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The United States Men's National Team faces an old foe Saturday in Romania. The Eagles boast a 6-2 all-time record over the Oaks, with the rivalry dating back to 1919. At the 1924 Olympics in Colombes, France, the USA defeated Romania 37-0 en route to winning gold.
The last meeting went Romania's way, 23-10, back in 2016. Saturday marks the fourth-straight time the Eagles have played Romania in Bucharest. Only six of Saturday's Eagles played in that 2016 loss.
The Eagles enter the contest a perfect 9-0 in rankings tests this year. However, they've stood pat at No. 15 in World Rugby's rankings. That list is compiled objectively by mathematical equation. The USA trails No. 14 Georgia by just five-hundredths-of-a-rankings-point following the Lelos' loss to Italy. Georgia hosts Samoa in Tblisi Saturday. If the day's results break for the USA, they could finally move up.
Head coach Gary Gold has made two changes to the starting lineup from the 30-29 win over Samoa Saturday in Spain. John Quill starts at blindside, bumping Hanco Germishuys to the bench. Marcel Brache is healthy, suiting up at fullback, which slides captain Blaine Scully back to his preferred perch on the wing and Gannon Moore to the bench. Brache last suited up in the USA's 42-17 defeat of Canada in June.
Quill was supposed to start against Samoa but was pulled last-minute for injury. He'll earn his 27th cap and 18th start Saturday. Brache has played all over the backline for the Eagles, from center to fullback. He's spent most of his career in the back three and brings Super Rugby experience to the table. Both moves should be looked at as strengthening.
18-year-old David Ainuu and Moore earned their first caps last week, so just one debutant remains in the team, scrumhalf Nick Boyer. The former Cal Bear and current member of the San Diego Legion was flown in after Shaun Davies suffered a concussion against the Maori All Blacks. He replaces Devereaux Ferris, who came off the bench in the win against Samoa after flying in late, too.
This is one of the strongest teams Gold has named in his short time with the USA, despite the frontline halfbacks being out with injury and the missing Samu Manoa. There are 58 more caps in the starting lineup for Romania than there were for Samoa and 63 more than for the Maori.
Romania's lineup is polarized. Scrumhalf Florin Surugiu has 71 caps, so does hooker Andrei Radoi, and outside center Catalin Fercu has 104. In contrast, one wing, the fullback and the flyhalf all have just one cap each. Take 32-cap openside Johan Van Heerden out, and the starting second and back rows average five caps each.
Romania's lone test this fall was a 36-6 defeat of Portugal Saturday. However, Romania A, fielding 18 of the players tapped to play the Eagles Saturday, beat Kenya Nov. 3. So the Oaks are riding a pair of wins into the contest. However, the Oaks are rolling out five new starting forwards from the Portugal win. Romania's entire starting front row and both flankers came off the bench last week
The Oaks are also riding an emotional and controversial wave having been disqualified from next year's Rugby World Cup for fielding an ineligible player. Russia tipped World Rugby off to Romania, Spain and Belgium using players who'd already been capped for other nations or who never qualified to begin with. Romania's sin was fielding Sione Faka'osilea, who'd already played 7s for Tonga, disqualifying him for Romania.
Prior to that, Romania was the subject of scrutiny when a Romanian referee crew oversaw Belgium's upset of Spain in Rugby World Cup qualifying. The match fell under the jurisdiction of Rugby Europe, whose president was Romanian, and the result meant Romania, not Spain, would qualify for the World Cup. The game was ordered to be replayed, but the eligibility violations eventually disqualified all three nations from the World Cup, making way for whistleblower Russia.
U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM STAFF
Position / Name / Club / Caps
1) Titi Lamositele / Saracens (ENG) / 24
2) Joe Taufete'e / Worcester (ENG) / 17
3) Paul Mullen / Newcastle (ENG) / 4
4) Greg Peterson / Glasgow (SCO) / 18
5) Nick Civetta / Doncaster (ENG) / 16
6) John Quill / Glendale / 27
7) Tony Lamborn / Rugby Southland (NZ) / 17
8) Cam Dolan / NOLA / 38
9) Ruben De Haas / Cheetahs (RSA) / 5
10) Will Hooley / Bedford (ENG) / 5
11) Ryan Matyas / San Diego / 11
12) Paul Lasike / Harlequins (ENG) / 7
13) Bryce Campbell / London Irish / 19
14) Blaine Scully / Cardiff (WAL) / 41
15) Marcel Brache / Western Force (AUS) / 10
16) Dylan Fawsitt / RUNY / 5
17) David Ainuu / Toulouse / 1
18) Dino Waldren / London Scottish / 13
19) Tevita Tameilau / Glasgow (SCO) / 10
20) Hanco Germishuys / unattached / 9
21) Nick Boyer / San Diego / 0
22) Will Magie / Glendale / 17
23) Gannon Moore* / North Harbour (NZ) / 1
U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM STAFF
Head Coach | Gary Gold
Assistant Coach | Shawn Pittman
Assistant Coach | Greg McWilliams
Strength & Conditioning Coach | Huw Bevan
Performance Analyst | Jimmy Harrison
Head Athletic Trainer | Kevin Ng
Assistant Athletic Trainer | Kristen Douhan
Team Doctor | Matthew Schmitz (Samoa)
Team Doctor | Richard Kim (Romania & Ireland)
Massage Therapist | Daliah Hurwitz (Samoa, Romania & Ireland)
Team Manager | Chris Hanson
Assistant Team Manager | Kevin McCorry
U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM SCHEDULE
vs Maori All Blacks | 22-59 (L)
vs Samoa | 30-29 (W)
Sat, Nov. 17 | 7 AM ET
Ghencea Stadium, Bucharest, ROU
Sat, Nov. 24 | 1:30 PM ET
Aviva Stadium, Dublin, IRE