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I figured he’s have somebody like Junior Sifa, or Robbie Shaw, or Brian McClenahan on the subs bench.
But O’Sullivan didn't do that. Instead he is running out close to the same team he started against Russia. The only differences are the inclusion of top pros Taku Ngwenya and Hayden Smith, who were under enforced time off in June (I got their starting nods correct), and Nic Johnson in for Inaki Basauri.
Phil Thiel starts this game, but he had been slated to start against Russia until an injury during the morning warmup forced Chris Biller into the lineup.
Of the players replaced, Colin Hawley isn’t in the 22, Biller and Basauri go to the subs bench, and Scott LaValla returns home for a funeral (he will be back in camp Sunday night).
This is, then, the best available lineup for the USA. After all the talk about testing some other players, this is very close to the 22 O’Sullivan would like to put on the field. Sure he’s like Chris Wyles healthy, and USA Rugby’s announcement mentioning Wyles and James Paterson as not picked due to injury implies that Paterson may well break this lineup if healthy.
But those aside, and with the understanding that the back row remains something of a game of musical loosies, this is a lineup designed to win the game, and that includes the bench.
It’s a lineup based on power, especially in the forwards. Hayden Smith and John van der Giessen are tough second rows, and Nic Johnson in at No. 8 is a great move – it’s what Johnson should be, and perhaps settles the back row down with Todd Clever as openside and Lou Stanfill at #6. All three are very physical, tough-minded, and skilled. Clever is of course the most flamboyant player, and that’s fine with Stanfill and Johnson backing him up.
In the backs, it’s time to see how various pairings solidify their games. Can Mike Petri and Nese Malifa build on what they did against Russia? Can Andrew Suniula and Paul Emerick do the same?
Kevin Swiryn obviously has something to prove on the left wing, and if he plays defense the way he can the Eagles will be much better off. And can they find some space for Ngwenya to explode onto the ball and scare some Canadians? Would be nice.
So those trying to break into the World Cup squad may well have to do so against the Glendale Select XV August 10. So they are playing to win, these Eagles, and on that I am sure I am not wrong.
USA Team to Face Canada
15 Blaine Scully (Unattached)
14 Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz)
13 Paul Emerick (Life University)
12 Andrew Suniula (Chicago Griffins)
11 Kevin Swiryn (Agen)
10 Nese Malifa (Glendale)
9 Mike Petri (New York Athletic Club)
1 Mate Moeakiola (Bobigny 93)
2 Phillip Thiel (Life University)
3 Shawn Pittman (London Welsh)
4 John van der Giessen (Unattached)
5 Hayden Smith (Saracens)
6 Louis Stanfill (Unattached)
7 Todd Clever (Suntory Sungoliath) *Captain
8 Nic Johnson (Unattached)
16 Chris Biller (San Francisco Golden Gate)
17 Eric Fry (Las Vegas Blackjacks)
18 Inaki Basauri (Perigueux)
19 Jonathan ‘JJ’ Gagiano (Univ. of Cape Town)
20 Tim Usasz (Nottingham RFC)
21 Roland Suniula (Boston Rugby)
22 Tai Enosa (Belmont Shore)