AIG MJAAs selected for U20 Trophy qualifiers against Canada

LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Head Coach JD Stephenson has selected a 28-player squad for the AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans‘ World Rugby U20 Trophy qualifier series against Canada set for the third week of June.

Five D1A Rugby National Championship finalists – from Life University and Champion Saint Mary’s College – in addition to varsity athletes from University of California, Berkeley, and Central Washington University and capped Men’s Eagles studying at Lindenwood University, make up the under-20 national team assembly. The MJAAs will meet in Edmonton Tuesday, June 6, before match days Tuesday, June 13, and Saturday, June 17, at Ellerslie Rugby Park.

There will be no charged admission for the first match in Edmonton, but fans planning to attend the qualifier finale must purchase tickets for Canada’s senior national team’s international test against Romania. Those tickets can be purchased here, with Rugby Canada’s planned live stream information for both matches to be announced at a later date.

“The coaching staff is very excited to work with the players that have been selected for the squad,” Stephenson said. “There is a good mix of players from various backgrounds that we feel can be competitive and, more importantly, proudly represent the All-American crest and USA Rugby.”

Five players, including Eagle Lorenzo Thomas, from last year’s MJAA team that finished fifth at the U20 Trophy in Zimbabwe remain eligible for under-20 selection and have been named to the summer’s aggregate qualifier series assembly. Malon Al-Jiboori, selected to represent the U.S. on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series this year, and Deion Mikesell are also back with the team having helped the MJAAs qualify for the U20 Trophy in 2016.

U20 Trophy veteran Ruben de Haas is one of seven selections to have suited up for the one-time MJAA developmental team earlier this year. Quinn Perry and Bailey Wilson were also members of the under-19 squad that split results against its Canadian counterpart, while both went on to lead the Boys High School All-Americans in this spring’s Rugby Europe Men’s Under 18 European Championships. Wilson captained the under-18s in France.

Of the 19 student-athletes competing at the collegiate level, 15 of those selected play for D1A Rugby schools, among them University of Colorado, Boulder, Pennsylvania State University, San Diego State University, and St. Bonaventure University. Christian Dyer and Jack Iscaro represented their country internationally with the BHSAAs prior to attending Berkeley, as well, while Central Washington’s Deven Marshall and Brian Nault are also no strangers to age-grade national teams.

Stephenson and his staff, including former All-American Colton Cariaga and Strength and Conditioning Coach Justin Goonan, and each of the age-grade programs have worked hand-in-hand with Eagles Head Coach John Mitchell and Co. to ensure player development in the High Performance pathway jibes with the goals of the senior side. From the sharing of player data at the winter’s assessment camps to discussions around game plans stemming from the U.S.’s Americas Rugby Championship triumph, the MJAAs will more closely resemble the Eagles than in competitions past.

“We have been fortunate to integrate with our men’s National Team in terms of structure, terminology, and process, which will look to allow for continuity for those players who are fortunate enough to progress into the Eagles,” Stephenson said. “However, within this framework, we hope to have a distinct style of play that allows for our players to have a different and unique experience with the honor of representing their country.”

The extended assembly in Edmonton has been made possible by donations from Adopt a Young Eagle initiative, giving players and staff invaluable time together to prepare for their first competition of the year. The winner of the two-match qualifier series – based on a combined score line – will represent the Americas in the World Rugby U20 Trophy in Montevideo, Uruguay, Aug. 29 to Sept. 10.

“The generosity that has been shown by key individuals allowing for the funding of our camp and matches in Edmonton has been extremely humbling and I can’t thank these unsung heroes enough,” Stephenson said.

Streams for both matches have been confirmed by Rugby Canada, with the final details for viewers to be announced at a later date. Tickets for the June 17 match can be purchased via Rugby Canada’s events website.

AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans | World Rugby U20 Trophy qualifiers

Malon Al-Jiboori – Men’s Eagles Sevens

Tommy Clark – American International College

Jordan Crofts – Pennsylvania State University

Ruben De Haas – Little Rock Rugby Club

Christian Dyer – University of California, Berkeley

Peter Howard – Naas RFC (IRL)

Jack Iscaro – University of California, Berkeley

Justin Johnson – Life University

Jacob Jorstad – San Diego State University

Martin Keuchkerian – Mystic River Rugby Club

Nafitalai Maafu – Tempe Old Devils

Deven Marshall – Central Washington University

Aaron Matthews – Saint Mary’s College

Deion Mikesell – Lindenwood University

Jack Miller – University of Colorado

Brian Nault – Central Washington University

Noah Niumataiwalu – Saint Joseph’s University

Quinn Perry – Santa Monica Dolphins

Cristian Rodriguez – Lindenwood University

Josh Schnell – Katy Barbarians

Payton Telea – Saint Mary’s College

Lorenzo Thomas – Lindenwood University

Daemon Torres – Life University

Samuel Walsh – Scots College (NZL)

Chance Wenglewski – Lindenwood University

Harley Wheeler – Life University

Jaret Williamson – St. Bonaventure University

Bailey Wilson – United Varsity Rugby

AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans | Coaching Staff

JD Stephenson – Head Coach

Rob Randell – Assistant Coach

Colton Cariaga – Assistant Coach

Chris Oosthuizen – Assistant Coach

Justin Goonan – Strength and Conditioning Coach

Jimmy Harrison – Analyst

Alan Wallace – Physiotherapist

Mike Elam – Manager

AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans | World Rugby U20 Trophy qualifiers

v. Canada – Tuesday, June 13 @ 9 p.m. ET – Ellerslie Rugby Park (Edmonton, Alberta)

v. Canada – Saturday, June 17 @ 2 p.m. ET – Ellerslie Rugby Park (Edmonton, Alberta)