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PRESS RELEASE

The USA Women's Eagles coaching staff has identified 44 athletes for its Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 player pool.

Head Coach Pete Steinberg has used the shortened "quadrennial" between the 2014 World Cup in France and thi August's tournament in Ireland to build a squad that is both young and experienced, awarding more than a dozen new caps in that timeframe in just eight international test matches. The final World Cup squad of 27 players will be finalized following a two-match international test series this spring along with several domestic competitions.

"As a program over the past five or six years, we've really tried to push international competitions because we don't play enough," Steinberg said. "We don't have an international calendar that gives us five or six games a year, so we basically blooded a bunch of new caps in 2015 - players that now have seven or eight or nine test matches under their belts.

"We've realized, for us to be able to compete, we need to really improve our skills. Our focus isn't going to be as much about playing games as it is to put as many people as possible in a full-time training environment to enhance our skill development."

Ten current Women's Eagles Sevens pool players training full-time at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center - including four Olympians and two reserves of Team USA's Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games team - have been included in the greater list, and will eventually be joined by others in southern California as the year progresses. Sevens Head Coach Richie Walker has also been named as backs coach for the World Cup team.

"The residency program is an integrated program; we have a couple of XVs training sessions each week and all of the sevens athletes participate in those," Steinberg said. "All of our identified pool players in San Diego train a few times a week there to prepare. Our goal is to create a virtual-like Training Center for those that aren't in the area until we can assemble."

Five capped Eagles with 2016 Women's Premier League Champions San Diego Surfers are among that group of local athletes, while a further 10 players that competed in the WPL last year have been named in the pool. Four collegiate student-athletes, two of which have been capped at the senior level in either XVs or sevens, and 13 domestic-based club or National Development Academy players earned consideration for the eighth World Cup with their commitment to the national teams and performances at the National All-Star Competitions.

While there are 10 uncapped players in the pool, there are 10 World Cup veterans, as well. U.S. captain in Paris in 2014, Kate Daley is one of seven returners from the team that finished sixth. Phaidra Knight is the most-capped Eagle in the pool with 34 international appearances, followed by fellow 2010 World Cup selections Stacey Bridges (27) and Kristin Zdanczewicz (31). Olympic captain Kelly Griffin has not yet been capped in XVs, but is the U.S.'s most experienced sevens player.

"We recognize the World Cup is a different experience," Steinberg said. "It's a month; the longest trip we ever take in a quadrennial. It's high-pressure, and experience is important. We have a young team, the sevens team is young, and this is an exciting time for USA Rugby.

"None of these players received invitations because of their experience, but because they demonstrated at the NASC to be one of the best players in their positions. However, it is nice to have some experience that can have a calm head when, all around them, things are going crazy."

Seventeen athletes will be younger than 26 years of age by the time the World Cup kicks off in Dublin, with an average age of 27 for the greater pool. Seven of those - and a total of 23 athletes - played in one or both of the Women's Rugby Super Series events in Alberta (2015) and Salt Lake City (2016), where the Eagles played teams ranked Nos. 1 through 4 in the world.

Sixteen members of the November Tour to France had played in the Super Series, showcasing the continuity through the short break between World Cups the Eagles have instituted. The NASC has also allowed for national team staff through the age-grade programs to the senior teams to test a high number of athletes in a high-pressure environment, ensuring performances more closely reflect expectations on the international stage.

"What I've been really happy about that's happened this cycle and that gives me most confidence is the fact our NASCs have allowed us to actually select the best players that have competed," Steinberg said. "I'm confident all of the players we've selected have demonstrated not only the ability, but the commitment to play at a high level."

Players currently recovering from injury may be added to the Women's Eagles Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 player pool if/when they become available. More information regarding the Eagles' 2017 competition calendar will be announced at a later date.

            Player                                                              Team                                                              

  1. Baylee Annis                                                 Seattle Saracens
  2. Kathryn Augustyn                                          All Blue
  3. Catherine Benson                                           Life West
  4. Sylvia Braaten                                                Twin City Amazons
  5. Stacey Bridges                                               Twin City Amazons
  6. Nicole Burr                                                    Augusta Women
  7. Kayla Cannett                                                   Penn State
  8. Ryan Carlyle                                                  USA 7s
  9. Sarah Chobot                                                 Glendale Raptors
  10. Kate Daley                                                     NYRFC
  11. Cheta Emba                                                    USA 7s
  12. Joanne Fa'avesi                                              USA 7s
  13. Tiffany Faaee                                                 NYRFC
  14. Tess Feury                                                     Penn State
  15. Megan Foster                                                 Life West
  16. Jordan Gray                                                   Life West
  17. Hunter Griendling                                          SD Surfers
  18. Kelly Griffin                                                   USA 7s
  19. Abby Gustaitis                                              Northern Virginia
  20. Nicole Heavirland                                       USA 7s
  21. Alev Kelter                                                    USA 7s
  22. Molly Kinsella                                               SD Surfers
  23. Joanne Kitlinski                                             Glendale Raptors
  24. Phaidra Knight                                               NYRFC
  25. Bolou Mataitiga                                             USA 7s
  26. Samantha Pankey                                           SD Surfers
  27. Sara Parsons                                                   Northern Virginia
  28. Annnakaren Pedraza                                      Lindenwood U.
  29. Ashley Perry                                                 American Rugby Pro Training Ctr.
  30. Christine Pheil                                               Chicago North Shore
  31. Naima Reddick                                               Seattle Saracens
  32. Jamila Reinhardt                                           SD Surfers
  33. Hope Rogers                                                  SD Surfers
  34. Kimber Rozier                                               Scion Sirens
  35. Nicole Snyder                                                Bloomsburg U.
  36. Kristine Sommer                                            Seattle Saracens
  37. Kelsi Stockert                                                  USA 7s
  38. Nicole Strasko                                                USA 7s
  39. Naya Tapper                                                  USA 7s
  40. Kristen Thomas                                             USA 7s
  41. Alycia Washington                                        NYRFC
  42. Jess Wooden                                                  Aylesford RFC
  43. Kate Zackary                                                 SD Surfers
  44. Kristin Zdanczewicz                                     Minnesota Valkyries

Coaching Staff

Pete Steinberg - Head Coach

Roshna Wunderlich - Manager

Richard Ashfield - Assistant Coach

Peter Baggetta - Associate Head Coach

Liz Kirk - Assistant Coach

Richie Walker - Assistant Coach