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Another November Tour means another patchwork assembly for the Eagles, as 38 players have been called upon to cover three matches – Nov. 4 against the Maori All Blacks in Chicago, Nov. 12 versus Romania in Bucharest and Nov. 19 opposite Tonga in San Sebastian, Spain.
Among the 38, 12 are seeking their first international 15s caps. Marcel Brache is a four-year Super Rugby veteran from South Africa, who was born in Los Angeles. He'll factor in on the wing. Center Bryce Campbell (Indiana), lock Nick Civetta (Notre Dame), lock Matt Jensen (BYU), prop Dino Waldren (St. Mary's) and prop Alex Maughan (Life) are products from the collegiate scene. Matai Leuta, Martin Iosefo and Madison Hughes are 7s veterans, as is Ahmad Harajly, though he and and Siaosi Mahoni are probably best recognized as PRO Rugby players. Ben Cima is a true product of the age-grade system currently playing club ball with Rocky Gorge.
Only two European professionals will be available for the Maori match at Soldier Field – Civetta and Titi Lamositele – but they’re unavailable for the Tonga game. Andrew Durutalo (Japan), Tony Lamborn (New Zealand) and James Hilterbrand (Australia) will bolster the group with their availability for all three tests.
Additional overseas pros Samu Manoa (France), Brache (Australia), Cam Dolan (Wales), Langilangi Haupeakui (Scotland), Taku Ngwenya (France), Blaine Scully (Wales), and Thretton Palamo (England) will all be available for the final two matches in Europe. Scully and all-time cap leader Todd Clever will co-captain the tour, with Clever taking the reins in Chicago.
The team is notably green in some position groups, like both halfback positions. There are five players in the squad who could be called upon to play scrumhalf – Nate Augspurger, Hughes, Shalom Suniula, Tomasin and Mike Te’o.
Augspurger has two starts and two caps to his name, both coming this summer against Italy and Russia. Tomasin spelled Augspurger in the Russia match, getting 15 minutes in his debut.
Hughes, the regular starter at scrumhalf and captain for the 7s national team, may have the highest ceiling of them all, but he spent most of his college career at Dartmouth playing fullback and has no real high-level experience at nine.
Suniula has appeared five times internationally at scrumhalf, but he’s been capped more as a flyhalf, and in his only two games under head coach John Mitchell he’s played center. He’s also only available for the Maori match.
Te’o has two caps at scrumhalf, including against Uruguay in March, but his last two caps under Mitchell have come as a wing.
At flyhalf, there is a big experience gap, too, with first-choice AJ MacGinty being unavailable. Suniula has played there, but he’s again only available for one game. Same with Folau Niua, who has only one cap at 10 back in 2013. Young Cima is a pure flyhalf, albeit uncapped, but he’s only available for the Chicago game, too.
Going into Europe, the Eagles have just two experienced flyhalves – Will Holder and JP Eloff. Holder has five caps. Two came under Mitchell this summer, but at fullback. The other three came at flyhalf back in 2012. Eloff has one international start at flyhalf.
The Eagles are also thin at lock, especially in Chicago, where they’re sure to blood at least one rookie. Nate Brakeley, with five caps, is the only experienced second row available for the Maori game. Once the Eagles head to Europe, they get deeper with the addition of Dolan and Manoa, both of whom are more fit to play in the back row.