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With the Rugby World Cup roster deadline tomorrow, the Harlequins match provided Mike Tolkin and staff their last opportunity to determine the 31-man World Cup roster for the upcoming tournament in England.
Tolkin refused to disclose specifics about the status of the World Cup roster other than to say the roster would be out tomorrow. He did, however, indicate that today’s match with the Harlequins did not have very much impact on the overall shape of the roster.
That has to be out in the next day, so that will be pretty forthcoming,” Tolkin said at the post-game press conference. “There were guys that got significant playing time for the first time at this level and some guys really stepped up to the battle and a couple of guys had a little trouble with it. I think we did a lot of our pruning earlier in the summer and made a commitment to the guys who showed promise and went forward with it.”
For the backs, Zach Test earned his first 15s try in one of his only full halves of test match action. Niku Kruger got his feet wet on the international stage and Folau Niua filled in at 10 for the unequivocal starting flyhalf AJ MacGinty.
“Niku Kruger getting his first significant time on this level of rugby showed composure and did some good things out there. That was good to see,” added Tolkin.
Whether this was just getting these players experience or it was their last bid to convince Tolkin for a spot is unclear. Andrew Suniula, who has been battling an injury and was unavailable today, should be back in the fold come World Cup time.
In the forwards, Samu Manoa, was back and seemed in good form. The big Number 8 has always been in the fold, but it was nice to see him back in action with the red, white and blue. As for the other backrowers and second rows, Tolkin has a lot of flexibility at these positions and it appears to be the biggest question mark before the roster announcement. All of the second row and loose forwards in connection saw action today minus Scott Lavalla, Danny Barrett and Hayden Smith.
Lavalla, Barrett, and Smith are all battling minor injuries and will not have their chances affected due to injury and Chris Wyles needed the time to rest prior to the grind of the World Cup Tolkin explained.
“ They are very close, Tolkin said of his injured players "Two of them were just precautionary and two needed just a couple of days. Chris Wyles has had a long season. He went into sevens and we just wanted to give him a mental and physical break before we went into the thick of things. Everything is in good shape in terms of injuries,” Tolkin concluded.