Saracens star Chris Wyles will captain the United States at the Rugby World Cup after coach Mike Tolkin named a 31-man squad for the tournament here Tuesday.
Wyles was handed the captaincy in July after seasoned former skipper Todd Clever was mysteriously booted out of the national set-up for “multiple squad conduct violations.”
Wyles, 31, will be playing in his third World Cup after appearances in the 2007 and 2011 tournaments.
Coach Mike Tolkin acknowledged that the US squad would be raw in terms of World Cup experience but noted that 13 members of the party have professional contracts overseas.
“In terms of Rugby World Cup experience, yes, this is a relatively inexperienced group,” Tolkin said in a statement.
“However, while the Rugby World Cup is a whole different kettle of fish, many of these players do have a fair bit of international play under their belts since 2011.”
Wyles was the top US points scorer at the last World Cup in New Zealand.
Among those making their World Cup debuts are California-born former Northampton and Toulon forward Samu Manoa.
Manoa missed the last World Cup due to club commitments but Tolkin is delighted to have the 30-year-old lock/number eight in the squad.
“The guys feel confident playing without him, but he brings a great deal of impact to the side. He’s a natural leader; he’s a great ballplayer. Samu’s been waiting to play in the World Cup for four years, so I know he’s really thrilled at the prospect,” Tolkin said.
The Eagles face a daunting World Cup assignment, where they tackle South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and Japan in the first round’s Pool B. The Americans have never advanced beyond the first phase of the tournament in six previous appearances.
UNITED STATES Squad
Forwards: Danny Barrett (USA Sevens), Chris Baumann (Santa Monica), Cameron Dolan (Cardiff Blues/WAL), Andrew Durutalo (USA Sevens), Zach Fenoglio (Glendale), Eric Fry (Newcastle/ENG), Olive Kilifi (Seattle), Titi Lamositele (Saracens/ENG), Scott LaValla (unattached), Samu Manoa (Toulon/FRA), Al McFarland (New York), Matekitonga Moeakiola (Castanet/FRA), Greg Peterson (Glasgow Warriors/SCO), John Quill (New York), Louis Stanfill (Seattle), Joe Taufete’e (Belmont Shore), Phil Thiel (Life Rugby)
Backs: Seamus Kelly (San Francisco), Niko Kruger (Glendale), AJ MacGinty (Life Rugby), Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz/FRA), Folau Niua (USA Sevens), Thretton Palamo (London Welsh/ENG), Mike Petri (New York), Blaine Scully (Saracens/ENG), Hayden Smith (Saracens/ENG), Andrew Suniula (Bucarest/ROM), Shalom Suniula (Seattle), Zack Test (USA Sevens), Brett Thompson (USA Sevens), Chris Wyles (Saracens/ENG)
– Agence France-Presse