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Troy Hall is not on the list of 28 players Mike Tolkin has named for the
Houston assembly, meaning he will not get a second-straight start at
outside center. He is the only starter from the Canada game that didn’t
make the cut for Houston. (UPDATE: Hall suffered a torn ACL that was not
diagnosed until Wednesday. He practiced with a wrapped knee on
Paul Emerick has been training with the Eagles all week, but he is still a ways away from full recovery and from getting back in a game-day jersey. He probably won’t be back until the World Cup qualifiers in August.
So who wears No. 13 at BBVA Compass Stadium June 8? There are three prime candidates – James Paterson, Seamus Kelly and Blaine Scully.
Scully and Kelly subbed into the midfield in the final minutes against Canada, but both Cal products are very green when it comes to playing in the centers in a full test. For Kelly, the Canada game provided his first cap altogether. And Scully has primarily played fullback and wing in the USA setup.
Both Scully and Kelly have the running power and speed to warrant playing No. 13, and with the Eagles scrimmaging Glendale on Friday night at Infinity Park, perhaps Tolkin will let Kelly and Scully try and play their way onto the field.
Paterson, too, might be the first option. He started at wing against the Irish in the 2011 World Cup and against Canada last weekend, but he has played his fair share of center throughout his career. Having played Super Rugby for the Highlanders, Paterson provides the kind of big-game experience Scully and Kelly can’t.
Not to mention, Paterson will likely be bumped off the starting wing with the inclusion of Takudzwa Ngwenya. If Tolkin’s plan is to start his best 15, with an eye towards experience, he might be best served to bump Paterson to the midfiled while keeping weapons Ngwenya and Luke Hume on the wings.
There's also the possibility, although maybe of lesser likelihood, that
Chris Wyles plays outside center. He has done it at a higher level than
anyone else on the 28-man roster, for both the Eagles and Saracens.
Paterson, Scully and Adam Siddall would then be the likely choices at
fullback. Paterson has played there for Glendale, Scully played there for
the USA in the last World Cup and Siddall accounted for all nine of the
Eagles' points at fullback last week.