"Thanksgiving Edition" - Ultimate XV: The Best United States Born Rugby Players - Page 3 of 3 - Ruck

“Thanksgiving Edition” – Ultimate XV: The Best United States Born Rugby Players


4. Luke Gross

5. Samu Manoa

Packing down the scrum are two Americans that have previously starred in the Premiership, beginning with former Newcastle Falcons and Harlequins lock Luke Gross. Now the Head Coach of Indiana University back across the pond, Gross was a titanic powerhouse in his hay-day, that dominated the arial battle in the English top flight. Gross began his professional career at Quins, before moving to Italy with stints at Rovigo and Roma. He returned to the UK in a spell with Scarlets, before racking up seasonal shifts with Rotherham Titans, Newcastle Falcons, Doncaster Knights and Sheffield Tigers.

Partnering up with Gross is Samu Manoa, who was a fan favourite at Franklin’s Gardens during his four year run with Northampton Saints. A monstrous ball-carrier with a tricky skillset, Manoa bulldozed his way through his opponents, and marched the Saints on to the 2014 Premiership title. A versatile forward, Manoa made appearances at lock and across the back-row for Saints, yet is most prominently seen at second row in his recent seasons, with the Seattle Seawolves in Major League Rugby.


6. Phaidra Knight

7. Sam Underhill

8. Dan Lyle

Rounding off our squad in the back-row, we’ve picked possibly the greatest United States Women’s rugby player on the blindside flank. Phaidra Knight was named as USA Rugby Player of the Decade in 2020, and was a pillar of the national side for the entirety of her career. Knight was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2017, after she hung up her boots the same year. As hard-hitting and no nonsense as they come, Phaidra at times carried the national women’s side, and has rightly been recognised in her tremendous accolades.

Into the seven jersey now, and we’ve selected workhorse England back-row Sam Underhill for the spot. Born in Dayton, Ohio, Underhill is eligible to represent the Eagles, if he undergoes a three-year stand down period from international caps. This doesn’t seem to be on the cards any time soon, as the Bath star was called into Steve Borthwick’s squad for the Rugby World Cup Bronze Medal Match against Argentina last month. With a rugby journey that took him to Gloucester, Ospreys, and back to the West Country with Bath, Underhill has been shining in blue, black and white since 2017, and leaves his bruised opponents the same colours when they leave the pitch.

Sam Underhill of Bath Rugby on the break during the Gallagher Premiership match between Exeter Chiefs and Bath at Sandy Park, Exeter on 24th December 2022. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

At number eight we’ve picked Dan Lyle, who paved the way for Underhill as an American-born rugby player to enjoy a tenure at the Recreation Ground. Lyle played for Bath from 1996 to 2003, and won the Champions Cup with the Somerset club, and later captained the side. The back-rower then had a brief spell with Leicester Tigers, as he starred at Welford Road for the 2003/04 season ahead of his retirement. Lyle also boasts the honour of representing the iconic Barbarians, with two caps in the fabled black and white jersey.


Kapeli Pifeleti of Saracens during the Greene King IPA Championship match between Cornish Pirates and Saracens at Mennaye Field, Penzance on March 6. – PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

16. Kapeli Pifeleti (United States and Saracens)

17. Paul Mullen (United States / Emerging Ireland and Utah Warriors)

18. Catherine Benson (USA Women and Sale Sharks Women)

19. Sharon Blaney (USA Women and Oregon)

20. Todd Clever (USA and Newcastle Falcons)

21. Carly Waters (USA Women and Sale Sharks Women)

22. Emilie Bydwell (USA Women)

23. Tommy Seymour (Scotland and Glasgow Warriors)