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Originally, it was thought that the May Eagles might be considerably under strength, but it doesn’t appear that will be the case any longer. The overseas players contributing regularly at the top level – Chris Wyles, Samu Manoa, Scott LaValla and Takudzwa Ngwenya – are all still expected to be missing.
Mike Petri is still recovering from injury, and he’s the best man in one of his NYAC teammates' weddings the weekend of the match, so he’ll be unavailable. But there’s nothing holding Robbie Shaw, who spelled Petri nicely last test season, from being available. And it’s fair to assume Glendale scrumhalf Shaun Davies is up for selection.
The Eagles should have their entire front row arsenal at their disposal. Mike MacDonald showed up to the last camp fit enough and scrumming well. Eric Fry, Shawn Pittman and Zack Fenoglio should all be available.
The only question marks are Chris Biller and Phil Thiel, as their clubs could well be playing in the Elite Cup final on May 25. Will they skip their club duties to play in the Pacific Nations Cup opener? We think so. Biller has a terrific backup at SFGG in Neil Barrett, and Thiel is actually on the bench this weekend for Life. Nick Wallace or Jordan Bouhy from St. Mary’s could potentially be brought along, too. Titi Lamositele, who was impressive at the last camp, still needs to graduate high school, so he’s out.
The Elite Cup consideration also applies to flyhalf Toby L’Estrange, center Troy Hall and lock Brian Doyle, all of whom play for NYAC, the East’s top seed heading into the semifinals this weekend. But Doyle and Le’Estrange probably aren’t eager to allow someone else the opportunity to show well in their absence and gain ground as far as selections are concerned. And with Paul Emerick still out with injury, the Canada game could be a rare opportunity for Hall to prove he’s a selection-worthy center.
In the second row, Louis Stanfill should be back Stateside in time to play, we’ve already talked Doyle, and Graham Harriman is a shoe-in. It’s unlikely Inaki Basauri will be available for selection, or if he’d be picked if he was. He has been playing regularly for Tarbes in France. Tom Katzfey is a cover guy if something comes up.
The loose forwards are a little harder to predict. Todd Clever is expected to be done with his Japanese team’s training camp in time to play, and John Quill is still on the radar even though he’s back playing in Europe. As for domestic guys, Peter Dahl and Liam Murphy come to mind.
Assuming L’Estrange is in and Roland Suniula is still out with injury, the backup flyhalf spot is up for grabs. Could it be Gearoid MacDonald, who played in the ARC? Army’s Will Holder? Possibly, but Adam Sidall, a New Zealander who qualifies through parentage, has been playing great for Old Blue, and he has the kind of foot the Eagles have been searching for. We think he’ll get his shot this spring.
Andrew Suniula is a sure pick at inside center, and Emerick is still out. Hall will be plucked. But who else? Probably Seamus Kelly. His team goes into the CRC that next week, but it’s time for Kelly to start thinking about life after Cal, as he graduates this spring. He traveled with the team last summer but didn’t earn a cap. Canada is the perfect opportunity for him to go toe-to-toe with Hall in the competition to become Emerick’s understudy.
In the back three, James Paterson is finally back in the fold, and Luke Hume and Blaine Scully will have a couple of weeks of rest after London 7s and before the Canada bout, so they are likely picks. Colin Hawley could be, too. Zach Pangelinan is cover at fullback and flyhalf, if he's picked. And maybe Miles Craigwell or Cornelius Dirksen.
|Mike MacDonald||Nick Wallace|
|Eric Fry||Jordan Bouhy|
|Brian Doyle||Tom Katzfey|
|Louis Stanfill||Inaki Basauri|
|Todd Clever||Liam Murphy|
|Toby L'Estrange||Will Holder|
|Adam Siddall||Gearoid MacDonald|
|Luke Hume||Miles Craigwell|
|Blaine Scully||Cornelius Dirksen|
|James Paterson||Colin Hawley|