Unchanged roster to take on New Zealand in World Cup Semifinals

The United State will play for a spot in the 2017 Women’s World Cup Finals tomorrow, and the Semifinal fixture will air live on NBC Sports starting at noon ET.

UPDATE: Tess Feury will replace Sylvia Braaten on the bench after Braaten was handed a two-game suspension for a citation during the Eagles’ pool play fixture versus England.

BELFAST, Ireland – The same 23-player roster that helped the Eagles qualify for the Women’s World Cup Semifinals thanks to a bonus-point defeat to England will face the haka of the New Zealand Black Ferns Tuesday, Aug. 22. The United States’ unchanged lineup will play for a spot in the 2017 Women’s World Cup Finals tomorrow, and the Semifinal fixture will air live on NBC Sports starting at noon ET.

The third and final pool match saw the Red Roses outplay the Eagles in the opening half, leading 33-7 at the break, but a resilient Eagles team rally to score the final 19 points of the contest, including a fourth try on the match’s final play to produce a crucial bonus point.

“I think we came out of the England game believing that we can compete with England, but disappointed with our first half,” conceded Head Coach Pete Steinberg. “We had a good video review of the first half and we believe that if we can fix some of our errors we will be more competitive. We think our fitness and bench will help us finish the game, but we have to start better and be ready for the physicality and pace.”

World Cup captain Tiffany Faaee will lead the team out once again as the match day captain from her tighthead prop position. Alongside Faaee will be hooker Katy Augustyn, who’ll be earning her 30th cap against the Black Ferns, and loosehead prop Catie Benson.

The most tenured Eagle on the 2017 World Cup squad, Stacey Bridges, will make a fourth consecutive start from the engine room. The 31-time capped lock will play alongside New York Rugby Club’s Alycia Washington.

The play of the backrow continues to be a strong point for the Eagles. Blindside flanker Sara Parsons and No. 8 Jordan Gray have been effective ball-carriers thus far in Ireland and are sure to be targeted in the Semifinals. Meanwhile, openside flanker Kate Zackary is coming of a stellar performance against then No. 1-ranked Red Roses that saw the duel-code standout score a first half try and deliver a number of substantial tackles.

Two former Penn State All-Americans, Deven Owsiany and Hope Rogers, whose World Cup availability were in question due to recoveries from knee injuries, not only made the trip to Ireland, but are showing good form. Owsiany will again suit up in the No. 9 jersey and feed fly half Kimber Rozier, while Rogers will cover the front row from the bench along with Sam Pankey and recent debutant Nick James. Lock Abby Gustaitis, loose forward Kristine Sommer and backs Kayla Canett, Sylvia Braaten and Jess Wooden fill out the reserves.

 Michael Lee

The midfield will again be occupied by centers Alev Kelter and Nicole Heavirland, while the back three of Cheta Emba, Naya Tapper and Kristen Thomas continues to impress. The trio each bagged a try last week against England, and the three Women’s Sevens World Series veterans have now combined for eight tries during the Women’s World Cup.

The Black Ferns, who recently took over World Rugby’s No. 1 ranking thanks to their dominant start to the World Cup, have drawn the lone non-pool winner in the Semifinals after building an unmatched point differential of plus-196 points. Tuesday’s test will be the Eagles’ third World Cup contest against New Zealand in the past two tournaments after succumbing to the Kiwis in both pool play and the fifth-place match in 2014. The two sides met once since the last Women’s World Cup, as well, when the Black Ferns easily handled the United States 47-14 in Edmonton at the 2015 Women’s Rugby Super Series. New Zealand leads the all-time record against the Women’s Eagles, having posted a 9-1 mark over the Americans since their first fixture in 1990.

“The Black Ferns play great ‘heads up’ rugby. They off load and support better than any team at the World Cup,” Steinberg complimented. “We know we need to deny them space, but that starts by winning the contact and, in particular, winning the contact point in the forwards.”

The second World Cup Semifinal, to be contested immediately after the Eagles play New Zealand, will pit Pool B winners England versus Pool C’s best France.

The Women’s Eagles’ remarkable feat of qualifying for a World Cup Semifinal has not only captivated the interest and excitement of rugby fans across the United States, but NBC Sports as well. The network will air Tuesday’s Semifinal contest against the Black Ferns live, with kickoff scheduled for noon ET from Kingspan Stadium in Belfast.

USA Women’s Eagles | v. New Zealand

1. Catie Benson

2. Katy Augustyn

3. Tiffany Faaee (C)

4. Stacey Bridges

5. Alycia Washington

6. Sara Parsons

7. Kate Zackary

8. Jordan Gray

9. Deven Owsiany

10. Kimber Rozier

11. Kristen Thomas

12. Alev Kelter

13. Nicole Heavirland

14. Naya Tapper

15. Cheta Emba

USA Women’s Eagles | Reserves

16. Samantha Pankey

17. Hope Rogers

18. Nick James

19. Abby Gustaitis

20. Kristine Sommer

21. Kayla Canett-Oca

22. Tess Feury

23. Jess Wooden

USA Women’s Eagles | Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 Coaching Staff

Pete Steinberg – Head Coach

Peter Baggetta – Associate Head Coach

Richie Walker – Assistant Coach

Liz Kirk – Assistant Coach

Richard Ashfield – Assistant Coach

Ian Gibbons – Head of Physical Performance

Katie Gloyer – Physician

Michelle Look – Physician

Amy Valenta – Physiotherapist

Sarah Leslie – Physiotherapist

Bri Arsenault – Physiotherapist

Caitlin Singletary – Video Analyst

Julie Sutcliffe – Sports Psychologist

Amie Kern – Assistant Manager & Massage Therapist
Jeremy Castro – Media Manager

Roshna Wunderlich – Manager

USA Women’s Eagles | Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017

Semifinals v. New Zealand – Tuesday, Aug. 22 @ 12 p.m. ET

Finals – Saturday, Aug. 26