USA head coach Eddie O’Sullivan have finalised his team and replacements for Sunday’s Rugby World Cup Pool C opener against Ireland in New Plymouth on Sunday.
Full-back Chris Wyles, who was an Aviva Premiership winner with Saracens last season, has failed to recover from an ankle injury in time for the Ireland encounter.
Prop Mike MacDonald from Leeds Carnegie is set to make history by becoming the most-capped American of all time. MacDonald will win his 63rd cap for his country, and will honored by leading the Eagles onto the pitch at Stadium Taranaki.
The rest of the front row is made up of Shawn Pittman and hooker Phil Thiel. The experienced Hayden Smith and John van der Giessen are the locks and flanker Todd Clever will captain the side from the openside berth.
Vice-captain and scrum half Mike Petri will lead the back-line, with Roland Suniula starting at out-half. Andrew Suniula and Paul Emerick, who played with Ulster last season, have been paired together in the centres.
Takudzwa Ngwenya, who scores one of the World Cup’s most memorable tries in France four years ago, will take his position on the right wing, with James Paterson and Blaine Scully completing the back-three.
Former Dublin University captain and Ulster Ravens forward Scott LaValla has been included among the American replacements.
USA head coach Eddie O’Sullivan said: “Now that we have made our first selection, everyone is looking forward to Sunday’s game. We selected from a full squad, except for Chris Wyles, who is very close to recovering from his injury but not quite there yet.”
The Eagles, who were based in Wanganui since arriving last Saturday, have had a very productive week on the training pitch.
“Our stay in Wanganui has been hugely enjoyable. The facilities were world class, and the welcome by the locals was extraordinary. The team really felt at home there,” added the former Ireland supremo.
“The excitement in the squad is palpable now that we have arrived in New Plymouth, and we’re counting down the hours to our first game.”
Both the USA and Ireland players will honour the rugby men and women who perished in the 9/11 terrorist attacks by wearing black armbands and observing a minute’s silence before kick-off.
The Eagles will also attend a special Memorial Service at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in New Plymouth on Sunday morning.
USA Team & Replacements (v Ireland, 2011 Rugby World Cup Pool C, Stadium Taranaki, Sunday, September 11, kick-off 6pm local time/7am Irish time):
15 – Blaine Scully (Unattached)
14 – Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz Olympique)
13 – Paul Emerick (Life University)
12 – Andrew Suniula (Chicago Griffins)
11 – James Paterson (Highlanders)
10 – Roland Suniula (Boston Rugby)
9 – Mike Petri (New York Athletic Club)
1 – Mike MacDonald (Leeds Carnegie)
2 – Phil Thiel (Life University)
3 – Shawn Pittman (London Welsh)
4 – John van der Giessen (Unattached)
5 – Hayden Smith (Saracens)
6 – Louis Stanfill (Unattached)
7 – Todd Clever (Suntory Sungoliath) (capt)
8 – Nic Johnson (Unattached)
16 – Chris Biller (San Francisco Golden Gate)
17 – Mate Moeakiola (Bobigny 93)
18 – Scott LaValla (Stade Francais)
19 – Pat Danahy (Life University)
20 – Tim Usasz (Nottingham RFC)
21 – Nese Malifa (Glendale)
22 – Colin Hawley (Olympic Club)