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The core of USA MNT players set to make the run to the 2015 Rugby World Cup is pretty much set; it is unlikely we will see any major changes.
First, the players who seem settled:
Props: Eric Fry, Titi Lamositele, Nick Wallace, Shawn
Pittman is listed with the understanding that he will recover from his concussion symptoms. It appears he is getting there.
Hookers: Phil Thiel, Zach Fenoglio
No real comment here. There are the guys ...
Locks and Flankers: Todd Clever, Scott LaValla, Samu Manoa, Cam Dolan, Graham Harriman, Tai Tuisamoa, Hayden Smith, Lou Stanfill, Brian Doyle
Stanfill has been injured for a while, but deserves to be on this list until someone bypasses him. Doyle’s been hurt, too, and still is, but deserves to be here. Smith is here based on the fact he’s not exactly been couch surfing since he last played for the Eagles, and is back with Saracens. We could extend this list, but will shift some of the other names to the next list. This is a formidable group.
“It wasn’t that long ago that we were very thin at lock,” Mike Tolkin told RUGBYMag.com earlier. “Now, with guys like Graham and Tai stepping up when we needed them to, it’s a position of strength.”
Scrumhalves: Mike Petri, Robbie Shaw, Shaun Davies
There’s not much after these three, which should be a concern post World Cup because it’s highly likely both Shaw and Petri will retire from international rugby, but this is a solid group
Flyhalves: Toby L’Estrange, Adam Siddall
Centers: Andrew Suniula, Folau Niua, Seamus Kelly
Only three listed here, but actually the position has depth, it’s just that none of those players has secured a place in this core group.
Wings and Fullbacks: Chris Wyles, Blaine Scully, Luke Hume, Tim Maupin
Of all the players who were on the bubble before the 2013 ARC, Tim Maupin made the biggest jump. He was really strong for the USA throughout the fall, doing all the things Tolkin wants out of a wing - defense, covering kicks, running the plays as written, and breaking tackles. He moved from essentially nowhere into this core group.
That’s 27 players, and 30 go to the World Cup. More than three holes could open up pending injury, and Hayden Smith and Lou Stanfill are conditional players here, as it’s unclear how they will play (Smith coming back from the NFL, Stanfill from injury).
But here is the next group of players, hoping to break through:
Props: Ollie Kilifi
Hookers: Tom Coolican
Locks and Flankers: Derek Asbun, Danny Barrett, Nick Civetta, John Cullen, Liam Murphy, John Quill, Kyle Sumsion
All of these players have worn Red, White, and Blue in some form. All could get to the World Cup. At least one, probably more, will be woefully disappointed. Asbun probably is the smallest of these players, but is also possibly the smartest and seems to always be in the middle of the action. Cullen is the opposite – the biggest, and a lot to learn, but so much potential.
Civetta is playing pro, and there’s nothing wrong with that. At some point he will be looked at in comparison with everyone else and we’ll see how he does. Could be his time comes in 2016.
Scrumhalves: Chris Saint
Gone to Sumner in New Zealand, which is a smart move for him.
Flyhalves: Shalom Suniula
This might be nifty move for the USA 7s player, who is normally thought of as a scrumhalf, but in 7s halfback is a fluid position.
Centers: Chris Chapman, Troy Hall, Kelly Kolberg, Chad London
Kolberg is the poster child for US club players. He’s been in strong form and is well thought of. London has been mentioned repeatedly by Tolkin as a player he is interested in. Chapman and Hall epitomize Tolkin’s desire for a skilled, flyhalf-type center.
Wings: Taku Ngwenya, Miles Craigwell, Joe Cowley
Cowley’s ability to kick goals is a plus. Craigwell could well find his place and his voice with the USA this year. Ngwenya can break open a game, but was dropped in November because he doesn’t follow the plan, and unless a few things change, he might remain at Biarritz.
Players You Might Have Questions About:
Tilifili “Andre” Liufau, Prop. The former football player who ended up playing prop in France. Made the 2012 Eagles camp, but fitness was an issue. Still needs to be fitter.
Patrick Latu, Prop. Still needs to be fitter
Aaron Young, Prop. We’ll see. Could be a great pickup.
TC Elliott, Prop. Same as Young
Cameron Falcon, Hooker. Needs time.
Mike Shepherd, Hooker. And sometimes prop. Injured, but could be moving up the list.
Chris Biller, Hooker. Out of team and into coaching.
Nick Barrett, Lock. Will be there in time.
Pierce Dargan, Flanker. Could be there in time.
Logan Collins, Flanker. Could have been in camp last year but work got in
the way. Terrific classic flanker. Still a chance.
Benji Goff, Flanker. Same as Collins.
Tom Rooke, Flanker/Lock. A dark horse we like.
Matt Trouville, Flanker/Lock. Now USA eligible and we know Tolkin likes him.
Max de Achaval, Flyhalf. Did a nice job in limited time for USA Selects in ARC, and could well be in the mix when the dust settles.
Zach Pangelinan, Flyhalf. Hard to say where he stands. Playing well for club.
Paul Lasike, Center. Maybe? His senior year with BYU football is next fall. After that, we will see.
Thretton Palamo, Center. Maybe? He’s waiting to see if he will be drafted into the NFL. We think he will be.
Brett Thompson, Wing. As great as he’s been for the USA 7s team, he could also be for the 15s team.
Dean Gericke, Wing/Center. A player RUGBYMag was excited about in 2012, but he faded somewhat in 2013. Will get another look.
Colin Hawley, Wing. There are a bunch of young rugby players who were on 7s contracts who looked around and wondered where their future was going. Hawley was one of those. Rugby at the highest level requires an enormous commitment of time and resources. Sometimes, it’s just about whether a player can balance it all.
Preston Bryant, Wing. The Glendale player is still young and has been playing really well. Excellent chance to move up over the next year.