The Rugby Europe Men's Under 18 European Championships will welcome two North American sides to the Championship competition this summer, with the Boys High School All-Americans ranked fifth in the eight-team tournament.
Head Coach Salty Thompson has selected a traveling squad of 26 players following the Winter Camp at Casa Grande, Ariz., for the first scheduled tour of 2017 for the 1999-born under-18s. The BHSAAs will arrive in France April 6 prior to three match days in Bretagne April 7, April 11, and April 15.
"We'll need to adjust to travel and a limited prep time," Thompson said. "It's going to be pretty brutal but we have to get on with it.
"When you take young boys out of an environment where they're really comfortable and they're put in an uncomfortable environment, it's a real growth experience for them. It'll set them up for their own personal growth as young men and rugby players."
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Thompson's selected travel squad of 26 - 15 forwards and 11 backs for the 15-a-side tournament - includes eight athletes that participated in the first AIG Men's Junior All-Americans Developmental Team (under-19) series against Canada earlier this year. Those players were unable to attend the BHSAA Winter Camp, where 16 members of the roster were picked for the tour, but each played in one or both of the under-19 games. Junior student-athlete Bailey Wilson captained the MJAA Developmental Team in both matches.
Seven BHSAAs still have eligibility remaining for under-18 representative play having worn the All-American jersey in 2016. Separate BHSAA teams traveled to British Columbia and Ontario last summer, sweeping their Canadian opposition in four games between the two coast lines. Though the makeup of the team splits high school seniors and juniors at 18-8, every player chosen has committed to the program and the requirements of international touring for several months.
"We went into Winter Camp knowing we had to get a team together pretty quickly," Thompson said. "The players and their families have had to plan for time away from school and the cost of everything involved.
"The boys are held accountable for fitness standards; quite a few of them are in season now or will be pretty quickly. They'll send us updates and film of them playing. We want them to be on form and prepared."
The BHSAAs will be able to train at Stadium Bigouden ahead of their opening-day clash with Portugal in the competition's Championship bracket. Portugal previously defeated the BHSAAs on a 2014 tour to Europe. Depending on results, the BHSAAs will advance through the eight-team bracket to play the likes of top-seeded France, second-seeded Georgia, third-seeded Japan, and seventh-seeded Canada at Le pôle sportif de Creac'h Gwen.
"There's a flavor to international competition that's different than any other," Thompson said. "Our boys are understandably very passionate about representing their country and they have to be able to control their emotions and play under pressure. Nobody's to be underestimated in this competition because the Europeans are very eager to improve as much as we are."
Any information related to a potential broadcast available to viewers in the United States will be released in due course. The BHSAAs will also tour Canada this summer using a squad of athletes selected from the Regional Cup Tournaments.
Team: David Ainuu, Jeremiah Bates, Ben Broselle, Asa Carter, Daniel Crowley, William Dodds, Ryan James, Garrett Kay, Sean Lumkong, Gabriel Mahuinga, Jack Manzo, Conor McManus, Ethan McVeigh, Matthew Meehan, Doug Mitchell, Eric Naposki-Abdalah, Christopher Noggle, Quinn Perry, Justin Petersen, Alexander Rayton, Joshua Schnell, Kyle van Tonder, Thomas Waghorne, Maximillian Walding, Jack Wendling, Bailey Wilson