Lions moved to Texas

Mon, 01 Apr 2013 14:13
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The Lions Challenge has been shifted to Texas as opposed to Vancouver when they travel to the United States to take on the North American All Stars later this month.

The Lions Challenge has been shifted to Texas as opposed to Vancouver when they travel to the United States to take on the North American All Stars later this month.

The original schedule had the touring squad from Johannesburg, South Africa, travel to Vancouver to take on a North American All Stars squad consisting of several Canadian players. Fans in that region will have to wait until 2014, with the Rugby Showdown finalizing details for that tour.

The new location is an excellent choice, with international rugby being extremely well supported in the state of Texas. In 2001, South Africa played the USA Eagles in Houston with over 15,000 fans in attendance. Then last year when Italy took on the USA Eagles in Houston around 18,000 came out to support their country.

Additionally on June 8th, the USA Eagles will play Ireland at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston this year.

USA Rugby President and CEO, Nigel Melville, said: "We have established a great foundation for rugby in Houston with our previous match between the USA and Italy last year, welcoming a record-setting crowd of 18,000 people".

Meanwhile, North American All Stars coach Mike Tolkin has released his 23-man roster, which will face the MTN Golden Lions at Titan Stadium, Cal State Fullerton, on April 13th.

Several Eagles will feature in this exciting match, including the most capped USA rugby player of all-time, Mike McDonald. The Cal Berkeley prop was named Man of that Match following the USA's win against Russia in the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Also returning to action is center, Troy Hall, who played for Atlantis during the Las Vegas 7s earlier this year.

"I'm looking forward to seeing Mike McDonald back on the field. He's been able to recover over the past few months while training at Cal's great new facility. He's a tremendous leader and teacher for the young tight five especially, and can be an impact player. Troy Hall has always been a threatening runner, dangerous from anywhere. He has been class and quality everywhere he's played. His return to rugby is fantastic and I know he is excited to get back in the fold," commented Tolkin.

Tolkin’s squad includes a mix of experience and youth, with an opportunity for the United States coach to see these players against quality opposition. Todd Clever is set to captain the squad against his former franchise.

"Some of the quality young players who have started to prove themselves at the highest level will have a great opportunity to continue to gain experience and improve. Toby L'Estrange, Graham Harriman, Shawn Davies, Zach Fenoglio and Zach Pangelinan, among others, will relish this opportunity and we're looking forward to their growth as big-time players," said the USA Eagles Head Coach.

On the coaching staff, Tolkin is re-united with New York Athletic Club’s Bruce McLane.

"I have coached with Bruce McLane on four National titles and obviously we work well together. With a limited staff and time, I needed an experienced forwards man who knows our system and who I can work with. Dave Williams knows our program inside out and brings great rugby versatility to the staff - a tremendous asset," said Tolkin.

North American All Stars Squad: Chris Biller (San Francisco Golden Gate), Todd Clever - Captain (NTT Communications, Japan), Peter Dahl (Belmont Shore), Brian Doyle (New York Athletic Club), Zach Fenoglio (Glendale RFC), Graham Harriman (Chicago Griffins RFC), Will Haydock (Seattle OPSB RFC), Patrick Latu (Metropolis RFC), Mike MacDonald (Olympic Club), Al MacFarland (New York Athletic Club), Liam Og Murphy (Boston RFC), Shawn Pittman (Trinity College, Dublin), Phil Thiel (Life University Men’s RFC) Shaun Davies (Glendale RFC), Troy Hall (New York Athletic Club), Luke Hume (Old Blue/USA 7s), Toby L’Estrange (New York Athletic Club), Zach Pangelinan (OMBAC), Blaine Scully (USA 7s), Robbie Shaw (Richmond RFC, London), Adam Siddall (Old Blue New York RFC), Andrew Suniula (Chicago Griffins RFC), Mike T’eo (Belmont Shore/USA 7s).