New USA coach Sean Rutgerson has named his squad for the 2018 Americas Championship, which will also act as a qualifier for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England.
The University of North Florida, Jacksonville, will host two double-header rounds on 13th and 17th November 2018, and in the opening fixtures the hosts meet newcomers Chile, the winners facing either Jamaica or Canada.
The qualifiers return to Jacksonville, Florida, where they were last held in 2015. Prior to that, the USA was also victorious when the RLWCQ were staged in Philadelphia in 2011.
USARL chairman Peter Illfield commented: “It is absolutely a feather in our cap and will give us a very good start. Coach Rutgerson coaches in Jacksonville and the guys are familiar with playing these qualifiers there. We need to keep that in perspective and not lose focus on the games themselves.”
The core of the squad are retained from the 2017 World Cup campaign, during which Rutergon was assistant to Brian McDermott, and an extended number of domestic players were used.
Super League players Bureta Faraimo and Junior Vai Vai are both included along with brothers Eddie and Sonny Pettybourne, who are also selected together for the first time.
One of the veterans is Andrew Kneisly, who got his first call-up to the national team for the original Colonial Cup series against Canada in 2010.
The Philadelphia Fight forward has been a regular ever since and enters his third World Cup qualifying series.
“I think I’m a much more knowledgeable player and athlete now. I know how to prepare myself better and have an understanding of how working as a team is important,” he said.
“Overall, having a strong train-on squad, we’ll be prepared, Everyone’s enthusiastic to give their best and make sure that we get the results we’re looking for.”
The squad features several new faces including David Washington. The prolific young winger had a stellar domestic season with national champions Jacksonville Axemen, in just his third year of rugby league.
Washington noted: “To be selected for the train-on squad is fantastic and amazing. After the last two All-Star matches, the talent on the squad is top tier, so I’ve got to keep myself at that level.
“Whoever we’re going to play are powerhouses, so we’ll need to come together and work as a team.”
USA 30-MAN TRAIN-ON SQUAD : Sean Hunt, Nick Newlin (Atlanta Rhinos), Ryan Burroughs (Barrow Raiders), Mike Elias (Boston 13s), Brandon Anderson, Rafeal Mendez, Jay Robinson, Dane Wilcoxen (Brooklyn Kings), Jerome Veve (Burleigh Bears), Joel Luani (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Chris Wiggins (Delaware Black Foxes), Bureta Faraimo (Hull FC), Junior Vai Vai (Hull KR), Kyle Grinold, David Washington (Jacksonville Axemen), Joe Eichner (Junee Diesels), Chris Frazier (NOVA Eagles), Kyle Denham, Andrew Kneisly (Philadelphia Fight), Cory Makelim, Mark Offerdahl (Sheffield Eagles), Curtis Goddard (Southwest Florida Copperheads), Connor Donehue (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Cody Blackwell, Justin Branca (Tampa Mayhem), Eddie Pettyborne, Sonny Pettybourne (Toulouse Olympique), Danny Howard (Wentworth Magpies), Kristian Freed (Wests Mitchelton), CJ Cortalano (White Plains Wombats).