The American National Rugby League has named a 19-man USA Tomahawks squad for the Ohana Cup Test match against Tonga.
The squad, which includes 13 returning players from the successful Donnybrook Cup side, is dominated by Hawaii-based players as the game, to be played on Saturday, May 12, will be staged in Honolulu.
Seven players from Hawaii have been bracketed in the squad, including former University of Hawaii and NFL player Leonard Peters. The ex-Warriors star, who was on the Chicago Bears practice squad, has also been part of USA Rugby Eagles teams in the past three years.
Mosese Uitalia and Anthony Sunia, who previously played in the AMNRL and who has relocated to Hawaii, are listed as shadow reserves.
American Samoa is also represented with two players in the 19. The vastly experienced Keiki Misipeka and teenager Henry Leatio'o have been drafted into the squad from the US Pacific colony. At 6’ 4” and 240lbs, 19-year old Leatio'o is a huge talent.
Also in the squad are Dusten Umeda, a USA Sevens pool player, and Tala Esera, another former football player from UH who had stints professionally with NFL teams Miami and Philadelphia.
“Really looking forward to working with much of the same squad of players from the Donnybrook Cup with the inclusion of new players from Hawaii and American Samoa,” said Tomahawks coach Marcus Vassilakopoulos.
“We have such a wealth of talent to pull from these days it will definitely make our job harder and harder to pick a squad for future matches with every game like an audition for World Cup spots. The ball is literally in the boys’ hands and I expect the professionalism, attitude and commitment of these players will gradually increase also.
“Really looking forward to working with Leonard Peters, Dusten Umeda, Tala Esera, Henry Leatio'o and Anthony Sunia for the first time. Quality athletes with very diverse backgrounds from Rugby Union to Professional Football.”
The squad will be trimmed to a 17-man gameday lineup for the match. The inaugural Ohana Cup Test is set for a 7pm kickoff local time at Kaiser Stadium in Honolulu.
USA TOMAHAWKS SQUAD:
Kenny Britt (FL), Apple Pope (FL), Keiki Misipeka (American Samoa), Henry Leatio'o (American Samoa), Curtis Cunz (CT), Matt Walsh (CT), Sean Taylor (NY), John Dykeman (NY), Justin Ripley (NY), Andrew Kneisly (PA), Vai Notoa (HA), Kelly McGill (HA), Salesi Tongamoa (GA), Tala Esera (HA), Dusten Umeda (HA), Ian Elliott (NY), Mosese Uitalia (HA)*, Leonard Peters (HA), Anthony Sunia (HA)*
*denotes shadow reserve
Coach - Marcus Vassilakopoulos
Assistant Coach/Manager - David Niu