The American National Rugby League has named an extended 22-man squad for the opening game of the Colonial Cup series against Canada.
The USA Tomahawks will host the Wolverines in Game 1 on Saturday, August 27 in Philadelphia.
The 22-man squad will assemble this week and will be trimmed to a final 17-man game day roster to play against the Canadians.
Selectors have opted for a squad comprised of domestic-based players. The AMNRL’s Atlantic Conference provides the bulk of the squad with 17; four come from the expansion Pacific Conference, while one is from the Southeast region.
Included among the 22 are eight from the AMNRL champion New York Knights. Apple Pope again has been named captain and will lead the USA for the fifth straight time. Pope made his debut as Tomahawks skipper against Canada in last year’s inaugural Colonial Cup match.
“We are working through a selection process toward the Rugby League World Cup Qualifiers in October,” said AMNRL president and stand-in US coach David Niu.
“This first home international is an opportunity to develop some basic team systems and familiarize everyone with the team culture. The coaching staff wants to implement team systems with a larger group as we develop selections for the RLWCQ. This assembly will be the first phase of this process.”
Saturday’s game will be played at Charles Martin Memorial Stadium in Philadelphia with the return leg of this year’s series to be held in Toronto on September 18.
USA TOMAHAWKS SQUAD FOR COLONIAL CUP GAME 1:
Todays release of the Tomahawks squad provides some interesting food for thought and I would say a very controversial selections. David Niu and the AMNRL selection committee have done a full sweep out of the Tomahawks team that saw them lose heavily to Ireland in March. Only 8 players survive from that team. Lets break down the squad announced today and see where things are:
The controversial standout is Apple Pope. having been forced to sit out this season from the Axemen, he was meant to play for the Vipers, or as some in the AMNRL ranks have dubbed them, the vapours. I do know that the Vipers offered to fly Apple up. I have been told that when he asked them to book the tickets and hotels nothing came of it. So Apple, wanting to keep his spot in the Tomahawks decided to sit the Axemen season out since they switched to the USARL, he had the support of the Axemen in this decision. At least he has now been awarded two internationals for his loyalty, but with out the rigours of weekly match experience how will apple be on the field? In the Donnybrook Cup it was clear that he (and the rest of the team) were a bit rusty, but I worry that having not played any matches he will still be rusty. Its nice to see that David Niu and the AMNRL have kept the faith and been loyal to him and selected him. Apple by far is one of the most recognisable names and faces in Rugby League here in America, of either of the competitions.
As expected, New York make up the majority of players, this should not be a surprise, they have been one of the, if not THE, dominant team of the AMNRL season and also winning on Friday its only fit that they dominate the Tomahawks ranks. What is a massive shock, that the other team that dominated the competition, the Connecticut Wildcats only have two selection. A wise man once said “WHAT THE?!” How does that work?
Then you have the Bulls, the team that came last in the competition, that had a 28% success rate gets 6 selections in the team. I try to stay out of the politics of team selections and all that where I can, but I think here I need to say something, this decision seems to be one for the mates. The Bucks county Sharks don’t even get one representative in the team?! They were the third best team in the competition, only just behind the Wildcats surely someone in that team did enough to deserve a spot? If the Raiders were able to get a representative in there then surely the Sharks should have had one, if not two.
Hawaii and Maui are the tough ones, not knowing much about what was happening over in the Hawaiian Conference and the players abilities, its hard to gauge how good they are and if they deserve the spots. Hopefully they will do OK and prove their selection to be fruitful.
Here is the 17 man team that took to the field in March. The surviving players and their teams have been highlighted in red. The team in March lost heavily, and having just seen the Canadians in action this latest Tomahawks team will really need to step it up if they want to compete. the Canadians are big, strong and extremely well drilled. They have had one full international, a full season and regular weekly training sessions for over two months to prepare for this and I know they are out for revenge on last years loses.
Apple Pope (Capt.) (“Florida”), Calder Orr, Xavier Lozinguez (New York Knights), Kelly McGill (Maui), Conway Maraki, Andrew Kneisly (Aston Bulls), Mike Cartwright, Mike Tuala, Salesi Tongamoa (Connecticut), Sione Taufa, Mike Brazill, Curtis Cunz, Andrew Malafu, Nate Smith, Charles Cortalano (New York Knights), Sean Taylor (New York knights), Gareth Baxendale (New York Knights)
This game is a tough one to pick. Both my head and heart are confused. The Canadians are very good, they have improved 100% from last year, but despite the loss against Ireland, the USA should never be counted out. It is also a home ground advantage for them which should give them a slight edge. It will be a very close tussle and I suspect it will be either a draw or a win to the USA by a very small margin. If Canada win, however, I will not be surprised either as they have improved by leaps and bounds. Jamie has done a phenomenal job getting that team ready.
Also remember that I am keeping track of an unofficial “Atlantic Championships” since all 4 Atlantic region teams are playing each other this year, I figured it would be great to keep track and see where they all end up. Just a bit of fun.
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