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Two A-State Players Join USA Rugby AIG Junior All-American Team


JONESBORO – Two Arkansas State University freshmen rugby players have been selected to the USA Rugby AIG Men’s Junior All-American team to play Canada’s men’s under-20 team in a two-match series to determine the North American representative at the World Rugby U20 Trophy in Portugal.

Austin Bush and Tanner Pope were selected by USA Rugby interim head coach Michael Engelbrecht as two of the 26 young athletes who will travel to British Columbia for the Monday, March 23, and Friday, March 27, match days.

“Austin Bush and Tanner Pope are two good kids that deserve their selection,” stated A-State head coach NeMani Delaibatiki. “The opportunity to play for your country is a huge achievement, something we are all proud of, and one we know will help our program when these boys return. It’s a privilege to wear the red, white and blue, and with a lot of great coaches overseeing them during their tour, they will come back with more tools that can help their game when they play for Arkansas State.

“We wish them all the best and hope USA wins so the team can qualify for the Junior World Rugby championship later on this year.”

The men’s junior All-Americans (MJAAs) are due to arrive in Victoria, Wednesday, March 18, before six training sessions in four days to test the team’s camaraderie and skills ahead of the first match day. The athletes will then have a recovery day and three training sessions prior to the second match day at the Rugby Canada Center of Excellence.

The North American qualifier for the World Rugby U20 Trophy will be determined by the aggregate score at the culmination of the two matches, meaning a loss in one of the two matches would not be the end of the junior All-Americans’ qualification hopes. The MJAAs and Canada each holds a 2-2 record in the head-to-head matchup since May 2012, with the last series held in Minnesota in the summer of 2013.

“The objective of this tour is to earn a 2015 U20 Trophy berth by beating Canada in Canada,” Engelbrecht said. “The players and the coaching staff fully understand and accept the magnitude of the challenge ahead of us.”

The World Rugby U20 Trophy in Portugal is scheduled for May 7-24 at Estádio Universitário de Lisboa and National Sports Center of Jamor. The North American qualifier will be placed in Pool B with Hong Kong, Namibia and Tonga. Fiji, Georgia, Portugal and Uruguay make up Pool A.

Both matches between the men’s junior All-Americans and Canada’s men’s under-20 team will be streamed live online by Rugby Canada, http://www.rugbycanada.ca/leagues/homeRugbyCanada.cfm?leagueID=0&clientID=3817&link=RugbyCanada.

Visit www.usarugby.org for more information.

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Austin Bush
Austin Bush

Tanner Pope
Tanner Pope