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Cork man Quill part of the USA's World Cup training squad

There are a number of players with Irish links in Mike Tolkin’s 50-man squad.

CORK NATIVE JOHN Quill has been included in the USA’s 50-man training squad for the Rugby World Cup.

Already capped 10 times by the Eagles, back row Quill will now begin preparations under head coach Mike Tolkin as the US use July’s Pacific Nations Cup as part of their pre-World Cup schedule.

Romania USA Rugby Quill looks to break a tackle for the US in a 2012 match against Romania. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Formerly an Ireland Schools international, Quill qualifies for the States through his mother. A Dolphin RFC clubman, the flanker has played for Munster up to ‘A’ level and had spells with the London Irish academy and London Welsh in the English Championship.

Registered as a NYAC player, Quill made his debut for the Eagles after moving to the US back in 2012. Remarkably, Quill has spent much of the last season commuting between the States and Cork, where he has been working full-time.

Another man to feature in the US World Cup training squad is AJ MacGinty, a Dublin native who played schools rugby for Blackrock College and then Blackrock RFC. Indeed, his father Alan is still headmaster at the famous Dublin rugby school.

An out-half, MacGinty qualified to play for the States earlier this year on residency grounds, having studied towards a Master’s degree in Sport Health Science at Life University in Marietta, Georgia.

MacGinty’s performances for Life U – who also have Irish natives David Gannon, Dylan Fawsitt, Cathal Doyle, Marcus Walsh, Blair McIlroy and Mark Gribben in their ranks – have earned him rave reviews on the US circuit and he is now expected to push on to become a regular in Tolkin’s squad.

Quill and MacGinty are not the only two players in Tolkin’s 50-man training group with Irish links, however.

USA's Scott LaValla Trinity College know exactly how good LaValla is. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Stade Français flanker/lock Scott LaValla studied Philosophy and Political Science at Trinity College in Dublin for four years, captaining their team in the Ulster Bank League and earning trials in the professional game with Ulster.

The northern province never capped the 26-year-old and he was instead snapped up by Top 14 side Stade Français in 2011. LaValla has gone on to play 82 times for the Parisians and helped them to their league title this season.

Extending the Trinity College link is wing/fullback Tim Maupin, who is still attached to the Dublin university and featured impressively for them in Division 1B of the Ulster Bank League during the season just ended.

Capped seven times by the US, Maupin has been working and living in Blackrock College’s hall of residence as a member of staff.

Trinity’s links to US rugby largely come through the network of director of rugby Tony Smeeth, a coaching legend both in Irish circles and the States. Smeeth previously worked in the US, before joining Blackrock as coach in the ’90s and then moving into his Trinity role, all the while maintaining his affiliation with and drive to improve American rugby.

Finally on the playing front, wing/fullback Brett Thompson is a man who spent a season with Blackrock RFC back in 2012. The 6ft 4ins sevens specialist also appeared for the well-regarded Wild Geese team at the Kinsale Sevens festival.

Justin Fitzpatrick 1/10/2011 Former Ireland and Ulster prop Justin Fitzpatrick is the Eagles' forwards coach. Source: Presseye/Andrew Paton/INPHO

Thompson was contracted to Guinness Pro12 side Edinburgh during 2014/15, before returning to the States in March to re-join their sevens program.

Continuing the Irish influence in the US World Cup group is forwards coach Justin Fitzpatrick, the former Ireland and Ulster prop.

Fitzpatrick retired from playing in 2010 due to injury, instead taking over as head coach of Dungannon RFC. He guided his home club to success in a number of cup competitions, while also assisting Philip Doyle with the Ireland Women’s team.

The one-time Castres front row moved to the US in 2013 to become director of rugby for the Seattle Saracens, encountering more success and swiftly becoming an integral part of the national team’s backroom staff, helping them into the 2015 World Cup.

- First published at 06.00, updated at 11.55.

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Murray Kinsella

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