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CHICAGO, IL. - New Head Coach Rob Cain has named his match-day 23 for the U.S. Women's National Team's highly anticipated return against first-ranked New Zealand as part of The Rugby Weekend this Saturday (Nov. 3) at Soldier Field, LIVE on FloRugby.
In Cain's first test match as Head Coach of the Women's Eagles, the USA will see up to 13 new players earn their first cap on home soil with six newcomers named to the starting XV and the rest ready to jump in as reserves.
The full match-day roster features a heavy representation of All-American athletes with eight players coming from the recent Collegiate All-American training camp and U20 Women's Tri-Nations Cup. This, coupled with the significant opportunities for new caps, serves as a prime representation of the program's emphasis on age-grade development to build depth in the lead-up to Women's Rugby World Cup 2021.
Alongside the new talent, eight of the named 23 players helped the United States to a fourth-place finish at Women's Rugby World Cup 2017, while two have worked diligently as part of the Women's Sevens residency program to return to the international stage.
"Really excited about this squad, lots of fresh energy," said Head Coach Rob Cain. "It was a little overwhelming for some in the first couple of days but the players have embedded in really well and are enjoying the full experience. I can't wait to watch them express themselves on the international stage for the first time."
The youngest player who will earn her first cap this weekend is 18-year old Emily Henrich who won Player of the Match honors for her heroics against Canada at the U20 Tri-Nations Cup.
Henrich is joined by 2018 Collegiate All-American camp attendees Azniv Nalbandian, Carly Waters, Gabriella Cantorna and Kaitlyn Broughton -- along with Oregon Sports Rugby's Rachel Johnson -- as new caps on the starting XV.
2018 Collegiate All-American camp attendees Joyce Taufa and Finau Tamaivena will look to earn their first caps as reserves. Tamaivena also competed at the U20 Women's Tri-Nations Cup with fellow reserve and new cap McKenzie Hawkins.
Kelsi Stockert and Meya Bizer will both make their own highly anticipated returns to 15s after spending time ingrained in the Women's Sevens Residency Program. Stockert last took the pitch with the Women's Eagles in November of 2016 while Bizer -- a 2018 Club Sevens National Champion -- last played during Women's Rugby World Cup 2014.
The talented collection of players will be guided by 2018 Women's Premier League Champion and Captain Kate Zackary, along with a group of returning Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 athletes. One of which is Women's Sevens' Jordan Gray who recently won a silver medal at the HSBC USA Women's Sevens 2018 in Glendale.
Zackary and Gray are both accompanied by Catherine Benson, Katy Augustyn, Stacey Bridges, Alycia Washington and Kimber Rozier as representative of the aforementioned World Cup 2017 team. Nick James is also a World Cup 2017 athlete who looks to jump in as a reserve.
The fifth-ranked U.S. Women's National Team will face World Cup Champion and first-ranked New Zealand Black Ferns at 12 PM on Saturday (Nov. 3) at Chicago's Soldier Field. With his squad named, Head Coach Rob Cain and the Women's Eagles are looking forward to the battle of the weekend.
"The Black Ferns are very talented rugby players with a lot of experience at the test level," said Head Coach Cain. "We've had to get through a lot of work this week and our players embrace that challenge. We're can't wait to see all our hard work come to light over the weekend."
The match will kickoff a three-game tripleheader which also features the U.S. Men's National Team against the Maori All Blacks and a game between Ireland and Italy. All three matches will be streamed LIVE on FloRugby with tickets still available at therugbyweekend.com.
Following Saturday's contest, the Women's Eagles will continue their November Internationals in Europe with test matches against England and Ireland. The Women's Selects will also face England "A" as part of the full November tour.
The match against England will be featured LIVE on FloRugby with broadcast information for the other two updated closer to date.
U.S. Women's National Team
1) Catherine Benson / Life West Gladiatrix / Prop / 14
2) Katy Augustyn / Berkeley All Blues / Hooker / 31
3) Azniv Nalbandian / Penn State / Prop / 0
4) Stacey Bridges / Beantown / Lock / 33
5) Alycia Washington / New York / Lock / 14
6) Rachel Johnson / ORSU / Flanker / 0
7) Kate Zackary / San Diego Surfers / Flanker / 6
8) Jordan Gray / 7s Eagles / No. 8 / 15
9) Carly Waters / New York / Scrumhalf / 0
10) Gabriella Cantorna / Glendale / Flyhalf / 0
11) Kaitlyn Broughton / Atlanta Harlequins / Wing / 0
12) Kimber Rozier / Beantown / Center / 28
13) Emily Henrich / Dartmouth / Center / 0
14) Kelsi Stockert / 7s Eagles / Wing / 5
15) Meya Bizer / 7s Eagles / Fullback / 16
16) Joyce Taufa / Lindenwood / Reserve / 0
17) Nick James / Houston / Reserve / 3
18) Megan Rom / Life / Reserve / 0
19) Finau Tamaivena / Seattle Saracens / Reserve / 0
20) McKenna Strong / Lindenwood / Reserve / 0
21) Nikki Kenyon / 7s Eagles / Reserve / 0
22) McKenzie Hawkins / Lindenwood / Reserve / 0
23) Evan Hoese / Berkeley All Blues / Reserve / 0
U.S. Women's National Team Staff
Head Coach | Rob Cain
Assistant Coach | Richard Ashfield
Assistant Coach | Kate Daley
Assistant Coach | Jamie Burke
Head of Physical Performance | Ian Jones
Head Performance Analyst | David Gardner
Assistant Performance Analyst | Craig Wilson (Chicago)
Head Athletic Trainer | Bri Sparks
Assistant Athletic Trainer | Katherine Henry
Technical Halfbacks Coach & Team Manager | Jenny Lui (Chicago)
U.S. Women's National Team Schedule | November Internationals 2018
The Rugby Weekend
vs New Zealand
Sat, Nov. 3 | 12 PM CT
Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois
Fri, Nov. 9 | 2:45 PM ET
Allianz Park, London, England
Sun, Nov. 18 | Time TBC
Energia Park, Dublin, Ireland