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Monday, April 18, 2016

Junior All-American Starters Named For JWRT Opener


Normally the Junior All-Americans prepping for their first match of the JWRT would draw more attention. However, with the men and women Eagles involved the last two weeks, the college playoffs, and PRO Rugby starting much of the attention has been diverted away from the U-20s. That's about to change tonight as the JAA's kick off their tournament against Namibia.

While the timing of the tournament is awkward for the program--many players are in the middle of school and can't take several weeks off--head coach JD Stephenson has assembled a strong side that features several players that could easily feature for the Eagles in the future. Two, Hanco Germishuys and Lorenzo Thomas, already have. Germishuys is a veteran of last year's campaign and will captain the team while Thomas went straight from the U-20s dramatic win over Canada to starting for the Eagles the next week against Chile where he scored a try. Both players will be in the starting line-up to face Namibia.

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Two other players with experience that the U.S. are going to need to count on in the match are the halfbacks. Fly-half Ben Cima was the hero of the match against Canada with his booming penalty to seal the match. Scrumhalf Louis Mulholland is a player that made it into the Eagles 50-man squad for the World Cup. Both are active and if they can keep a good tempo to the game the JAA's will be in good shape. Also, Cima's kicking will be critical. We'll just leave this right here as evidence (skip to 3:15):

The rest of the team are solid as well. Victor Comptat is a tall lock that is in the Brive system. Malon Al-Jiboori is a major athlete that will bring a lot of physicality. Overall, it's the best line-up the team could put out given the circumstances and one that is going to cause Namibia a lot of trouble.

Namibia are arguably going to be the Eagles most difficult opponent in their pool and if they can come away with a win they will set themselves up to play in the final and spot in next year's Junior World Championship. That would also come with a guarantee of one more year of not having to qualify for the JWRT against Canada.

Namibia are going to be a strong side and playing relatively close to home aren't going to have to deal with the same travel the JAA's have dealt with. Fatigue could be a major issue in the match. However, the U.S. appear to have brought enough depth to deal with the situation. The key for the JAA's will be to run out to an early lead so if they tire at the end they will have some cushion.

The match takes place early in the morning at 4:00 a.m. et/1:00 a.m. pt and can be see on worldrugby.org. The U.S. will play Hong Kong at 10:00 a.m. et/7:00 a.m. pt on Sunday and Spain at the same time Tuesday morning.

Forwards: Chance Wenglewski, Steven Branham, Mason Pedersen, Victor Comptat, Deven Marshall, Malon Al-Jiboori, Brennan Falcon, Hanco Germishuys (C)

Backs: Louis Mulholland, Ben Cima, Devin Lim, Brian Hannon, Lorenzo Thomas, Rodney Giles, Mitch Wilson

Bench: Ruairi Van Raalte, Roman Salanoa, Chad Sneyd, Veuki Taumefolau, Ruben de Haas, Duncan Van Schalkwyk, Tyler Sousley

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