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It’s not a starkly different team than the ones that faced Scotland and Japan earlier this month, but Mike Tolkin appears to have a plan with the group he picked to go up against Canada Saturday at Bonney Field in Sacramento, Calif.
It’s a big, physical, confrontational team. Four-through-eight in the pack, everyone is a hitter. Samu Manoa and Scott LaValla brought the wood against Japan, and Hayden Smith, Danny Barrett and Todd Clever are no slouches in the positive-grade tackle department.
On the wing, Brett Thompson, a former DI linebacker for the Arizona Wildcats, has been selected in place of Tim Maupin and Luke Hume – good players in their own right, but on the smaller side. Couple him with Blaine Scully on the opposite wing, and there will be no respite for Canada’s deep three in the tackle.
Andrew Suniula is out with injury, so it was really between Folau Niua, Chad London and Thretton Palamo for who would slot in next to Seamus Kelly in the centers. Tolkin opted for Palamo, a former DI defensive end for the Utah Utes.
Canada is a very abrasive, physical team in its own right, but the starting 15 Tolkin selected can match it punch-for-punch throughout the lineup.
Saturday’s match also features several regulars on the IRB 7s circuit. Phil Mack and Shalom Suniula are old foes on the 7s pitch. Mack is starting at scrumhalf Saturday and Suniula at flyhalf.
Ciaran Hearn, Nathan Hirayama and John Moonlight are standard picks for Canada’s 7s team. And while Canada has more freely drafted its 7s regulars into 15s duty in recent years, the Eagles haven’t. This weekend is an exception, with four guys who played in the World Series this last season in the 23-man roster.