Eagles back at full strength to face Azzurri
NELSON, 25 Sept. - USA coach Eddie O’Sullivan has put the final piece of his rest-and-rotation policy into place by naming his strongest team to play Italy at Trafalgar Park on Tuesday.
After resting the core of his side against Australia on Friday, O’Sullivan has made 14 changes to return to the same 22 that defeated Russia 13-6 earlier in the pool stage.
Todd Clever has reclaimed the captaincy while prop Mike MacDonald will set a new Eagles record by appearing in his 11th Rugby World Cup match.
Second row Hayden Smith is the sole player to retain his place in the side and has been the only player to start every match for the USA at RWC 2011.
O’Sullivan said his decision to play a weaker line-up against Australia was necessary to ensure his team achieved the results they wanted in their other three matches.
“We knew coming into the World Cup with our schedule that we had to target particular games,” he said.
“So we picked the Russia game as the one to win, Italy as another one to target and we rolled the dice against Ireland given the occasion.”
O’Sullivan believes his player management strategy will be justified if USA put in a proud performance against the Azzurri to finish their RWC 2011 campaign on a high.
"I'm not saying we'll beat Italy. That would be an arrogant thing to say, but I think we can test Italy and see what they've got,” he said.
"We know we're on the flight home on Wednesday morning, so if we can turn in another big performance against a tier-one nation, as we did against Ireland, that'd be a perfect way for us to finish our World Cup.”