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USA Rugby announced the release of former captain Todd Clever from the Pacific Nations Cup team Sunday, citing multiple squad conduct violations. The move comes a day after the Eagles fell 21-16 to Samoa in the tournament opener at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif.
The violations were Clever's absence at two mandatory sessions in the lead-up to the Samoa game, one the morning of the match and the other earlier in the week. Clever attended the ESPYs in Los Angeles Wednesday, an off day for the Eagles. It's unclear if he made it back to the Bay Area for training the following morning.
"Such behavior is contrary to the team culture that players and management have been fostering within the Eagles over time,” USA head coach Mike Tolkin said in a statement posted by USA Rugby. “Clearly, this is not a pleasant or desirable circumstance for either party.”
Clever was not in the lineup for Saturday's game, the USA's first since Clever, who served as captain from 2008 until 2015, had the title stripped from him. Rumor has indiscipline being the reason for Clever losing the captaincy to begin with, but Tolkin said Clever had a clean slate heading into the PNC and this move was solely a reaction to his missing two trainings last week.
"It’s regrettable because I’ve known and had a relationship with Todd for a long time, and he represented the Eagles well, and the culture that we wanted to develop is that there has to be accountability," Tolkin told Rugby Today. "It’s just regrettable that it happened, but it has to be dealt with in the appropriate way."
The decision to release Clever was made before the Samoa clash, but Tolkin decided not to burden the team with a distraction heading into the match. In a pre-game Facebook post Saturday, Clever seemed displeased with having not been selected, even after missing a mandatory session before the squad was announced:
"Great to be back with the USA boys in my hometown (San Jose CA) We have a big game tomorrow vs Samoa. Sadly I won't be running onto the field tomorrow. #InTimeOut"
The move only releases Clever from the PNC squad. Tolkin said he would re-evaluate the situation after the tournament, when the Eagles have a slight break before reassembling for friendlies against Canada, Harlequins and Australia ahead of the World Cup.