Ireland wind up their 2009 summer tour by taking on the USA at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, California on Sunday, with the eight new caps from last weekend’s win over Canada retained in the matchday squad.
SUMMER TOUR TEST MATCH: Saturday, May 30
USA v IRELAND, Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara, California, 1pm local time/9pm Irish time (live Setanta Sports Ireland)
Team News: There is one change to the Ireland team to play the USA this Sunday at Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara just outside San Francisco in the second game of the 2009 summer tour.
Tighthead prop Mike Ross comes into the front row to make his first start, after coming off the bench last Saturday against Canada to made his senior debut.
The inclusion of Ross means Tony Buckley moves from the right side of the scrum to loosehead prop.
The front row reshuffle sees Tom Court move to the replacements bench to fill the vacancy made by Ross’ promotion to the starting line-up.
The rest of the pack remains unchanged with Mick O’Driscoll named in the side despite picking up a slight wrist sprain during the Canadian game last weekend.
As a precaution, Leinster second row Devin Toner has been called into the squad.
Toner, who was also named in the Churchill Cup squad, joined up with the senior squad on Wednesday and will remain on with the other members of the panel who will be taking part in the Churchill Cup in Denver which begins in early June.
Another addition to the squad is Alan Gaffney, who was involved with Leinster’s Heineken Cup win.
He will be now working in his Ireland capacity as backs coach for the remainder of the tour and the Churchill Cup.
Tour captain Rory Best said: “We need to lift our levels from the Canada game if we want to put in a performance that can put us in a position to win.
“There was a little lack of cohesion in Vancouver which was possibly down to the number of new combinations and the eight new caps we had.
“The game on Sunday gives us a chance to build on last week and will require another huge effort in work rate to allow us to compete with the USA team who will be a real challenge for us playing them at home.
“The conditions have intensified with the heat a big factor as well as the physical threat that the opposition bring to the game.”
The third annual Setanta Challenge Cup match kicks off the USA Eagles’ international season. Facing Grand Slam champions Ireland on Sunday, the game will be former Ireland head coach Eddie O’Sullivan’s first at the helm of the USA.
O’Sullivan, who was appointed to the American role in March, has confirmed his starting line-up and replacements for the Santa Clara tie.
The US matchday squad includes a total of eight new caps, six of which will be in the starting fifteen.
Led by 2007 Rugby World Cup prop Mike MacDonald, the hosts’ pack has four players new to the Eagles squad, including a new hooker and tighthead prop in Chris Biller and Will Johnson respectively.
John Van Der Giessen will be joined by Hayden Smith in the second row, while Louis Stanfill will link up with flanker Peter Dahl and number 8 Nic Johnson in the back row.
In the back-line, the US has a little more experience, with Kevin Swiryn and Roland Suniula the only two uncapped players named in the backs division.
Mike Hercus will anchor things at out-half, while Mike Petri returns at scrum half to captain the side.
Junior Sifa, who plays his club rugby for Midleton in County Cork, Justin Boyd and Chris Wyles all return as well to give the back-line a threatening edge.
USA: Chris Wyles (Saracens FC); Kevin Swiryn (Old Puget Sound Beach RFC), Junior Sifa (Midleton RFC), Roland Suniula (Pearl City RFC), Justin Boyd (Dallas Harlequins RFC); Mike Hercus (Sunshine Coast Stingrays), Mike Petri (New York Athletic Club) (capt); Mike MacDonald (Leeds Carnegie RFC), Chris Biller (California), Will Johnson (Oxford University), John Van Der Giessen (Denver Barbarians RFC), Hayden Smith (Saracens FC), Louis Stanfill (New York Athletic Club), Peter Dahl (Belmont Shore RFC), Nic Johnson (Denver Barbarians RFC).
Replacements: Joe Welch (Belmont Shore), Matekitonga Moeakiola (Park City Haggis), Courtney Mackay (Counties Manukau), JJ Gagiano (University of Cape Town), Tim Usasz (Nottingham RFC), Ata Malifa (Belmont Shore RFC), Alipate Tuilevuka (Provo Steelers).
IRELAND: Gavin Duffy (Galwegians/Connacht); Barry Murphy (UL Bohemians/Munster), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Ian Whitten (Ballymena/Ulster), Ian Dowling (Shannon/Munster); Ian Keatley (Galwegians/Connacht), Peter Stringer (Shannon/Munster); Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) (capt), Mike Ross (Harlequins), Bob Casey (London Irish), Mick O’Driscoll (Cork Constitution/Munster), John Muldoon (Galwegians/Connacht), Niall Ronan (Shannon/Munster), Denis Leamy (Cork Constitution/Munster).
Replacements: Sean Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht), Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Ryan Caldwell (Dungannon/Ulster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Eoin Reddan (London Wasps), Niall O’Connor (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Denis Hurley (Cork Constitution/Munster).
Referee: Chris White (England)
Assistant Referees: Greg Garner (England), Dave Smortchevsky (Canada)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): USA to win: 14/1; Draw: 40/1; Ireland to win: 1/100
Pre-Match Quotes: Declan Kidney (Ireland) – “We felt that after last week’s game against Canada that the players who started deserved another chance to improve on that performance.
“We thought long and hard about making further changes to the side, but with only two full training sessions under their belts before the Canada game, we thought that it would be better to give an opportunity for the same players and combinations to find their feet a bit more with some more sessions to work off.
“This tour and also the Churchill Cup is all about building a base of experience with the national coaches and it is particularly tough on the players not selected in the starting team as they have been training just as hard as the players picked and were pushing for inclusion this week.
“The majority of those who will not start on Sunday or are not in the matchday 22 will all have further opportunities in the Churchill Cup.”
Eddie O’Sullivan (USA) – “It is an honour to face Ireland in my first test as Eagles head coach. It will be a little strange to face off against a team that I know so well, but at the same time for me that will make the occasion even more special.
“Despite the unavailability of a lot of our players, I believe we have still assembled a very competitive squad, with a good balance of youth and experience.
“The fact that we don’t have quite a few of our usual players, allows me the opportunity to get a good look at the depth of our squad.
“With seven games ahead in as many weeks we will get to see everyone in our Eagles pool play and although the Ireland game is the start of this year’s campaign, our ultimate goal comes at the end of the summer and will be qualifying for the Rugby World Cup.
“Ireland are coming off a Test against Canada, which gives them an advantage, but our players have to start somewhere and I’m confident they’ll give it their all in this first Test of the season.”
Pre-Match Links –
Recent Form: USA – 2008/09: Churchill Cup: England ‘A’ 64 USA 10; Churchill Cup: USA 9 Ireland ‘A’ 46; Churchill Cup: Canada 26 USA 10; Autumn Test: USA 43 Uruguay 9; Autumn Test: Japan 29 USA 19; Autumn Test: Japan 32 USA 17
Ireland – 2008/09: Autumn Test: Ireland 55 Canada 0; Autumn Test: Ireland 3 New Zealand 22; Autumn Test: Ireland 17 Argentina 3; RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 30 France 21; RBS 6 Nations: Italy 9 Ireland 38; RBS 6 Nations: Ireland 14 England 13; RBS 6 Nations: Scotland 15 Ireland 22; RBS 6 Nations: Wales 15 Ireland 17; Summer Tour: Canada 6 Ireland 25
Previous Meetings: 6 (1989 Non-Test: USA 7 Ireland XV 32, New York; 1994 Tour Match: Ireland 26 USA 15, Lansdowne Road; 1996 Tour Match: USA 18 Ireland 25, Atlanta; 1999 Rugby World Cup Pool Match: Ireland 53 USA 8, Lansdowne Road; 2000 Tour Match: USA 3 Ireland 83, Manchester; 2004 Tour Match: Ireland 55 USA 6, Lansdowne Road)