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Thread: USA Key Players

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    Veteran Contributor LarryNJ's Avatar
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    USA Key Players

    Copied from: Laura Stevenson, PA Sport

    The United States head to France for their fifth World Cup campaign with much riding on the performances of their handful of professional players.

    Peter Thorburn's squad, comprised largely of home-based amateur college players, find themselves in a daunting Pool A alongside heavyweights England and South Africa.

    The Americans qualified for the showpiece event by beating Uruguay home and away last year, ensuring their place in France at the second attempt after having originally missed out to Canada in an earlier round of the Americas qualifying tournament.

    It will be the Eagles' fifth appearance at a World Cup, with their previous best performances having come in 1987 and 2003 when they clinched one win at the group stages.

    With pool matches against two of the last three victors - defending champions England and 1995 winners South Africa - and physical if less sophisticated battles against Tonga and Samoa also scheduled, the Americans have their work cut out to add to that win tally.

    Certain players will be key to them equalling or bettering their previous World Cup best.

    Chief among them is captain and all-time leading points-scorer Mike Hercus, the man leading the charge to put United States rugby on the map.

    Born in Virginia to Australian parents, Hercus represented the Wallabies at under-21 level before being handed the opportunity to gain full international honours with the US. The 28-year-old fly-half, who made his debut against Scotland in 2002, will have first-hand knowledge of some of the opponents he will come up against in France from his club experience in the UK. After brief stints with Sale Sharks - where he was understudy to England's Charlie Hodgson - and Newport Gwent Dragons, Hercus returned to California to join former club Belmont Shore earlier this year. He pulled out of the Churchill Cup after undergoing groin surgery.

    Having switched to rugby after a college career in gridiron and wrestling, Newport Gwent Dragons centre Paul Emerick also cuts an imposing figure. He has established himself as a key figure in Thorburn's back-line and boasts a wealth of big-game experience. A versatile player who can do a job at centre, wing or full-back, Emerick made his full bow against Spain in 2003. He is one of just seven full-time players available to the Eagles, joining Celtic League side the Dragons in 2006 following a successful spell with Italian outfit Overmach Parma. The 27-year-old believes the lack of a professional league has left the USA trailing their Test rivals, but is nevertheless relishing his role as one of the country's senior players.

    Waterloo scrum-half Chad Erskine has been thrust onto the international scene and will be looking to cap his rise by making a name for himself in France.

    The 27-year-old made his USA debut against North American rivals Canada in August 2006.

    The Durban-born number nine, who began playing rugby at the age of six, has represented South Africa at polo and will no doubt relish the opportunity to test himself against the fearsome Springboks in Montpellier on September 30.

    Thorburn is looking to his forwards to make the difference this autumn, with Mike MacDonald sure to figure prominently in his plans.

    An instrumental figure in Leeds Tykes' immediate return to the English Premiership after joining the club from Worcester last year. The 26-year-old has collected over 40 caps since making his debut against Fiji seven years ago.

    A dangerous proposition with ball in hand, the 240lb prop is able to play on either side of the front row. Another player with a background in wrestling and gridiron, Berkeley-born MacDonald began playing rugby at high school in 1997. He went on to win four national championships with the University of California, and was named in the All-American XV - a team made up of the nation's best collegiate players - every year from 2000 to 2004.Veteran lock Luke Gross brings vital experience to the United States set-up, with over 60 caps to his credit since making his bow against Ireland in 1995.



    The 37-year-old was the first American to reach a half-century of caps and now holds the all-time record for international appearances.



    A powerful force with a 6ft 9in, 276lb frame, Gross is sure to be a crucial cog in the US wheel at the line-out.



    The Indiana-born second-rower, now at Rotherham, has played in the UK for several years and counts Llanelli Scarlets and Newcastle among his former clubs. Like Hercus, Gross has undergone surgery recently with the demands of full-time rugby having taken their toll.



    Gross admits his most embarrassing moment in the sport was emerging from a maul to score what he thought was a try... on the 22-metre line.

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    Champion Skiza's Avatar
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    Thanks for the update Larry, thats a pretty funny embarrassing moment for Gross!!

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    Senior Player Contributor hopep's Avatar
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    Thanks Larry,
    Hes a big bloke, 2.3 metres and 125kg.
    the Eagles seem to have a lot more talent than in previous WC outings.
    Should be interesting to see them against the Poms & Boks

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    Legend Contributor Thequeerone's Avatar
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    Didn't the Eagles win a gold or something in 1924

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    61 years between Grand Slams Was the wait worth it - Ya betta baby

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    Immortal Contributor The InnFORCEr's Avatar
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    correct

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    Veteran Contributor LarryNJ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thequeerone
    Didn't the Eagles win a gold or something in 1924
    They are the only team to win 2, yes 2 gold medals!

    The real question is when will they next win 2 games?

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