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Paterson, the former USA U19 captain and whose mother is American, has spent the last several years moving his way up the pro ranks in New Zealand, and the last two seasons has been a starting wing and fullback for the Otago Highlanders. However he was unable to finish the Super 15 season because of a torn pectoral muscle.
The 24-year-old has been working hard to stay fit and come back, and told RUGBYMag.com earlier this summer that he wants to play for the USA in the World Cup.
However, to do that, he needs to be fit in time to play Japan August 21. O’Sullivan told RUGBYMag.com that he will not pick Paterson for the World Cup squad unless he has seen him play for the USA beforehand.
Paterson is due to arrive in Denver soon to undergo fitness tests under the eye of USA Rugby medical staff. They will make a determination as to when they think Paterson will be able to play. If they don’t think he will be ready for Japan, he will likely not be picked. Even if he is ready in time, it’s not a done deal.
“I think you have to look at how it affects the culture of the team,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s had other opportunities to play for the USA and he hasn’t taken them. So now I want to know what he plans for the future.”
Essentially what O’Sullivan is saying is: if Paterson wants only to play in the World Cup and nothing more, then the Eagles aren’t interested. But if he can help the team and be available to play in future years, then it could be a good fit.
If Paterson is not fit to play against Canada or Japan, O’Sullivan will not choose another player to replace him. O’Sullivan has already picked 18 forwards and 17 backs (minus Paterson) to challenge for 30 World Cup places, and he won’t bring in anyone else.