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The Eagles officially convene Thursday for camp ahead of the June tests,
though several players will be arriving late because of club duties. 40
players were named to the camp, and 39 of them are hoping to be named in
the 23-man roster for the Scotland test June 7. (Adam Siddall isn't
participating in contact and won't be ready to play by June.) This is a
breakdown of that group of players, and what sticks out in the
AVAILABILITY NOT AN ISSUE
For the most part. Despite the overseas clubs of a few Eagles making deep playoff runs, Mike Tolkin will have his pick of the litter. With the notable exceptions being the two frontline flyhalfs, there aren't a lot of injuries keeping guys out of consideration, either.
However, Samu Manoa might be a late scratch. His wife is pregnant and due any minute. So depending on the timing of the birth of his child, it's possible he'll become understandably unavailable.
HALFBACK POOL IS WEAK
Mike Petri has been the guy at scrumhalf. Going back to the 2011 World Cup, Petri has started 13 of the Eagles last 20 matches. Robbie Shaw has started six, often times spelling Petri for one game in a multi-game tour. Tim Usasz, now retired, had the other start in the 2011 RWC.
Guys like Shaun Davies and Chris Saint have been brought into camp, but not gotten the nod, and despite them both being seemingly available for selection, neither are on the invite list, driving home the point that Petri is still the guy.
The real head scratcher here is the omission of Davies. He's played well and won at the highest levels of American rugby for years at BYU and Life. He's got the athletic ability. He can kick for goal, and the Eagles are always, but particularly now, in need of someone with that skill set. And he is young enough to develop. But he's not in camp.
Nate Augspurger is the only other scrumhalf on the camp list. He's a worthy selection, who like Davies, has done everything in his power to climb the ladder, earning a 7s contract at the Olympic Training Center and relocating to New York to play for Old Blue after not having his 7s contract extended. Augspurger, though, doesn't yet have much high-level 15s scrumhalf experience, so it'd seemingly be a surprise to see him make a 23-man roster this summer.
But, as Tolkin displayed by starting then-still-in-college and uncapped Will Holder at flyhalf in his first-ever test as head coach against Canada back in 2012, he's not afraid of making the bold selection of a newbie if he thinks it's the right one. So, maybe it wouldn't be such a stretch to see Augspurger on a gameday roster.
Shalom Suniula is really in the battle for flyhalf, but can conceivably fill a hole at scrumhalf if the team's in a pinch.
As previously written about, the flyhalf pool is thin. St. Mary's All American Garrett Brewer has been brought into camp, but it might be too soon for him to be considered.
SECOND/BACK ROW DEPTH
It's maybe the deepest it's ever been, and with lots of flexibility. The Eagles could field an overseas professional at every second-and-back row spot: Todd Clever (NTT Shining Arcs; Japan) and Scott LaValla (Stade Francais; Top 14) at flanker, Cam Dolan (Northampton; Aviva Premiership) at No. 8, and Hayden Smith (Saracens; Aviva Premiership) and Samu Manoa (Northampton; Aviva Premiership) at lock.
But that's not a foregone conclusion by any stretch. Lou Stanfill and Brian Doyle, who are healthy together for the first time since last summer, have started an awful lot of games side-by-side the last few years, both internationally in USA jerseys and domestically for the Tolkin-coached NYAC.
With Stanfill and Doyle getting healthy, Manoa now regularly available, Hayden Smith returning to rugby, and the emergence of Graham Harriman and Tai Tuisamoa, the competition is very high for the tall guys. And that's going to make it difficult for newcomers Matt Trouville, Nick Civetta and Ben Pinkelman to find roster spots.
Kyle Sumsion and Danny Barrett, however new they may be, have a head start in the competition, though. Barrett's been on an upward trajectory, having burst onto the USA 7s team and played well in the ARC last fall. And Sumsion is very highly thought of, coming off a banner year with BYU, and he has a couple of selections under his belt.
So with this depth, there is sure to be disappointment, as some very good rugby players aren't going to be selected.
Also of note is the overall size of these players. Barrett is probably the shortest of the second-and-back row bunch, and he's not short. Absent are some of the smaller guys the Eagles have started at openside the last few years, like Peter Dahl, Derek Asbun and John Quill.
KEEP AN EYE ON THE CENTERS
It's an intriguing group. Seamus Kelly and Andrew Suniula are entrenched, but no one else is. Troy Hall is returning from a torn ACL. Chad London is back in camp after a stellar Pacific Rugby Premiership campaign. And Thretton Palamo, who's gone undrafted and unsigned after a few years of gridiron for Utah, is back.
Is Palamo in rugby shape, and if he is, is he too rusty for selection? He has an insanely impressive resume for someone who is just hoping to be picked, but there's been a pretty sizeable gap in rugby employment.
Hall was one of the best players on some Tolkin-coached NYAC teams, but he's getting a bit long on the tooth. London's had plenty of chances to be selected, but hasn't been, yet. Folau Niua will factor in here, too, if he's not playing flyhalf.
This is another area of strength. Tim Maupin has played well when given a chance, Luke Hume is a proven, dangerous commodity, Blaine Scully is the main cover for Wyles at fullback and a likely starter. And Wyles is a given. You'd have experienced, capable starters and a back-up with just those four.
Then there's Miles Craigwell and Brett Thompson, both with a lot of upside. Thompson has become a star for the 7s team, but he's at the bottom of the 15s totem pole at the moment. His size, power and speed would make him a match-up problem on the wing for most anyone. Craigwell has been playing 15s consistently for a couple of years now, and he's been to multiple camps, but not gotten selected. He can make game-changing hits on defense and is a sturdy ball carrier, but not a home-run hitter, on offense. Will either of the 7s guys get onto the team?
NO CHANGES IN FRONT ROW
Other than Mike MacDonald's one start, every other starting prop spot since the 2011 World Cup has been filled by someone in camp. Nick Wallace, Shawn Pittman and Eric Fry all have experience with each other and are on the ascending halves of their careers. No, this group isn't star-studded, and yes, the scrum's been a problem area for the Eagles, but at least there's consistency up front.