The American National Rugby League has named its 20-man squad for the opening match of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup Atlantic Zone qualifying series.
The USA Tomahawks host South Africa Rhinos in Game 1, this Saturday, in Philadelphia. Their squad contains a blend of domestic and overseas based players, five of whom survive from the USA’s previous attempt to qualify for the World Cup in 2007. Curtis Cunz, David Marando, Mark Cantoni, Matty Petersen and Ryan McGoldrick all turned out for the Tomahawks during their unsuccessful campaign to advance to the 2008 World Cup.
However, head coach Matt Elliott, who was in charge in 2007, is confident the 2011 vintage is good enough to get the job done.
“We feel like we’ve got a fairly potent team and stronger squad, certainly more so than when the Tomahawks last played against Canada in September,” he said.
“We have very little preparation time so we’re doing what we can with what we’ve got but I really feel that we’ll make the best of it.”
The USA team will be captained by Apple Pope, who will be leading the Tomahawks for the seventh straight time since making his debut as skipper against Canada in September 2010.
The Rhinos arrived in Philadelphia today from Toronto, where they had a tough hit out against the Canadian Wolverines and the squad was positive after their emphatic 36 - 22 win.
Coach Steven van Zyl said, "The team is very excited about being part of this tournament and expect another tough match against the Tomahawks. We are looking forward to some great league against the USA and Jamaica."
South African captain Andre Loader added, "The team is looking good, and getting their legs back after the long transit to get to Canada. It's a privilege to represent your country and every player will be bringing their best game come match day".
USA Tomahawks Squad:
Michael Garvey, Andrew Kneisly (Aston Bulls), David Marando (Belrose Eages), Curtis Cunz (Connecticut Wildcats), Mark Offerdahl (Easts Tigers), Mitchell Stevens (Gateshead Thunder), Joshua Rice (Hawaii Islanders), Apple Pope (Jacksonville), Nate Smith (Louisville), Sione Taufa (Maui Voyagers), Ian Elliott, Justin Ripley, Sean Taylor (NY Knights), Mark Cantoni (Northern Pride), Joseph Paulo (Parramatta Eels), Junior Paulo (Penrith Panthers), Stephen Howard (Tuggeranong Valley), Daniel Howard (Wentworthville Magpies), David Myles, Matt Petersen (unattached)
South African Rhinos Squad:
Henry du Toit, Stevie Meyer, Gerrie Slabber, Christoff Swanepoel (Bloemfontein Roosters, Orange Free State), Francois Greyvensteyn, Christo Joubert, Andre Loader, Andre Olwagen, Rudi Prinsloo (Brakpan Bears, Eastern Gauteng), Johan Fritz (Middelburg Tigers, Mpumalanga Province), Hans du Plessis, Riaan Engelbrecht, Deon Kraemer, Christo Louw, Sivive Mpondo, JP Nel, Pieter van der Nest, Marcelle Slabbert, Jonothan Soares, Rupert Wells (Tuks Bulls, Northern Gauteng)
RLWC - Atlantic Qualifiers Schedule - Philadelphia:
Game 1 - USA v South Africa (Saturday, October 15, 2011)
Game 2 - South Africa v Jamaica (Wednesday, October 19, 2011)
Game 3 - USA v Jamaica (Sunday, October 23, 2011)