You are here

Mike Tolkin originally wanted to have his 31-man World Cup roster settled by now. But he has until Monday to make a final determination, and it’s possible he’ll take advantage of Sunday’s clash with the Harlequins before submitting a list to World Rugby.

One of the situations that has likely helped put the brakes on a final roster is that of Todd Clever, who was cut amidst the Pacific Nations Cup last month. Tolkin indicated at the time of the controversial move, prompted by Clever missing two mandatory team sessions, that he would circle back with the former captain after the PNC and give him a chance to redeem himself.

Clever and Tolkin spoke, and Clever was not selected for the RWC warm-ups against Canada, Harlequins and Australia.

“I did speak with him, so he knows exactly where he stands and what’s going on with his situation,” Tolkin told Rugby Today. “Todd is on the 45-man training roster, so he would be eligible if we needed him. That’s been communicated to him, so he’s been given a training plan, and if we feel that we need him on this roster moving forward, then that’s the case, so he’s still in the pipeline.”

Clever declined an interview, but it seems clear whatever rift exists between him and Tolkin hasn’t been wholly repaired and the face of American rugby for the better part of a decade will miss out on his fourth RWC barring injury or a severe drop in form from a fellow back rower Sunday.

“Danny [Barrett’s] playing very good ball. Al [McFarland] off the bench has been solid for us, so they’re going to have to fight it out. Not by any means is it an easy decision. Both of them contribute great work rate, great athleticism from the six position, possibly eight if necessary,” said Tolkin, talking about the depth of his loose forwards in a battle for playing time even without Clever in the mix.

“Durutalo’s playing great ball consistently, and John Quill is right there. Quilly was probably our man of the November Tour. He played great, and there’s nothing really he’s doing wrong. It’s just Andrew’s playing at a great level. It’s nice to know Quill is right there. When we need him we know he’ll be ready. It’s just no easy decisions.”

Include Samu Manoa, who is finally available for selection and Tolkin likes at No. 8, and Clever’s chances of getting selected get dimmer.

“We were very happy with the way our back row played in the PNC. They all put in strong performances, and it’s difficult to say, hey you guys are off just to put one guy on when they’re playing well,” said Tolkin, referring to Clever. “Right now they’re all in form, and you throw Samu in the mix, he’s certainly not going anywhere, so if they keep up their form it’s going to be tough to break in there.”

Clever, 32, is hot on the heels of Mike MacDonald for the title of most-capped Eagle of all time, needing just four more appearances to eclipse Big Mac. Had Clever not missed that first meeting the week of the Samoa game, he'd have been on the bench that Saturday. And if he'd stayed with the team, he'd probably be either celebrating his record-breaking 68th cap by now or doing so in Philadelphia or Chicago in the coming weeks. If not, then surely during the game's biggest spectacle next month. 

That would have been a fitting moment in the twilight of an international career for someone who's carried the torch so long for American rugby. Instead, Clever, 32, is likely to miss out on joining the exclusive club of those who've played in four World Cups, and a coveted record that at one time seemed practically his is in doubt.

It's notable that outlets such as Deadspin, ESPN and USA Today reported on Clever's being cut, and that Clever's appearance in the ESPN the Body Issue and subsequently at the ESPYs played a role in his dismissal. What other National Team member in history would have been given the media opportunities which contributed to him missing those mandatory team sessions, let alone garnered such attention for being released?

However Clever's international rugby career comes to an end, this chapter can't be looked at as anything other than an unfortunate one for such a celebrated and integral character in the story of American rugby.  

Comments

It's my understanding that Todd is staying with a low profile until the team is announced. If he is not selected, and I agree it's very unlikely he will be tapped, then he will release all of the details. The truth I'm sure will be an embarrassment to USA Rugby. He is being far more of a gentleman through all of this than I would ever be. Although the team has 3 great wins under their belt, there's just something missing. I would have to say it's Todd Clever! Whether you love him or hate him, he adds flair and color to every match he plays in. I don't think there ever was or will be an Eagle that has the passion that Todd has on the pitch.
+1
+35
-1
Scott LaValla has packed up and is totally out of Paris with the intent of joining the armed services and retiring from rugby. I'd like to have a rundown of the players and their qualifications to play for USA i.e., residency, parentage, etc. I have read that many of the new players have been brought in by the Aussie asst. coaches. Are we, as fans, going to stand quiet with watching Tolkin taking his favorite players from NYAC to replace home grown talent that have worked their way up the system (Clever, Petri, LaValla,Stanfill,Dolan,etc) As an American I am very proud of our boys and will not stay quiet if Todd Clever isn't on the World Cup squad.
+1
-8
-1
I don't know the circumstances behind Clever's dismissal. What I do know is that the Eagles have been playing better than anytime I can recall. Generally when an individual player gets dealt with unfairly that is seen in how the team as a whole reacts and the Eagles have never looked better. While I have never been in the anti Clever camp I do believe that he would have had a very difficult time making this team on merit. Wyles has proven to be a very good game manager with officials; an area where Clever sometimes struggled. Whether that was an anti Yank bias or not is possible but the fact is Wyles has been doing a good job. From a positional point of view he can't cover 2nd row. And even if he could Cam Dolan has stepped up to the plate in that regard. Peterson and Smith are not going to be displaced. Stanfill is rock solid and plays with the sort of attitude the team needs. Lavalla can also fill in at 2nd row. In the back row the # 7 jersey has been claimed by Duratolo. It is not coming off his back and nor should it. Joh Quill is an excellent tactical sub and Lavalla can also fill this role. The # 6 jersey is ably manned by Barrett and can also be covered by Lavalla and Dolan. The # 8 jersey is on Manoa's back and it is not coming off - or at least it should not. If the Eagles bring 6 props then that fills the back row. If the Eagles bring 5 props (more likely) then the one extra back row spot will go to MacFarland. It makes sense to give this spot to another versatile player that needs experience. If you look at other teams there are surprising players being dropped. It is unfortunate that he is not on the squad but I don't see where he would have made the team even without being dropped from the PNC squad. If he maintains a high standard of fitness it would not be a bad idea to put his hands up for consideration on the 7's team. He could leave 15's behind and work towards making the Olympic squad. With regards to where players are from it is easily found out by going onto the USA rugby website and looking at the player profiles. LIke just about every other team in the world there is a hodgepodge of players coming from here, there and everywhere … NZ is a leader in utilizing talent from the SS Islands. If the US were to rely on domestic talent only then they would not even be in this tournament. Until World Rugby tightens it's eligibility standards then it would be naive of the Eagles to not cast a wide net for talent.
+1
-6
-1
Doug Lyons you make some valid remarks, I do question that if you think he could work towards the 7's Olympic team, yet you lack confidence in the 15's. The pity is that we will probably never know because he was not placed back on the squad after his punishment period was complete. You must admit that the teams we have played thus far this summer have not been using their A List Players with the exception of Canada which turns out to be lacking in all facets of quality play.
+1
+4
-1
Clever barely played in his last year in Japan and when he came back to OMBAC he did fine against domestic competition until he got injured. When was the last time the Eagles scrum was either steady or went forward for 5 straight games? I wouldn't mess with the tight 5 combinations that are working. A stable base is what the Eagles have lacked for years. MacGinty is the real deal but he would not be doing what he is without forward moving ball. Duratolo has been outstanding. Absolutely outstanding. Quill slots in well in substitution. Clever has never been a ball hawk. He's not going to be the guy winning ball at the breakdown. That is what Duratolo and Quill bring to the table. I think this is the first time the Eagles have had two true opensides. At # 6 you have Lavalla or Dolan available BEHIND Danny Barrett (in my view the "new" Clever - built in his mold but without the miles on his legs). Manoa will be at # 8 and again there is ample cover. Not that every one of these guys other than Quill are in professional or high performance set ups. I see one spot available - MacFarland's. You can go two ways on this - bring in the experience or bring in a newer player. Given that this person is not going to see a lot of time I go for the younger legs to gain experience. Play the SA game and see if he can make a splash. Just about every team has to make these choices - Canada has dropped a great player, England reportedly are leaving Cipriati out, Wales have dropped a number of long term servants with many caps and experience at the top level. As to the 7's - if he has the legs then he should give it a go. I didn't say he would make the cut … just that he should give it a look see. You guys are in his camp … what are your thoughts regarding him giving 7's a shot to close out his career. It's sad to see someone with his years of service missing out but I understand it. Is Lavalla really going into the Armed Services?
+1
-4
-1
Yes I am in Todd's camp. He has done so much for the sport and all that I have heard and read about Todd's suspension is pitiful on Tolkin and USA Rugby's part. Best described as 'character assassination' to a loyal servant to the game for more than a decade. i would enjoy watching Todd play 7's especially in the Olympics. But in the near term he should be on the USA RWC squad. I disagree that Todd is not a ball hawk, he more than any other player fits that description plus you can't find a player that consistently runs in support with the ball carrier. In the PPL he was a man amongst boys thus receiving the MVP mid season award. Surely not one to be put out to pasture at this juncture. I do have issues with replacing Todd with imports that in my opinion don't come close to having the experience, ability and HEART to play for his country. As far as LaValla is concerned ask Alex Goff as he's close family friends for confirmation.
+1
-16
-1
You can't substitute consistent high level experience. He's been dedicated to the team over the years and this little episode should not overshadow his hard work. Granted we finally have some depth in the back row and he'll have to earn a spot. I just want to see him have a chance is all.
+1
-20
-1
Some of you seem to be missing the point. We can argue all night, over beers, about Clever's current ability against others on the team and none of us really no what "conduct violations" supposedly caused his release. The issue is "IS THIS HOW USA RUGBY TREATS A PLAYER WHO HAS PLAYED HIS HEART OUT FOR THE TEAM FOR THE LAST 10 YEARS." Wikipedia describes Clever's USA career as ending by being "released from the team for multiple conduct violations." For over 10 years Clever has practiced and worked on fitness for 20 hours for 1 hour of play. As a fan of USA Rugby I can not stomach allowing the USA Rugby administrators to leave Clever off this years team. If he plays, he plays, if he doesn't, he doesn't, but he must be on the team. We can not let his USA rugby career end as Wikipedia describes. If Tolkin believes his abilities do not qualify him for the team or if his conduct has been so extreme that it warrants his release then Tolkin should have the guts to say so before any more speculative defamation of Clever's character occurs. This is Rugby, not some other wimpy sport.
+1
-11
-1
Are you kidding me !!! I just pulled up Wikipedia and you're not kidding. This is a travesty !!! Todd needs to get a good attorney. How can we as fans support USA Rugby when they trash the good name of Todd Clever through the mud. Nigel Melville and Mike Tolkin should be tarred and feathered out of the country. This is how we treat Todd Clever for all he has given to build rugby in America. SHAME ON YOU
+1
-7
-1
Sorry guys, you are taking this way to personal. Everybody gets dropped at some point, its time for the mantle to be passed. Yes, Todd Clever has been an amazing steward for USA rugby over the years. But his age was showing, and I can't get on Tolkin from dropping him. Clever has never been a ball hawk/turnover machines like Duratolo, Quill, McFarland are. Yes, he is great in the loose, but that's not what we always need. Creating those turnovers are so important. I just think those other guys bring more to the table. But I wouldn't be mad if he did make the squad, as he does bring a ton of experience to the squad. But what ill feelings does he bring along for being dropped from the PNC squad? Tolkin has these boys playing at pretty high level right, and in my opinion, adding Clever doesn't really add much to the squad.
+1
-29
-1
Just revisited this old article Can't help it to laugh at the pathetic remarks Clever signs lucrative contract in the Premiership for the Falcons USA sets embarrassing record v SA and continues to go winless in the RWC Pat Clifton you have a great opportunity to gather all of the RWC armchair predictions after the a Japan match, it potentially will be a good laugh/read. Heimlik may be in order for everyone choking on their words
+1
-8
-1
You voted '-1'.