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He picked Maka Unufe and Mike Palefau in place of Luke Hume and Blaine Scully. Hume is with the USA 15s team, and was seen limping off against Ireland anyway, while Scully is injured. So neither was dropped – more they have issues keeping them away from the squad, and, fortunately for Magleby, there are players available.

Palefau is an experienced player who can slot in at almost any position. He has much experience with the team and can fit in relatively seamlessly. The only issue for him, he says, is maintaining the right level of fitness while living and working in Seattle. As a late-game replacement, he is an effective 7s Eagle.

(Oddly, Palefau ran into another issue for the World Cup – his passport was too full! The Russian government requires two empty pages in any athlete’s passport because, as students of Russian history will know, Russia loves to stamp things. Palefau has had to get a new passport because his has been stamped far too much in his storied rugby career.)

Unufe might be, like Palefau, a talented football/rugby player out of Utah, but he is in a different spot. He is still very young, and is coming off an injury. He was starting to hit his stride with the USA team before getting hurt, and was out for four months.

“The injury just killed me,” Unufe told RUGBYMag.com. “I wasn’t prepared for it and it just slowed me down. The recovery was really slow for me. I wasn’t really taking responsibility for it; I wasn’t doing my part.”

But as he saw USA teams selected without him, he started to realize he needed to work harder to come back.

“It’s my job,” he said. “And rugby’s something I love to do and I wanted to get back into it.”

Unufe said he still doesn’t feel 100 percent fit. He still has a lot of work to do. But since he is a tall player with breakaway speed and is improving on defense, he has a huge upside.

“I want to bring back what I had when I was on the team,” Unufe said. “I love these boys and I want to do anything I can.”


What does Maka Unufe bring to the USA team? Go to 1:05 on this video and see.