Brache to fly with Eagles
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Western Force wing Marcel Brache, who represented Western Province from 2011 to 2013, could solidify his American Test eligibility when the US Eagles head to Europe.
The 29-year-old, born in Los Angeles, is among a travel squad of 38 players selected by head coach John Mitchell who will take to the field against the Maori All Blacks in Chicago (November 4), Romania in Bucharest (November 12) and Tonga in Spain (November 19).
Mitchell has also selected co-captains for the November Tests, with Todd Clever and Blaine Scully set to lead the team. Scully will only join the squad for the two European matches.
The veteran pair's experience is a third of the assembly's 327 combined caps, while six players could earn their test debuts in Europe.
Thirty players will be available for the match in Chicago, half of whom competed with the USA Selects development squad at the Americas Pacific Challenge in October. Indiana University's Bryce Campbell, Brigham Young University's Matthew Jensen, and Life University's Alex Maughan are being made available by their collegiate institutions, as are nine Eagles of seven European clubs.
"By the time we get to the end of this assembly, we'll have seen a major portion of the athletes on our radar in terms of talent available at the men's XVs level. We have an assembly now with one game focused on the Maori and the other two focused on World Rugby Rankings points.
"Slowly but surely we're changing the mindset of this team having its own identity and not being perceived as an invitational side. We're changing that and the standards to meet if you want to play for the USA Eagles," Mitchell said.
The majority of the squad has been training at the United States Olympic Committee's Olympic Training Center in California, where Olympians Danny Barrett, Andrew Durutalo, Madison Hughes, Martin Iosefo, and Folau Niua prepared for Sevens' Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games debut earlier this year.
Seven current residents of the Men's Eagles Sevens program have been named to the touring squad.
Along with Brache, Chris Baumann, James Hilterbrand and Tony Lamborn, have finished their competitive seasons in the Southern Hemisphere.
"We have such diversity in terms of professional players competing in several countries and domestic club and collegiate players. It's important we catch up in fitness and skill integration quickly. We have a model that's important for us, certainly one that sets our mentality to train the habits that we want," he added.
Sixteen players, including five Men's Collegiate and Junior All-Americans, are 25-years-old or younger in a squad of an average age of 26. Following a youthful Selects tour, the November Tour will continue to test the depth of the talent pool at the tail end of the first year of the World Cup 2019 quadrennial.
The Eagles are set to open their Qualifying campaign for the ninth tournament in 2017.
"The group at the Americas Championship was largely developmental and we made good grounds during the June Test series. We want to go out and perform and win rugby matches, clearly, and we're trying to surface and give new, young talent experience at a higher level to develop our player pool at this level," Mitchell stated.
Following a non-rankings match against the Maori All Blacks, the Eagles will look to better their no.17 ranking against no.16 Romania and no.15 Tonga. The US is 6-1 against Romania all-time, the most recent match-up a victory for the tourists in Bucharest in 2014.
Spain's hosting of the final match of the November Tour will be the third consecutive meeting between the Eagles and Tonga to be held on neutral ground.
"Once we get to Romania, we'll have probably our most experienced group to date. The New Zealand Maori is arguably the best non-Test team in the world; a high-performing team where the players are either All Blacks or potential All Blacks, or certainly have played Super Rugby.
"They're a side that always looks to express themselves and have always been that way. Coming from a country where they are world champions two times running, coming off of setting a world record - they're a part of that system.
"We have a lot of diversity in terms of the levels our players were selected from but it's a good opportunity for them individually and collectively to perform as USA Eagles against one of the best teams in the world. If there's ever a game where you need to raise your standards and play a level that's going to ask questions of you, these are the games you live for and want to play," Mitchell said.
United States Eagles squad: Nate Augspurger, Danny Barrett, Chris Baumann, Pat Blair, Marcel Brache, Nate Brakeley, Bryce Campbell, Ben Cima, Nick Civetta, Todd Clever (co-captain), Cameron Dolan, Andrew Durutalo, JP Eloff, Lemoto Filikitonga, Ahmad Harajlys, Langilangi Haupeakui, James Hilterbrand, Will Holder, Madison Hughes, Martin Iosefo, Matthew Jensen, Tony Lamborn, Titi Lamositele, Matai Leuta, Angus MacLellan, Siaosi Mahoni, Samu Manoa, Alex Maughan, Al McFarland, Taku Ngwenya, Folau Niua, Thretton Palamo, Blaine Scully (co-captain), Shalom Suniula, Joe Taufete'e, Mike Te'o, Stephen Tomasin, Dino Waldren.
November 4: v Maori All Blacks, Chicago
November 12: v Romania, Bucharest
November 19: v Tonga, Spain