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Thretton Palamo with ball. Abel Barrientes photo

It might seem premature 10 months out, but in reality, the Eagles won’t meet again until July, 2015, so we’ve seen all the rugby the United States will play until they’re just weeks from selection deadline for the Rugby World Cup. You’ll see an initial squad of hopefuls listed, but ultimately, only 30 will get on a plane for England.

The storyline of expanding a World Cup player pool through the fall internationals was one spun by USA Rugby, seemingly somewhat to deflect criticism of the deal with the Premiership that saw several top-line players unavailable for the European tour. While several players did raise their hand and step up in the absence of veterans, when I break down the 30 spots by position, I don’t foresee many of those performances dramatically changing the selections for England.

Hooker (3 taken in 2011)
The Premiership deal didn’t affect this position at all. Phil Thiel and Tom Coolican have been the guys, and they’re locks for 2015, barring injury. If Mike Tolkin sees the need for a third hooker, like Eddie O’Sullivan did before him, Zach Fenoglio would seem to be in line for that spot. However, it’s not inconceivable a guy like Chris Biller might be dragged back out. After all, Brian McClenahan was in 2011.

Prop (4 taken in 2011)
In 2011, the Eagles took four props – Eric Fry, Mike MacDonald, Shawn Pittman and Mate Moeakiola. Fry is a shoe-in to return, and it would seem that Olive Kilifi and Nick Wallace are locks, too. I’ve got to think Titi Lamositele is in pole position for that fourth slot, given he's in a full-time professional training environment with Saracens. Even if Lamositele isn’t a lock, only one spot remains to be filled by the likes of an aging Moeakiola, or youngsters Ben Tarr or Angus Maclellan.

Back of the Scrum (9 taken in 2011)
You can’t really talk second row without including the back row, as there will be multiple players who can play both. In 2011, two specialty locks were taken and two guys who played No. 8 almost exclusively were picked, but overall there were nine taken between the second and back rows.

Samu Manoa, Todd Clever, Hayden Smith, Scott Lavalla, Danny Barrett and Cam Dolan would appear to be in. Samu and Hayden regularly play lock, and Clever and Lavalla have plenty of experience there. Dolan and Barrett are more of your back row specialists. Lou Stanfill can swing between either row, and might be included for his experience. John Quill has been a rock for the USA when selected, and I think he’s earned a spot. He’s the closest thing Tolkin has to a pure openside.

That really leaves one spot up for grabs, and probably for someone who’s considered more of a lock than a flanker. Personally, I don’t understand why Brian Doyle isn't an automatic selection, but Tolkin and his staff seem to be underwhelmed by him. Tai Tuisamoa would appear to be firmly next in line, but given his age, it’s conceivable John Cullen, Greg Peterson or a Graham Harriman could be selected instead with an eye toward the future. If Cullen or Peterson were picked, they’d be the first real product of the playing time made available on the fall tour by the Premiership deal.

Scrumhalf (2 taken in 2011)
Mike Petri and Shalom Suniula are the guys. Shaun Davies and Chris Saint have been given ample opportunity to impress, and they haven’t sniffed caps.

Flyhalf (2 taken in 2011)
This one gets kind of interesting. Adam Siddall played really well when healthy in the ARC and against New Zealand. He has a booming leg, and he can play other positions. But he’s now sat out with concussion issues twice in the last several months. That’s worrisome. If he’s healthy enough to be in form before the World Cup and is available for selection, he will be on the team.

Toby L’Estrange is still injured, and he’s not off the radar, but like Siddall, he can play other positions. I have him slotted into the team at center.

AJ MacGinty will become Eagle eligible in the next few months. He’s the best flyhalf in America, Tolkin coached him at the New York Athletic Club, and if they were being honest, several coaches involved with, or close to, the National Team would tell you they’ve been counting down the days until MacGinty became eligible through residence.

Any way you slice it, no depth was added here during the November tour.

Centers (4 taken in 2011)
Andrew Suniula, Seamus Kelly and Thretton Palamo are in. Count on that. Troy Hall and Folau Niua, I think, are in, too, and could be counted as centers. They could also be counted elsewhere, which is what I’ve done to make room for L’Estrange. Like with flyhalf, no depth was added to the centers through the fall tour, unless Ron MacLean somehow finds his way onto the team.

Back Three (6 taken in 2011)
Blaine Scully and Chris Wyles are in. Folau Niua should be a lock, and he showed on the fall tour that he can play fullback well enough in a pinch. Brett Thompson will be a lock, and Zee Ngwenya proved still potent. If Ngwenya has won back the coaching staff as an ally, he’s in.

That leaves one spot left. Luke Hume’s been a good 15s Eagle, and Tim Maupin has played well enough. The one possible unearthed gem of the fall is Tim Stanfill. He stormed onto the scene with a handful of tries between the ARC and the tour, and if he’s selected for England, it can only be because of the playing time created by the absence of Wyles and Scully, as well as the injury to Thompson. However, Troy Hall, I think, is a valuable guy because he can cover 15, wing and in the centers. That is ultimately why I slotted him in as a back three guy.

PositionStarting XV2nds3rds
1Eric FryTiti Lamositele
2Phil ThielTom CoolicanZach Fenoglio
3Olive KilifiNick Wallace
4Samu ManoaTai Tuisamoa
5Hayden SmithLou Stanfill
6Todd Clever
7Scott LavallaJohn Quill
8Danny BarrettCam Dolan
9Mike PetriShalom Suniula
10AJ MacGintyAdam Siddall
11Brett Thompson
12Thretton PalamoAndrew SuniulaToby L'Estrange
13Chris WylesSeamus Kelly
14Takudzwa NgwenyaTroy Hall
15Blaine ScullyFolau Niua

Comments

You sure it's only 30? I thought they were moving to 32 man squads, in line with the change from 22 to 23 match day squads since the last RWC. Either way, it would be shocking to me to only have 4 props in the squad.
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You voted '+1'.
AJ MacGinty? Did they find girl for him to marry so he is eligible?
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No one player is above the team and if it is true that Ngweyna was not following the game plan set out by the team then he most certainly deserved to sit. He performed well on the recent tour and is obviously a lock assuming all is well and he does not have visa issues as popped up for the England phase of this tour. At the present time the 2nd Row is very strong - Hayden Smith was solid against NZ and since the NFL door will not be knocking I assume he will be all in for the WC. Paterson would most certainly have to be considered a starter alongside Smith and this would easily move Manoa to # 8 and allow for Lavalla to play blindside and open a spot for a true open side flanker - Quill did well in this are and Sumsion looked strong at the ARC. This leaves Clever on the bench as an impact sub. Additional second rows are certainly available with Cullen, Doyle, Harriman, Stanfill (who can play in the back row as well of course and has 50 caps to his name) as well as Tuisamoa all providing competition in this position. With Manoa free to play # 8 a second option exists between Barrett and Dolan and the youngster Trouville. Not sure the comment regarding lack of line out targets make sense at all. The Eagles struggled against Romania but excelled at the LO in the last two matches - suggesting that the problem was more about getting everyone on the same page. The front row is a worry of course and I think that only two hookers are needed so that an additional prop can be taken. Since it is unlikely that there is a mystery prop or two out there the players will be who we have seen recently plus Lamisotile. It was encouraging to see Kilifi do better at loose head so maybe he can settle in there ... but we have to hope that intense work over the next few months will settle things down. Scrum half is an issue. Frankly I would start Shalom Siniula over Petri assuming we have a fly half that can direct the offense and kick for points. That said I liked the way Siniula directed things against Fiji so maybe he covers two roles ... Palamo looks like the man at # 12. Andrew Siniula can be an impact sub but he simply does not have the power that Palamo demonstrated time and again. # 13 could be filled by a number of people but I like Niua. He was OK at FB but Wyles or even Scully could do better and Niua has a quickness and speed that will command attention that can then open space for our wings. I like Ngwenya and Scully on the wings and Wyles at FB. My starting 15 is thus : 1. Kilifi 2. Thiel 3. Lamisotele 4. Paterson 5. Smith 6. Lavalla 7. Quill 8. Manoa 9. S. Siniula 10. Macginty (Siddall if healthy) 11. Ngweyna 12. Palamo 13. Niua 14. Scully 15. Wyles
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Daniel - regarding the Eagle line out the stats just don't back your opinion. I analyzed every one of the three games on the tour for a variety of things including set pieces. Scrums were a problem in the Romania game, similarly with the Tonga game, though less so and not all that bad in the Fiji match. A ton of improvement is needed but it DID get better. With regards to the line out this was a great source of possession and attack opportunities in the last two matches with more than 95% of ball won. The Romania game stood out as a problem but that was probably due to the short preparation time. Tries were generated in both the Tonga and Fiji matches and if I recall correctly the Eagles were 100% in line outs against Fiji. If not 100% they may have lost one to a crooked throw. I don't have the stats to back me up but I believe the Eagles also did very well against Canada and Japan this summer in the line outs. If the Eagles were to go with Patterson and Smith they would have two very tall locks and I believe Manoa is in the same neighborhood with Lavalla being around 6-6. Options are there. Smith was excellent against the All Blacks making several bruising tackles. And he may pine for the NFL but I would be shocked if he were to get another crack. It was an odd move from the beginning and makes even less sense now. The idea of Barrett at # 13 is quite frankly crazy. He hasn't yet proven that he is a lock in the back row though I am sure his time is coming. He is a great talent but needs to find his way onto a professional team. There is more to back line play than line breaks and if anything he might be more tempted to try and make breaks rather than create openings for two very good wings in Scully and Ngwenya. If he is in a match he could line up out there from time to time but as a regular position. He would also need to be able to help maintain a structure in a defensive line that is sometimes suspect. The discipline needed sort of goes against the idea of a back rower that you want to reek havoc. And the Eagles are not starving for options here.
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