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Three Americans played for the Saracens in the first ever Premiership match held on United States soil. Chris Wyles and Hayden Smith started and played the full eighty minutes while youngster Titi Lamositele came on for the second half. All three represent the past, present and future of the American international side.
Chris Wyles and Hayden Smith have both retired from international competition but are still continuing to pursue a high level of rugby. Saracens Director of Rugby Mark McCall praised the play of both veterans in the match against the London Irish.
“Hayden Smith has had a great four or five weeks for us. He doesn’t play all that often but he has played a lot in the last four or five weeks and he has been outstanding,” said McCall. “Chris Wyles is a real senior head. It is a very young team. A real inexperienced team and Chris is experienced.”
Both players are focusing on the remaining time on their contracts with Saracens. However, with the Olympics fast approaching and pro rugby emerging in the United States both players signaled a possibility of returning to play in America.
“I have got some more time here at Saries but one thing I have been saying all week is a part of me is feeling a debt to USA Rugby and wanting to come back and try and get involved in its growth in some sort of way,” Wyles said. “If I can first concentrate on Saries season this season and then keep my head down and contribute however I can with the 7s camp fall selections then I will obviously do my best. Either way it’s a huge challenge for me. They have an amazing culture there and they have done unbelievably well under Mike Friday so I just want to put my hat in the ring and do my best.”
“I have not necessarily thought that far ahead. At the moment I have been very focused on this season and I think it is just a fantastic prospect to get professional rugby in the States,” Smith added. “It will be great for the development of the game as a whole and very necessary stepping stone so I think it is really exciting that there is a league coming along and I hope the fans get behind it.”
Lamositele represents the new wave of American players. The 18-year-old prop has been flying back and forth between international duties and club responsibilities and left his mark on the match in the second half.
“Titi came off the bench at halftime and I thought he made a really big impact,” McCall added. “He carried the ball really strongly and got us over the gain line as well.”
It has been a long couple of weeks for the recent high school graduate, but he is excited to be fulfilling his dreams.
“It has been a lot of flying but at the end of the day its playing rugby and I love playing rugby. Other than the amount of flying it is good to be back playing in the United States, especially with my team in England. I never thought to be playing a game here in the US so I am pretty excited about that,” Lamositele told Rugby Today.
More and more Eagles are getting the opportunity to play professional rugby. With new Eagles coach John Mitchell pulling in a number of new faces to the international squad, more young players are getting notoriety and experience. With the rise of pro rugby in the USA, the sport may see players young and old, newcomer and experienced playing professionally in the United States and abroad.