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One of the ongoing criticisms of the USA Men’s National Team is that it hasn’t received consistent go-forward from the inside center position.

A variety of players have had their moments in the #12 jersey, but there always seemed to be a question, even with Andrew Suniula, about whether we were getting all we needed. But starting in 2012, Suniula began to make a change, and in 2013, he was exactly what we would hope from at inside center.

The Man of the Match in the USA’s victory over Georgia, Suniula has improved his footwork, increased his physicality with the ball in hand, and ramped up his defense, as well. Having spent some time coaching the Chicago Griffins probably helped him examine his own game. But now that he is in a full-time professional environment, Suniula is primed to be an excellent Eagle back for years to come.
Suniula got his first time on the field with Wasps less than two weeks ago, which was a relief for him. He arrived at the club carrying an injury and was rehabbing all through October. Then, once he was healthy, he left the team to play three very strong matches for the USA.

“Coming into a new team is never easy and I came in after the season had started and I needed to get up to speed,” Suniula told RUGBYMag.com. “I came in injured as well and had to do a lot to get a feel for how [Wasps] play. The coaches told me to be patient and I will get my shot. But it’s been tough, so I just put my head down and worked hard.”

Once he did get fit, he was on a plane to go back with the Eagles.

“I sat down with Day and he told me all good things and I was headed in the right direction,” said Suniula; and the same went for USA Head Coach Mike Tolkin. “With the Eagles these past few months everybody was really frustrated with the summer. So I knew being in a full-time environment I could really hone in on my game. I worked a lot on my defense. I needed to show a bit of leadership in our defense, especially with the new system and new coaches. Being in a leadership position kind of goes with the position in the midfield, but it was also helpful is that we play a similar style at Wasps so the only difference is the terminology.”
Suniula loves attacking with the ball, but, he added, that everyone can always get better on defense, and that’s where he feels he has made the most progress.

“If you’re in the midfield you have attacking possibilities on both sides, so on defense I work on taking away one option so they can only go to one side,” said Suniula. “Defense is a lot about communication, so you’re mindful of the guys around you and how they’re communicating, but at the same time you need at some point to take control. And at attack it’s all about breaking down those defenses. At that level everyone can D-up, so it’s a case of being a bit more creative, having better footwork at the line, and for me trying to take on different roles in the attacking shape we have. And as we play together more we know where to go and how to get go-forward.”
Suniula has partnered of late with Folau Niua, who, he says, is defensively sound and on attack “is one guy I want to get the ball.”
It’s unclear whether they will be a set partnership, but with Andrew Suniula in at #12, it might not be an issue. Suniula has become a dependable yards-gainer, a strong defender, and a leader at inside center, and he is RUGBYMag’s 2013 Back of the Year.