Tolkin named US Eagles squad for November Tour

USA Eagles coach Mike Tolkin has named a 35 man squad for their series of four tests including a historic match against New Zealand’s All Blacks.

The Eagles will begin the November Tour against the All Blacks at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill., before heading to Europe.

Romania will host the first match of the European leg at Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf in Bucharest Nov. 8.

Tonga awaits the Eagles in their next match at Kingsholm Stadium in Gloucester, England, Nov. 1, before they head to Stade de la Rabine in France for a match against Fiji Nov. 22.

Though the match at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill., is not scheduled within the IRB’s end-of-year-test window, USA Rugby and Premiership Rugby reached an agreement for the release of Eagles playing in the Aviva Premiership.

Tolkin will welcome Northampton Saints Cameron Dolan and Samu Manoa, Newcastle’s Eric Fry, Leicester Tiger Blaine Scully, and Saracens’ Hayden Smith and Chris Wyles in Chicago. The six Premiership players will return to their clubs following the historic match.

Thretton Palamo, also with Saracens, will be available for selection for the Eagles’ matches against Tonga and Fiji.

Other capped, overseas Eagles playing in the British Isles selected for the November Tour include Tim Maupin – who had been training with Trinity College prior to joining the Eagles Select XV at the 2014 IRB Americas Rugby Championship earlier this month – John Quill, Brett Thompson, and Tai Tuisamoa.

Scott LaValla will be available for three of the Eagles’ four matches, including the final match in France, where the lock plays for Stade Francais. The French contingent on the team will also be bolstered by the return of Taku Ngwenya, who has not suited up for the Eagles since the IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Qualifier series against Canada in August 2013. Ngwenya’s Biarritz was relegated from the Top 14 last season.

“Taku is always a threat when he’s on the field,” Tolkin said. “He rejoins the squad and a good group of back-three players. I think he’s really excited about it and enthusiastic so he’ll have a lot of energy.”

Another capped Eagle who will make a return to the team following a lengthy spell away is Mate Moeakiola, who plays for Castenet in France. The prop made his Eagles debut in the team’s opening night loss to England at IRB Rugby World Cup 2007, during which he scored a try. Moeakiola’s 26 caps also encompass three matches at the World Cup in New Zealand in 2011.

“We had intended to bring (Mate] on to other trips over the last two years and, both times, he got injured before he come on to the tour,” Tolkin said.

“This is kind of a chance for us to see what his form is like. With Titi (Lamositele] being out, losing Eric (after the All Blacks match], and Shawn Pittman retiring, it definitely left a little hole at prop. It’s an opportunity for a veteran who’s a good prop to work with some of the young guys, as well.”

Olive Kilifi and Nick Wallace, who started all three matches at the ARC in October outside of hooker Phil Thiel, are available for the full tour. Davenport University’s Angus MacLellan will travel to Europe with the Eagles, while Ben Tarr will stay with the squad throughout the assembly. Both young front rowers saw playing time in Canada and will hope to stake a claim for a Rugby World Cup spot with impressive November performances.

“We took five props on this tour, including Eric against the All Blacks, so we can give them four weeks of good training time with the Eagles at this level of rugby,” Tolkin said.

“It will be great for them. We’ll see how they develop and what kind of progress they’ve made, and we’ll see if they’re guys we want to keep in the system.

“It’s not going to be short-term with them, but this will be a great month of evaluation and growing.”

A first cap could be handed to Greg Peterson, who, at just 23 years of age, has one cap

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