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will Head Coach Eddie O’Sullivan field his top side? That is the big question. He will be running on his rested pros, that’s for sure.
Chris Wyles, Hayden Smith, Taku Ngwenya, Junior Sifa and Mike MacDonald are all expected to get starts or significant playing time. O’Sullivan feels it’s imperative to get them back in the USA jerseys quickly.
But in other positions, we might well see some experimentation. Earlier in the spring O’Sullivan started several new or inexperienced internationals against the England Saxons, and the Eagles got smacked around. This time around, he wants to mix in the cool kids with the newbies. That way, he can judge their performance in the context of a higher level of play.
So it looks like we should expect a mixture of regulars and not-so-regulars in the next two games. Look for Robbie Shaw to get his first time on the field with the USA since early 2008. The scrumhalf has been the third wheel at #9, and O’Sullivan will want to see him play under pressure.
Ideally for all concerned, Shaw and aspiring Eagle flyhalf Troy Hall won’t be lumped in together and will be able to work with the more established USA halfback partner.
Look also for O’Sullivan to mix and match his centers and his loose forwards as he searches for the best combinations. Of those, Pat Danahy will have to be itching to get a chance to show he is in the mix at flanker, and Sifa, who hasn’t suited up for the USA in over a year, will feel the same at center.
It’s going to be a tough balancing act for O’Sullivan and the national team. They will want to play to win. They will want to beat Canada. But if they think only along those lines, several of the 36 players in camp won’t get any playing time.