WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) Todd Clever will captain the United States from flanker in his 60th test in Saturday’s sellout test against the All Blacks at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
Clever was named Thursday to lead the U.S. Eagles team in only its fourth test against New Zealand and its first on home soil since 1980.
Head coach Mike Tolkin has named a team which includes a core of overseas-based professionals. Newcastle Falcons prop Eric Fry and locks Samu Manoa, from Northampton, and Hayden Smith, from Saracens, will form part of an experienced tight five. Smith formerly played at tight end for the New York Jets.
Mike Petri will play his 45th test at scrumhalf with Phil Thiel named hooker and New Zealand-born Adam Siddell set to start his seventh test at flyhalf.
Siddall was a standout player when the U.S. recently lost to the New Zealand Maori team and is returning from an injury break. Andrew Suniula, who will start at inside center in his 31st test, is also returning from an injury suffered in a national championship match in June.
Danny Barrett has been named to make his third test start at No. 8, opposing the All Blacks’ captain for Saturday’s match, Kieran Read. Barrett performed well as a replacement in the Eagles’ recent win over Canada – its first in five years – and has trialed for the the English side Gloucester while also playing for the United States sevens team.
Seamus Kelly, who also trialed with Barrett at Gloucester after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, will partner Suniula in the centers in his fifth consecutive start.
Edinburgh’s Brett Thompson has been named on the left wing and Leicester’s Blaine Scully on the right wing while Chris Wyles will play his 45th test at fullback.
The reserves bench includes London Scottish lock Tai Tuisamoa and veterans Mate Moeakiola and Louis Stanfill, who will play his 49th test if he takes the field.
The team named by Tolkin contains only three changes from the one which played the last match of the Eagles’ summer international series. Tolkin said his selections were not based on the fact the United States is taking on the top-ranked team in world rugby.
”Our selections were based more on how we wanted to play,” Tolkin said. The All Blacks ”present a big challenge, so worrying too much about them would be counter-productive.
”We had the line-up in place in our heads already and just confirmed it with training this week.”
New Zealand on Thursday named an experimental lineup, captained by Read and including Aaron Cruden at flyhalf and Sonny Bill Williams at inside center.
United States: Chris Wyles, Blaine Scully, Seamus Kelly, Andrew Suniula, Brett Thompson, Adam Siddall, Mike Petri, Danny Barrett, Scott Lavalla, Todd Clever (captain), Hayden Smith, Samu Manoa, Olive Kilifi, Phil Thiel, Eric Fry.
Reserves: Tom Coolican, Nick Wallace, Mate Moeakiola, Tai Tuisamoa, Louis Stanfill, Shalom Suniula, Folau Niua, Troy Hall.