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With Toby L'Estrange now overseas, Adam Siddall comes into this weekend's USA camp as the top available flyhalf option.
The multi-position back did himself no damage at all by stepping in for Belmont Shore and playing a solid fullback for them last week. Whether he stays with Belmont Shore is another issue, but right now it's clear that Siddall is just flat playing well.
"I'd been training around Southern California; my sister lives in the area and I was staying with her," said Siddall, who spent most of his childhood in New Zealand but was born a US citizen. "The weather is conducive to getting training done. I was looking to play some, though, and spoke with [Eagle and Belmont Shore flanker] Peter Dahl, and he suggested I run with Belmont. I turned up to practice a couple of times, and got in a game."
Siddall isn't one to stand back and let things happen to him, so despite practicing with Belmont Shore just twice, he looked as if he'd been with the club all preseason, scoring two tries and kicking another 13 points in Belmont Shore's 28-20 defeat of OMBAC.
"I try to put in the best performance I can for whatever team I'm on," Siddall said. "I tried to do that on Saturday. I had two practices with Belmont and spoke with Ray Egan. The senior players made me aware of the calls made the transition a lot easier."
It was still a remarkable performance. Siddall played fullback for Belmont Shore, but Coach Egan said he'd look at running Siddall at flyhalf alter on if that's what USA Coach Mike Tolkin wants. Certainly that's what Siddall, who took over in the #10 jersey for the Eagles in November after L'Estrange went down injured.
"Flyhalf is definitely my preferred position," Siddall said without hesitation. "My training, my goalkicking, and my tactical kicking are all geared to me playing 10. But in saying that I've been working on my speed a lot and I like to be flexible so I can do what Mike Tolkin wants."
Siddall said he has been working on being more of a distributor, which is what backs coach Billy Millard wants from his pivot.
"Really it's about implementing the patterns both offensively and defensively," said Siddall. "I managed to do that against Georgia and Russia. Defensively Phil Bailey brought in a new, more aggressive approach. I needed some adjusting to that because the reads are a lot faster. I felt I struggled with that a little bit against Georgia, but I've worked a lot on my tackling and on my reads."
Siddall said it has helped that the USA backline is coming together. Folau Niua, newly-signed with Glasgow, adds an exciting element to the offense, he said, and "Andrew Suniula has been in sublime form."
Born in Auckland, NZ, Siddall has always been a US citizen and his family often shuttled between the two countries. He was educated in New Zealand and in fact has just finished his law degree at the University of Auckland and will be taking the bar soon.
"After high school I prioritized my education, which was focused on getting into law school," he said. "But I was always playing rugby and I always thought it would be really cool to play in the States and I was always aware that I'd be eligible to play for the USA. My club coach was friends with [Old Blue NY Coach] Marty Veale, and when I had the opportunity to go to New York I took it. I am still really close with Old Blue and have a great relationship with everyone there."
It seems, then, that Siddall may be at a crossroads. He says nothing but good things about both Belmont Shore, where he is part of the Pacific Rugby Premiership guest program, and Old Blue, and while he loves playing flyhalf, to get the Eagle on his jersey you know he'd play anywhere – and has.
It all comes down to not being a wallflower.
"I always feel I need to show something and that I need to bring my A game and train as hard as I possibly can," he said. "This weekend I want to show I can tackle and work in the defensive system. It will be a tough weekend, but it will be rewarding."