USA Men’s National Team XVs vs Japan Preview

Kickoff in Suva, Fiji this Sat, Aug 10 at 12:35 AM ET on NBC Sports Gold

SUVA, FIJ. – The USA Men’s National Team XVs are set for the final round of Pacific Nations Cup 2019 against No. 11 Japan where the winner will take the title. Following two victories over rival-Canada and Samoa, the Men’s Eagles have risen two spots in the World Rugby Rankings to No. 13 with one more opportunity this Saturday, Aug 10 at 12:35 AM ET on NBC Sports Gold.

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MATCH DAY 23

Head Coach Gary Gold has made eight changes to the starting XV from last week’s 13-10 win over Samoa, allowing a number of players to get needed rest while others have an opportunity to make an impact in the anticipated tournament finale.

Mikey Sosene-Feagai will start at hooker in his first appearance with the Men’s Eagles since facing Uruguay in 2016. Nate Brakeley will start at lock with Ben Landry shifting to the bench, while Malon Al-Jiboori and Hanco Germishuys are both in at flanker.

Newly-capped Jamason Fa’anana Schultz will take the No. 8 spot with Shaun Davies back in at scrumhalf. Madison Hughes will start at wing with Marcel Brache back at center after completing the HIA protocol.

From the bench, Thretton Palamo could make his first appearance since facing Tonga in 2016. Palamo returns after a long-awaited recovery from injury.

Saturday’s full match-day roster features 324 cumulative test caps.

STARTERS

PLAYER NAME POSITION CLUB XVs CAPS
1. Chance Wenglewski Prop Rugby ATL 5
2. Mikey Sosene-Feagai Hooker Auckland (NZL) 4
3. Paul Mullen Prop Houston SaberCats 12
4. Nate Brakeley Lock Rugby United New York 19
5. Gregory Peterson Lock Newcastle Falcons (ENG) 24
6. Malon Aljiboori Flanker Glendale Raptors 3
7. Hanco Germishuys Flanker Glendale Raptors 15
8. Jamason Fa’anana Shultz No. 8 Houston SaberCats 1
9. Shaun Davies Scrumhalf Glendale Raptors 23
10. AJ MacGinty Flyhalf Sale Sharks (ENG) 23
11. Madison Hughes Wing USA Sevens 4
12. Paul Lasike Center Harlequins (ENG) 14
13. Marcel Brache Center Western Force (AUS) 17
14. Blaine Scully (C) Wing Unattached 48
15. Will Hooley Fullback Bedford Blues (ENG) 10

RESERVES

PLAYER NAME POSITION CLUB XVs CAPS
16. Dylan Fawsitt Reserve Rugby United New York 10
17. David Ainu’u Reserve Toulouse Rugby (FRA) 7
18. Paddy Ryan Reserve Rugby United New York 3
19. Ben Landry Reserve Ealing Trailfinders (ENG) 20
20. Ben Pinkelman Reserve USA Sevens 1
21. Nate Augspurger Reserve San Diego Legion 22
22. Will Magie Reserve Glendale Raptors 23
23. Thretton Palamo Reserve Houston SaberCats 17

USA MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM XVs STAFF

General Manager | Dave Hodges
Head Coach | Gary Gold
Assistant Coach, Attack | Greg McWilliams
Assistant Coach, Set Piece | Shawn Pittman
Assistant Coach, Defense | Jaque Fourie
Strength & Conditioning Coach | Huw Bevan
Performance Analyst | Jimmy Harrison
Assistant S&C and Analyst | Tom Kindley
Team Doctor | Mark Sakr
Team Doctor | Sam Akhavan
Head Athletic Trainer | Kevin Ng
Athletic Trainer | Matt Lopez (Fiji)
Athletic Trainer | Kristen Douhan
Massage Therapist | Daliah Hurwitz
Team Manager | Chris Hanson
Assistant Team Manager | Mark Drown


LAST TIME ON THE PITCH AGAINST SAMOA

In the second round of Pacific Nations Cup 2019, the USA Men’s National Team XVs defeated Samoa for only the second time in history — a second straight win which came on a penalty kick by AJ MacGinty at full time.

MacGinty scored all 13 points for the U.S. side where the Eagles monopolized possession and territory in the first half and Samoa did the same in the second half.

Defensive pressure was a strength for the United States who kept Samoa from forming a fluid attack in the second half despite also suffering from small execution errors. After the Samoans brought the scoreline to 10-10 in the final minutes, the U.S. launched one more meaningful attack which led to AJ MacGinty teed up with the match-winner after eighty minutes.

It was a mirrored result to last year’s first-ever win over the Samoans where Will Hooley was on the kick and also slotted a penalty at fulltime to give his side the win.


THE MATCHUP | UNITED STATES (No. 13) vs JAPAN (No. 11) 

The United States and Japan will meet for the first time since Rugby World Cup 2015 in England where the Eagles fell to an 18-28 Japanese victory. Since their first matchup in 1985, the USA men have logged 13 wins, one draw and 9 losses against Japan. 

Two bonus point victories over Tonga and Fiji give the upcoming Rugby World Cup hosts 10 points and the current top placing in the PNC standings. The USA sit one point behind after its own bonus point win over Canada and narrow edging of Samoa last week.

Through the tournament, the Eagles have shown strong improvements in defense and response to high pressure situations. Japan will be the first team the USA faces this year who sit higher in the World Rugby Rankings which makes Saturday’s contest a necessary stepping stone in preparation for a challenging Rugby World Cup pool. The PNC finale will nonetheless serve as an important test in continuity on both sides of the ball.


THOUGHTS FROM HEAD COACH GARY GOLD

“Happy for our guys that we’ve put ourselves in a good position with an opportunity to win the PNC on Saturday. Credit to both Canada and Samoa who put us under a lot of pressure in those first two games and really showed us what can happen when we don’t make the right decisions on the field.

“Now that we’ve reached the final match of the tournament and knowing how sharp this Japanese team is, we must absolutely continue to show consistent defense; but also build momentum around our attacking game to be successful.”


WINNER TAKES ALL

After the first two rounds of Pacific Nations Cup 2019, the United States and Japan have setup a winner takes all affair. Japan sit atop the tournament standings with 10 points while the United States are close behind with 9 points. A win by any margin will give either side the PNC title.

Pacific Nations Cup Standings

POOL A
TEAM P W D L PF PA PD TF TA BP PTS
USA 2 2 0 0 60 29 31 7 4 1 9
FIJI 2 1 0 1 59 47 12 9 6 1 5
TONGA 2 0 0 2 24 66 -42 4 8 0 0
POOL B
TEAM P W D L PF PA PD TF TA BP PTS
JAPAN 2 2 0 0 75 28 47 10 4 2 10
SAMOA 2 1 0 1 35 30 5 4 4 1 5
CANADA 2 0 0 2 32 85 -53 4 12 0 0


WHAT IS THE PACIFIC NATIONS CUP

The Pacific Nations Cup is an annual tournament hosted by World Rugby that features an expanded number of teams in Rugby World Cup years, when the United States competes. Featuring six teams for 2019, nations are split into two pools where each team faces the opposing sides in the opposite group to accumulate points after each matchup. The team who finishes with the most points at the end of its three games will win the title.

Pool A features the United States, Fiji and Tonga while Pool B features Canada, Samoa and Japan.

POINTS STRUCTURE

  • Win – 4 points
  • Draw – 2 points
  • Loss – 0 points
  • BonusScoring 4 tries – 1 point
    Losing by less than 7 – 1 point

WHERE TO WATCH

All matches in the Pacific Nations Cup are broadcast LIVE in the United States on NBC Sports Gold’s Rugby Pass. Click here to purchase a subscription. The game will also reair on NBCSN Monday, Aug 12 at 12 PM ET.

SCHEDULE & RESULTS

Pacific Nations Cup

WATCH on NBC Sports Gold vs Canada | 47-19 (W)
vs Samoa | 13-10 (W)

vs Japan
Sat, Aug 10 | 12:35 AM ET
Suva, Fiji

Rugby World Cup Warm-up

vs Canada
September 7 | 7 PM PT
B.C. Place Stadium, Vancouver, B.C.
Purchase Tickets

Rugby World Cup Japan

Broadcast on NBC Networks

vs England
September 26 | 6:45 AM ET
Kobe Misaki Stadium

vs France
October 2 | 3:45 AM ET
Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium

vs Argentina
October 9 | 12:45 AM ET
Kumagaya Rugby Stadium

vs Tonga
October 13 | 1:45 AM ET
Hanazono Rugby Stadium