Cork-born back rower John Quill has been selected on the replacements bench for the USA’s Test encounter with Ireland in Houston on Saturday night (kick-off 7.30pm local time/1.30am Irish time).
It will be John Quill’s fifth senior cap for the Americans if he gets onto the BBVA Compass Stadium pitch, with the 23-year-old qualifying for his adopted country courtesy of his mother Eileen who hails from New York.
Quill came up through the underage ranks at his native Youghal and also played for Sunday’s Well and UCC before making his mark with Dolphin in the Ulster Bank League in recent seasons.
Indeed, he was Dolphin’s top try scorer for two seasons, club Player of the Year in 2012 and managed to play five league matches for the Cork club this past season despite being based in America.
The move Stateside for the former Munster sub Academy member and Ireland underage international saw him playing club rugby in Boston and he came to the attention of the national coaches, who handed him his debut against Russia last November.
He won two further caps in the autumn international series and added another in the recent 16-9 Pacific Nations Cup loss to Canada in Edmonton.
Speaking to the Irish Times, Quill explained: “I’ve been working towards this for the last few months. It is a great opportunity. It would be an honour to play against Ireland, a lot of the guys on the team I would have known and played with and against.
“This is my second tour and I have really bought into it. Guys are from different countries and haven’t grown up here but there are huge expectations about how we want to kick on, towards the World Cup.”
Quill is not the only Irish link in the Eagles’ matchday squad with former Dublin University captain and Ulster Ravens forward Scott LaValla starting in the back row.
Shawn Pittman, who played for Trinity in the Ulster Bank League this year, packs down at loosehead prop and continues the link with Dublin University director of rugby Tony Smeeth who operates as the USA’s backs coach.
Former Galwegians and Connacht scrum half Robbie Shaw, who was part of the Ireland Under-21 squad that reached the World Cup final back in 2004, joins Quill among the replacements.
Number 8 Todd Clever will captain an experienced USA team which includes international professionals Samu Manoa, Takudzwa Ngwenya and Chris Wyles. Chris Biller and Mike Petri have also recovered from their recent injuries.
“I think they bring a lot of veteran leadership, that’s important. This squad introduces veterans and pros back into the system,” said USA head coach Mike Tolkin.
“They’re great athletes that bring fresh, new energy. They exude confidence and it resonates within the squad.”
Manoa and Ngwenya were recently involved with the Barbarbians for their tour matches against England and the British & Irish Lions and they met up with the Eagles in Houston earlier this week.
“It’s an honour to play with the guys with the Baa Baas,” said Biarritz speedster Ngwenya, “but I’m back home, I get to play in Texas, I get to play with the boys again. This is where it all started. I’m just happy to be back with the family.”
A total of 10 players survive from the Eagles’ 2011 Rugby World Cup pool defeat to Ireland in New Zealand, with the 22-year-old Seamus Kelly, who made his debut against Canada, starting in the centre.
“In the World Cup you face almost all tier 1 nations, so when you face a tier 1 nation outside that framework it brings a lot of excitement,” added Tolkin.
“It still brings all of the possibilities and challenges of the World Cup. That’s the atmosphere in the group and the psyche of the guys in the squad going into this.
“We have some good players on the bench who normally would have started. We feel like we’re getting some good depth. Going into this game we’re going to give a good fight – the guys know what they can do and what they’re capable of.”
The Test match will be broadcast live on TG4 with the ‘Rugbaí Beo’ coverage getting underway at 1.20am (Sunday morning).
There will be a full replay of the game on TG4 later that day at 12.05pm. In America, the Universal Sports Network will be showing the Houston encounter live.
USA Team & Replacements (v Ireland, BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Summer Tour Test, Saturday, June 8, kick-off 7.30pm local time/1.30am Irish time):
15. Chris Wyles (Saracens)
14. Luke Hume (Old Blue)
13. Seamus Kelly (University of California)
12. Andrew Suniula (Chicago Griffins)
11. Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz Olympique)
10. Toby L’Estrange (New York Athletic Club)
9. Mike Petri (New York Athletic Club)
1. Shawn Pittman (Dublin University)
2. Chris Biller (San Francisco Golden Gate)
3. Eric Fry (London Scottish)
4. Brian Doyle (New York Athletic Club)
5. Louis Stanfill (Vincenza Gers)
6. Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints)
7. Scott LaValla (Stade Francais)
8. Todd Clever (NTT Shining Arcs) (capt)
16. Zach Fenoglio (Old Mission Beach Athletic Club)
17. Nick Wallace (St. Mary’s)
18. Phil Thiel (Life)
19. Peter Dahl (Belmont Shore)
20. John Quill (Dolphin)
21. Robbie Shaw (Richmond)
22. James Paterson (Glendale Raptors)
23. Adam Siddall (Old Blue)