The USA Hawks have named their squad for the forthcoming rugby league international against Canada.
The game, to be played in Tampa, Florida on Saturday, November 5th, will be the first outing for both teams since late 2019, just prior to the start of the global pandemic.
USA head coach Sean Rutgerson says the selection process for this matchup has been somewhat more difficult than usual because USA Rugby League (USARL) clubs in the North Conference have been in a state of flux during the last couple of domestic seasons. However, despite that, he says there are some players from the North in the squad.
“I wanted to be inclusive of the North, but they haven’t had too many games,” Rutgerson tells Rugby League Planet. “We’re trying to get back together, and we want everyone to be included.
“I’ve got a limited amount of footage, but most of the guys I’ve chosen have been there before and I know they can do the job.
“We’ve got a few debutants in our squad, but I also have some experienced guys there to lead them around the park, which I’m hoping will be the right mixture.”
Rutgerson says between now and game day, he will be discussing match strategies with his assistant coach David Ulch and team manager Billy Neilson, and he says they’ll also be looking ahead to next year’s qualifiers for the 2025 Rugby League World Cup in France.
“We can’t miss out again,” he adds. “We were bitterly disappointed to lose out to Jamaica and we’ve got to make amends for that. This is the start of that process and hopefully, we’ll get a few games in next year in the lead-up to the Americas Championship.”
As it has been three years since the US last played a game, Rutgerson has also picked a new captain. Jacksonville Axemen fullback David Washington will skipper the Hawks for the first time.
International Rugby League (IRL) chairman Tony Grant says the match comes after a governance review of the game in the USA.
“We are rebuilding the administration of the game in America with a view to make it stronger, so any international activity is welcome.
“The potential for the game in North America is enormous but largely untapped and we are hopeful that the new governance arrangements will unleash that potential for the future.
“The IRL welcomes the resumption of international rugby league in such a strategically important market for the game.
“The USA featured at the 2013 and 2017 World Cups and the international fixture against Canada Wolverines in Florida is an important step in preparing for the 2023 Americas Championship, which will be a qualifying tournament for the 2025 World Cup in France.”
USA Hawks squad:
1 David Washington (Capt) 2 James Williams 3 Cody Blackwell 4 Ryan Burroughs 5 Kevin Reed Jr 6 Peter Lupton 7 Mason McCrory 8 Justin Williams 9 Bart Longchamp 10 Justin Branca 11 Gunnar Johnson 12 Malcolm Webb 13 Andrew Zuluaga
Interchange: 14 Sean Hunt 15 Rashad Shelton 16 Vashon Marrs 17 Terrance James 18 Claudius Pubien 19 D’Montae Noble