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By Alex Goff
You can read a lot into actions, and putting aside for now whether you feel the USA played well or not on tour (most observers are mixed on the issue), have a look at who Head Coach Eddie O'Sullivan has been using.
We at RUGBYMag.com tracked the minutes of every player on tour, giving us an idea of who O'Sullivan likes, who he isn't sure about, and who changed his mind.
Players who played every minute of
both test matches:
Todd Clever, Nese Malifa, Taku Ngwenya, Shawn Pittman, Lou Stanfill, Andrew Suniula, Kevin Swiryn,Chris Wyles
Mostly no surprises there. Malifa is right now the only test flyhalf the USA has, as O'Sullivan is still pondering whether Tai Enosa, Volney Rouse or someone else should be the backup. The back three of wings Ngwenya and Swiryn and fullback Chris Wyles are set. O'Sullivan loves Lou Stanfill's versatility and grit, and has established Shawn Pittman as the man at tighthead (at least until Will Johnson recoveres from a broken hand).
Andrew SUniula is a bit of a surprise, as there's been a huge amount of competition at center. You'd have figured Pate Tuilevuka would have garnered some time at #12, but he didn't. Could it be the question is settled?
Players who play no minutes in the
Pat Danahy, Tai Enosa, Eric Fry, Colin Hawley, Zack Test, Pate Tuilevuka.
Some of these are obvious. Fry, Hawley and Enosa are very young. Danahy was a mid-tour replacement. As we said, Tuilevuka is the surprise here.
John van der Giessen 28
Pat Danahy 80
Tai Enosa 98
Mike MacDonald 123
Seta Tuilevuka 130
Phil Thiel 137
This number can be misleading, because Thiel, for example, played all his minutes in tests, while Chris Biller got more time, but more in the fiendlies. Van der Giessen broke his cheekbone in his first match. Danahy played one game, against Scotland A, after replacing van der Gissen. So those kind of don't count.
Enosa is clearly young and being eased into a role. O'Sullivan needed to get Malifa on the field against Saracens, leaving Enosa only one start, against Scotland A.
MacDonald came back into the squad after being dropped earlier this year. His minutes haven't been good, as he has been a late-game replacement in test matches. When Johnson comes back, will Big Mac be squeezed out? He remains a huge question-mark for this team.
Seta Tuilevuka started the Portugal test, but was replaced after 50 minutes. He didn't see any action after that. Minor injury or a reflection of his form?
Paul Emerick 280
Inaki Basauri 277
Andrew Suniula 250
Nese Malifa 232
Samu Manoa 216
This list we find fascinating. Manoa clearly played his way to more minutes and had a strong match against Georgia. He is rumored to be lining up a pro contract in Europe, and certainly the numbers reflect his improved play. Remember he was on the outside looking in on the USA Selects in the ARC, and played his way onto the starting lineup there, and from there onto the Eagles. That's a great story.
Malifa, as we mentioned, is really O'Sullivan's only flyhalf option at present, and as such dominates minutes there. Suniula, as we mentioned, seems to have latched onto the inside center position. We'll see how things go once Junior Sifa comes back.
The top two we find most interesting. Inaki Basauri came into this tour as a total unknown. Yes, he'd played for the Eagles before, but not for O'Sullivan, who acknowledged he knew little about the loose forward. Basauri looked to get time in the friendlies, but ended up starting in all four matches. Stangest of all was Saturday, when on a squad that had five players who have played No.8 internationally or professionally, it was Basauri, who has never done so on even close to a regular basis, who played at the back of the scrum.
What that means we're not sure, but it's interesting.
And finally all that brings us to Paul Emerick. We've covered the Emerick redemption before, but the numbers show this in clear relief. Paul Emerick started against Saracens but was on the bench against Portugal. He looked to be on the outs, and yet came in as a sub, sparked the USA to victory, and followed that up with wire-to-wire performances against Scotland A and Georgia. He scored the USA's lone try against Georgia (Emerick had two on the tour, everyone else had two total), and made the try-saving tackle that prevented Georgia from scoring on that final scrum (Georgia scores soon after but Emerick still stopped them on the first attempt). It added up to the former University of Northern Iowa All American playing the most minutes of any USA player.
It just seems like anytime anyone counts Emerick out, he comes back. And in some small way the numbers show this.
Final notes: Some players saw their time dwindle: JJ Gagiano, Scott LaValla, Seta Tuilavuka. COuld be because O'Sullivan liked other players better, or made choices based on the opposition.
In a class of his own is Mike
Petri, who captained the USA against Scotland A, but can't seem to buy
minutes in the full test matches.
USA Player Minutes
(Note, we counted 90 minutes for the Georgia game)
|John van der Giessen||0||28||0||0||28|