Friday, October 7, 2016

Preview & Line-ups: Selects Ready For Fiji

By Derek Sagehorn

The USA take on the Fiji Warriors in Montevideo Saturday at 1:15 pm ET/10:15 am PT in each squad’s first ever Americas Pacific Challenge competition. An “A-side” competition, similar to a litany of World Rugby initiatives over the past ten years, the USA v. Fiji match features domestic talent for both sides, as players vie for a full cap with their respective senior teams.

 Coach Ray Egan has selected a side with mixed experience and youth for this first match. JP Eloff, of the Ohio Aviators, recovered from a leg injury in the late spring, slots in at flyhalf. He is accompanied by Sevens playmaker Martin Iosefo and Indiana University center Bryce Campbell. Brett Thompson and Mike Te’o may have only a handful of Eagles caps, but they will steady the corners with Mata Leuta. Stephen Tomasin, lately of the Sevens program, will provide service from the base.

Up front the all-PRO rugby front row of Mason Pederson, Joe Taufete’e and Demecus Beach have been selected to face the Warriors. They will have additional power come scrum time thanks to half-man, half-redwood Siasosi Mahoni of the San Francisco Rush. He partners with another Rabelasian giant in BYU lock Matthew Jensen. In the back row look for Harry Higgins of Old Blue to put his mark on the game with physicality in the breakdown.

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Look for Christian Ostberg and Malon Al-Jiboori to make an impact off the bench around the 60 minute mark. And in case the USA takes an early lead, Ben Cima may come on as an option to control the field and keep the score ticking over with penalties.

For the Warriors, captain Rupeni Nasiga leads the side. 30 year-old Nasiga has double digits caps for the Flying Fijians and will be the steady hand for the side. While the team skews older, especially compared to the Patriots, they Warriors have some young talent to watch. 2014 Fiji u-20 player Vasikali Mudu starts at openside flanker. Unsurprisingly, there are several players with World Rugby Sevens circuit experience on the squad as well. This includes blindside flanker Nemani Nagusa who also has time in the Mitre 10 (nee ITM) Cup with the Tasman Makos.

Both teams will be rusty, playing together for the first time. Defensive structures may be half-formed and the requisite trust between players may yet develop. A looser defense will favor the off-loading Warriors. If the United States can bring Fijians to the ground quickly in tackles, the game will be a close one. If not, it will be a long day for the young squad.

Eagles Select XV
1. Mason Pedersen
2. Joseph Taufete'e
3. Demecus Beach
4. Siaosi Mahoni
5. Matthew Jensen
6. Harry Higgins
7. Pat Blair
8. Sione Tu'ihalamaka
9. Stephen Tomasin
10. Jean-Pierre Eloff
11. Mataiyasi Leuta
12. Martin Iosefo
13. Bryce Campbell
14. Brett Thompson
15. Mike Te'o
16. Hanco Germishuys
17. Chance Wenglewski
18. Alex Maughan
19. Christian Ostberg
20. Malon Al-Jiboori
21. Nicklas Boyer
22. Benjamin Cima
23. Ahmad Harajly

Fiji Warriors
1. Joeli Veitayaki (Naitasiri)
2. Seremaia Naureure (Naitasiri)
3. Mesake Doge (Naitasiri)
4. Rupeni Nasiga (Nadroga) (c)
5. Mesulame Kunavula (Nadroga)
6. Nemani Nagusa (Nadroga)
7. Vasikali Mudu (Nadroga),
8. Eremasi Radrodro (Nadroga)
9. Henry Seniloli (Tailevu)
10. Alivereti Veitokani (Nadroga)
11. Frederick Hickes (Nadi)
12. Eroni Vasiteri (Nadroga)
13. Iferemi Tovilevu (Nadroga)
14. Apete Daveta (Nadroga)
15. Lepani Raiyala (Vatukoula)

16. Mosese Digo (Nadi)
17. Iliesa Leca (Nadroga)
18. Kalivati Tawake (Army)
19. Sefanaia Nadruku (Nadroga)
20. Vasikali Mudu (Nadroga)
21. Sakiusa Gavidi (Nadroga)
22. Ilimeleki Leiloma (Northland)
23. Sitiveni Kunaga (Army)

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