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Former Eagle Andre Bachelet will scrumhalf for Glendale. Clifton photo

Taylor Howden with Belmont at Club 7s Nats Sunday. Dobson Images

Dewon Reed running over Boston Irish Wolfhound at Nationals

Tonight, the USA Select Side takes on the Glendale Raptors at Infinity Park. The game is significant for many reasons.

The obvious one is it gives those on the fringe of the 35-man pool from which the World Cup roster will be selected a chance to prove their worth. It’s a chance for guys like Cam Dolan, Zack Test and Pat Danahy to make their case for the World Cup.

For the opposition, the game is a chance to prove they should have garnered more consideration for the World Cup themselves.  

“It’s going to be such a funny situation to be in, because they’re looking to earn a spot, and there’s a handful of guys that are going to get to suit up for Glendale tonight that are all trying to prove the same thing,” said Glendale No. 8 Ryan Chapman.

“There’s a couple of us trying to prove that we should have gotten a little better look, and a couple of them that they should be on that World Cup squad, so pretty excited for the opportunity. It should be a pretty fun test match, I think.”

Chapman, along with Alec Parker, who will be starting at lock for Glendale, was part of the Eagles’ last pre-World Cup haircut, which trimmed their player pool from 50 to 36.

“Coming out of camp, I never really got any feedback on what they thought of me and what I needed to work on, but I knew I was valuable because I filled several different positions,” he said.

“The only thing I am out to prove is that not only am I good enough to play against these guys, but play really well.”

Along with Chapman and Parker, there are several Raptors who would like to make a statement against the USA Selects, chief among them being Ata Malifa, twin brother of Eagle flyhalf Nese Malifa.

He’s played for the Eagles in the past, as have locks Casey Rock and Hayden Mexted.  

“I think this will be a much more competitive match than people are (thinking), especially after the validity of our team run last night,” said Chapman.

“I think it will be an interesting game, especially with that matchup at 10 (Maximo DeAchaval for Glendale vs. Roland Suniula for the Selects), Ata in the centers, Dewon Reed has a little bit to prove, having been in the 7s player pool for a while, so there are guys out to make a statement, and I think it’s going to be good.”  

Another reason the match is interesting is it features a National Team, albeit not the full-blown Eagles, playing an American club side, not a territorial all-star team or a select side of any kind, but a club side.

“For us, for our club, it’s a huge honor to be able to play any National Team, let alone the US National Team, and for our city and the people in our town that support rugby, I think this is a huge compliment to them,” said Glendale Director of Rugby Mark Bullock.

“From the city’s standpoint, it’s a great honor. We’re ecstatic about the opportunity to play, and the players are pretty fired up. I think they feel real good about playing the US team and providing hopefully some good competition.”

All but a few of Glendale’s 22 will be guys who played with them in the fall, spring or summer. Others, like DeAchaval, Howden and Chapman, played elsewhere. The former two played for the Denver Barbarians’ Super League side in the spring, and the latter for the Utah Warriors. But Chapman and Howden are Glendale alums, having played for the Raptors in the past.

“I was always real critical of people who jumped around from club to club, because I got to Glendale right after college, before we even had a stadium,” said Chapman, “so I take a lot, a lot of pride in wearing the 50-premier-match blazer and stuff like that and being a Glendale Raptor for life.”

Bullock says that despite his team being the underdog, Glendale is out to play at a high level, and ultimately, win.

"Every time we go on the field, our goal and expectation is to play our very best and come out victorious, but the real bottom line always is to perform the very best we can, and then the final results are going to be determined by how we control ourselves and how the other team plays. We can play our best game, and the other team can play their best game and they beat us, I mean that’s how it is," said Bullock.

"We had actually a really sharp training session last night, and hopefully we can carry over to tonight’s match."

The game kicks off 7pm local time and will not be webcast.