The American National Rugby League has named an 18-man roster for Saturday’s Donnybrook Cup Test against Ireland in Philadelphia.
The squad features the return of three former Tomahawks who missed the 2011 season and the debut of another three, while the rest are mostly familiar names.
AMNRL President, David Niu said, "The Donnybrook Cup gives the coaches and the players a chance to follow on from the success of the Rugby League World Cup campaign last October. The match against the Irish will be a tough test in a series of internationals scheduled for 2012 to prepare the Tomahawks for the 2013 RLWC. Following this match, in the first half of the year, will be internationals against Tonga and Japan, along with home and away fixtures against Canada later in the year ,and other yet to be announced internationals to give the coaches a wide cross section of talent to assess and evaluate. This year is about consolidation of our current position in world rugby league, along with identification of talented athletes to build toward the RLWC. There will be a number of opportunities for players across the country to demonstrate their skills and ability for our coaching staff to assess."
Ben Kelly returns to the American national team after a hiatus of nearly four years. He last donned the red, white and blue of the USA in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup qualifier against Samoa. Also back in the Tomahawks side are Kenny Britt and Damien O’Malveney, both were members of the USA’s victorious 2010 Atlantic Cup team. Keiki Misipeka, now based in American Samoa also comes back into the team. He played for the victorious 2009 Atlantic squad and named MVP of that match.
A highly rated player who will be making his international debut is Akarika Dawn. The blockbusting center made a name for himself in the AMNRL in 2009 and 2010 as a hard-running, hard-hitting midfield threat.
All four players have returned to the AMNRL fold this year after stints with clubs that were part of a breakaway competition in 2011.
Also making his international Rugby League debuts on Saturday will be Vai Notoa of Hawaii, has played for the USA Select XV and was in USA Rugby’s Eagle player pool.
“Looking forward to an exciting challenge against a tough Ireland team,” says USA assistant coach Marcus Vassilakopoulos.
“We got our behinds smacked last year and I'm sure they'll be very tough again this year. Looking for the USA boys to prepare well and give it their all on Saturday.”
Saturday’s Donnybrook Cup match, presented by Harrah’s Chester, PA, is scheduled to kick off at 1pm ET at Quick Stadium at Widener University.
USA TOMAHAWKS SQUAD:
Kenny Britt (Florida) Louis Tulio (Pennsylvania) Keiki Misipeka (Connecticut) Akarika Dawn (Texas) Ian Elliott (New York) Luke Hume (New York) Damien O'Malveney (Connecticut) Andrew Kniesly (Pennsylvania) Apple Pope (Florida) [Capt] Salesi Tongamoa (Georgia) Sean Taylor (New York) John Dykeman (New York) Justin Ripley (New York) Matt Walsh (Connecticut) Kelly McGill (Hawaii) Vai Notoa (Hawaii) Ben Kelly (Connecticut) Curtis Cunz (Connecticut)