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1. This camp is being called a “pre-camp” as the Test Camp for the June 9 Canada test starts Monday. Therefore this is an evaluation and testing time. It’s a get-acquainted time for some of the newer players and some of the coaches.
2. The players who are slated to be in the Super League Final left Friday for Seattle and will play that game and return in time to start the new camp Monday. Meanwhile a few players are not in camp as expected – two of the overseas players appear to have found that being named to a USA camp has moved teams to offer them better contracts.
Meanwhile Taku Ngwenya is not yet in camp, taking some mandated time away.
James Paterson is also not in camp, as he is with the Glendale club preparing for this weekend’s club championships. However, due to issues related to planning for the national team, if Glendale makes the final on Sunday, Paterson will not be able to play for his club, as he will be flying in to join the Eagles.
3. Almost all the players participated in some stringent fitness testing on Thursday, with Mike Petri, Toby L’Estrange and Scott LaValla showing very well in the yo-yo test. The almost 100% participation was a good sign, because it shows the overall health of the group.
(Interesting note on LaValla, despite the fact he has often subbed in at lock for Stade Francais, he is actually being looked at for the #6 jersey there, which in France means openside flanker. That could provide many options for the Eagles.)
4. New scrum coach Derek Dowling, who coached with Trinity and Leinster in Ireland, ran the pack through their paces for a good hour on Thursday and a little less on Friday. The players responded enthusiastically, and Dowling said he was extremely impressed with the forwards’ desire to learn and improve. Already film evidence shows the scrum looking better.
5. The new attack philosophy is being put into play. Attack is the key word. This is going to be a different USA team from the 2011 version, with much more adventure on offense. Players are making noises about being excited about the new approach, and certainly there were a lot of smiles on the field.
6. Breakout player so far? Will Holder. The West Point flyhalf looks every bit the part, even though he is still green and still has work to do. But his skills turned plenty of heads on Friday, and so did his leadership. Holder is acting as something of a de facto host, as the camp is on his school’s campus. Despite being one of the youngest players there, Holder is still taking on the mantle of the leader of the backline when he slides in at flyhalf.