so I can see who has the talent and the ability to adapt to the new law changes.

“It’s nice to have the entire squad finally arrive (with players coming back from their clubs). It definitely broadens the base and allows for more competition for spots. The more competition, the better off the team is.”

Australian Johnson, who coached Wales briefly in 2006, was appointed as the US Eagles’ new head coach in April.

Supporters will be able to watch live coverage of tonight’s game on Sky Sports 1 and we will also be providing live text commentary and score updates in our Matchday Live centre here on IrishRugby.ie.

IRELAND ‘A’: Denis Hurley (Cork Constitution/Munster); Mark McCrea (Malone/Ulster), Kieran Lewis (Garryowen/Munster), Keith Earls (Garryowen/Munster), Brian Tuohy (Cornish Pirates); Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Tomas O’Leary (Dolphin/Munster); Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Denis Fogarty (Cork Constitution/Munster), Mike Ross (Harlequins), Bob Casey (London Irish) (capt), Ryan Caldwell (Dungannon/Ulster), Neil Best (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Johnny O’Connor (Corinthians/Connacht), Roger Wilson (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster).

Replacements: Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Sean Cronin (Shannon/Munster), Trevor Hogan (Shannon/Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), David Pollock (Dungannon/Ulster), Frank Murphy (Leicester), Ian Keatley (Clontarf/Leinster).

USA: Chris Wyles (Old Mission Beach Athletic Club); Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz), Paul Emerick (Newport Gwent Dragons), Vaha Esikia (Las Vegas Blackjacks), Justin Boyd (Texas A&M); Mike Hercus (IBM, Japan), Mike Petri (NYAC); Mike MacDonald (Leeds Carnegie), Mark Crick (Potomac Athletic Club), Mate Moeakiola (Pukekohe, New Zealand), Ben Wiedemer (Belmont Shore), Brian Doyle (NYAC), Todd Clever (Old Mission Beach AC) (capt), Jason Lett (Boston Irish Wolfhounds), Kort Schubert (Olympic Club).

Replacements: Mone Laulaupeaalu (San Francisco Golden Gate), Jon Vitale (Chicago Lions), Mark Aylor (Life University), Louis Stanfill (UC Berkeley), Robbie Shaw (Galwegians/Connacht), Valanese Malifa (Belmont Shore), Salesi Sika (Beziers).