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By Pat Clifton
By Pat Clifton
Inaki Basauri returned to the National Team this fall after a two-year hiatus. The USA U19 product first slipped on an Eagles jersey in May 2007 against Scotland A, and he’d appear in six more games between then and November 2008, including World Cup appearances against Tonga and England.
Despite being one of a few American loose forwards playing professionally overseas, Basauri was not invited to an Eagles gathering until he received an invitation in September to join the team for the November tour.
Over the course of the Eagles four-game tour, Basauri logged 277 minutes, good for second most on the team. Under contract with L’Aquila of the Italian Super 10, Basauri is out of action for the time being and is nursing a separated AC joint suffered on tour.
“It happened against Georgia in the second half,” Basauri told RUGBYMag.com. “I took a ball off nine from a ruck and ran between two of their front rowers, dropped my shoulder and got hit directly on the top of my shoulder.” Basauri said the recovery time will depend on his diligence in rehab, but surgically repaired separated shoulders can take several weeks to mend.
Despite the injury, Basauri was happy to get another shot with the Eagles. “I was excited and looking forward to the challenge and hoping to get the chance to wear the Eagles jersey one more time,” he said. “It’s always an honor to represent my country and to play alongside the best American rugby players. If you aspire to be among the best, you should therefore aspire to play for the Eagles.”
Basauri, along with center Seta Tuilevuka, had never played for an Eddie O’Sullivan coached team before November, and would need a good tour to convince O’Sullivan he deserved consideration for a 2011 World Cup selection. Bigger, stronger and with two more years of pro experience under his belt, Basauri returned to the Eagles with a bang, playing 80 minutes against both Saracens and Scotland A. By the tour’s final match, a ranking test against Georgia, Basauri had worked himself into the starting No. 8 spot.
Basauri went almost two years to the day without being selected for a single Eagles camp, yet harbors no resentment towards the coaching staff or the selection process.
“I have never felt slighted. I always felt that the coaches were in the process of building a team and I was only waiting for the chance to participate and being able to contribute to the team,” he said. “With what I have learned through eight years of experience playing in Europe, five of which under professional contract that allowed me to train twice on a daily basis and play 30+ games a year, I can only hope that my experience can be of use and benefit the purposes of USA rugby.
“I want to point out that I am a product of USA rugby. I came through the U-19 program, and if it had not been from what I learned in the USA, I would not have been able to compete in an international level. That is why I am appreciative to have the opportunity to play for the Eagles and represent my country.”
Basauri’s opportunity didn’t come a moment too soon, as there are just a few limited assemblies left before the Eagles make the long trek to New Zealand for the 2011 World Cup, and after a solid tour, Basauri has undoubtedly tossed his name in the hat for a second-consecutive World Cup selection.