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World Rugby has always staged age grade U-19 (now U-20) international championships to give younger players an opportunity to travel and to compete against other nations with players of the same age. In March 2002, the USA U-19 XV visited Italy for the Group B Junior World Championships.
The team would go 2-2 with close wins over Holland and Ukraine, and losses to Canada (semi-finals), and, finally, to Spain for third place.
Of historic note, these matches marked the initial international debuts of Todd Clever and Mike Petri, both of whom would go on to play Tests for the Eagles and compete in Rugby World Cups.
The USA opened with a narrow victory against Holland 18-17 in the town of Cordenons, fifty-five miles northwest of Trieste. The Eagles were up 15-7 at the break with the Dutch staging a second half comeback, scoring a try in injury time to make it a one point game. The conversion failed and the USA had an opening win. Clever scored twice.
At Fontanafredda in the second match, the USA scored within 30-seconds on a nifty 40-meter run by Dominic Mara to go up 7-0. The Eagles forged ahead 17-0 before the Ukrainians made it 17-8. The opponents closed to within 27-23 (result) and the match ended.
In the third match at Montereale, the Canadians dashed any USA hopes for a title, routing the Eagles 44-6, scoring five tries.
In the team's final game, Spain prevailed 22-17 after stopping a spirited second half comeback by the Eagles. Fittingly, Clever scored the last US try of the tournament.
In the Group A pool of this Italian event, New Zealand went 4-0 to winning their third, top tier Junior Championship title in four years. The junior All Blacks dominated all opposition (Korea, Italy, South Africa and France), scoring 275 points versus a mere 35 against.