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Gross’ record to topple Sunday

September 12, 2011

Luke Gross

    (Editor's Note: Luke Gross, a Bellmont High School graduate, is a Decatur native, the son of Paul and Kathy Gross of this city.)
    NEW PLYMOUTH, New Zealand (AP) — Loosehead prop Mike MacDonald will set the U.S. record for most test caps after he was named Friday in the lineup to face Ireland in the Rugby World Cup.
    Britain-based MacDonald, who made his Eagles debut in 2000, was scheduled to play his 63rd test on Sunday to surpass former teammate Luke Gross, who retired after the 2003 World Cup in Australia.
    The match also marked the third World Cup for MacDonald, who played all eight of the Eagles matches at the 2003 and 2007 cups, and center Paul Emerick, who together will equal the U.S. record of former lock Alec Parker.
    ‘‘I’m ecstatic it’s happening when it is. It’s a great occasion, being the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and (our) first game of the World Cup,’’ MacDonald said.
    To mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Eagles were to attend a church service Sunday morning, observe a minute’s silence before kickoff and wear black armbands during the match. Ireland will also wear black armbands.
    ‘‘In the heat of the moment the emotion is going to hit,’’ MacDonald said. ‘‘It will hit people in different ways.’’
    Coach Eddie O’Sullivan announced the squad Friday, retaining only three forwards and four backs from the Eagles’ last outing, a 20-14 loss to Japan in Tokyo three weeks ago.
    New Zealand-born winger James Paterson, who made his debut against Japan, will run out on home soil at Stadium Taranaki.
    Captain and flanker Todd Clever was recalled after missing the Japan game with an injury, and brothers Andrew and Roland Suniula, both backs, were promoted from the bench. Andrew Suniula was a former Taranaki center in New Zealand.
    O’Sullivan coached Ireland at the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, and dismissed any thought of sentiment.
    ‘‘It’s a bit of a help,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m familiar with their players. We can’t get hung up on Ireland. We have to focus on our own performance.’’

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