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Ex-Connacht men Leader and O'Toole called into USA Men's Selects squad

Former Trinity and Munster U20 playmaker Conor Kearns has also been included.

FORMER CONNACHT MEN Tadhg Leader and Pat O’Toole have been named in the USA Men’s Selects squad for the upcoming Americas Pacific Challenge, while ex-Trinity College and Munster U20 playmaker Conor Kearns has also been included.

The Men’s Selects is essentially the second national team for the US. 

The 2018 version of the Americas Pacific Challenge will see the developmental USA squad compete with Tonga A, Uruguay XV, Argentina XV, Canada A and Samoa A from 6 to 14 October in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Tadhg Leader Tadhg Leader became US-qualified last month. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

While the games do not involve players winning caps, the involvement of Leader, O’Toole and Kearns underlines that they are now on the senior national team radar in the US.

Three players from the 2017 USA Men’s Selects squad have since graduated to become fully-capped internationals for the Eagles, and the hope for Leader, O’Toole and Kearns will be to do the same.

All three play for San Diego Legion in Major League Rugby, which had a promising inaugural season in 2018.

Leader, whose brother Darragh still plays for Connacht, moved to the US in 2015 and became US-qualified last month.

The 26-year-old out-half initially made the move Stateside on a rugby scholarship at Lindenwood University and he also shone for the St. Louis Royals in club rugby. His performances for San Diego Legion this year have added to his growing reputation.

Pat O'Toole Pat O'Toole was with Connacht until the end of last season. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

23-year-old hooker O’Toole, a native of Mayo, came through Connacht’s academy and moved onto a senior contract for the 2017/18 season but never got the opportunity to win his senior debut for the province.

An Ireland international at U19 level, O’Toole made the move to San Diego Legion at the end of last season and is understood to qualify to play for the US through his family.

Former Trinity out-half/fullback Kearns has previously played for the US at U20 and Collegiate All-American levels, qualifying due to being born in San Francisco.

25-year-old Kearns grew up in Limerick and went to school at Glenstal Abbey, going on to play for Munster at U19 and U20 level. 

Having impressed in the All-Ireland League for Trinity, Kearns was capped by Munster A in 2016, starting at fullback and scoring a try in a win against the Ireland U20s. 

Conor Kearns with Paul Davis and Tom James Kearns in action for the Irish Universities side in 2016. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Kearns – who is joined in the Selects squad by former Trinity wing Tim Maupin – subsequently moved to Oxford University to study for a Master’s degree, but joined San Diego Legion this year and has now advanced into the USA Men’s Selects squad.

The influence of Irish players and coaches in US rugby has grown in recent years, with Dublin native AJ MacGinty well established as first-choice out-half for the Eagles side, having qualified on residency terms in 2015.

Former Greystones and St. Mary’s hooker Dylan Fawsitt has followed in MacGinty’s footsteps this season, earning his first senior USA caps and impressing in Major League Rugby on loan to Glendale Raptors from Rugby United New York.

Cork man John Quill, who qualifies through his US-born mother, has been an Eagles international since 2012.

Ex-Ireland Women assistant coach Greg McWilliams – who moved to the US in 2014 – is now attack coach for the Eagles, working alongside head coach Gary Gold as the Eagles have notched some memorable wins, including their shock victory over Scotland in June.

There are several other Irish players involved in Major League Rugby, while Irish coaches such as Justin Fitzpatrick and Gavin Hickie are forging fine careers for themselves in the States.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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