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USA 15s MNT Head Coach Mike Tolkin has selected his players to travel to Canada to face the Maple Leafs Saturday afternoon in Kingston, Ont.
Tolkin’s choices include many familiar names, while three players – Blaine Scully, Toby L’Estrange, and Pate Tuilevuka – have been left off due to injury.
Scully’s injury is long-term and was suffered in March. Tuilevuka and L’Estrange were both injured in Saturday’s Super League final.
Todd Clever captains the team, likely with Mike Petri as vice captain. Hooker Chris Biller, props Eric Fry, Mike MacDonald, and Shawn Pittman, and flankers Clever, Scott LaValla, and Lou Stanfill all return from the 2011 World Cup squad in the forwards.
New faces are:
Derek Asbun, captain of Cal in 2011, and now playing for Oxford University. Can play flanker and is developing as a hooker; Conor Coyne, longtime hooker with NYAC; Brian Doyle, previously capped lock with NYAC and widely considered the best at that position in the Super League; Andrew Durutalo, who has been playing for OPSB and 7s for the USA; Tom Katzfey, another longtime USA prospect who has put on bulk while playing lock at Life University; former Oklahoma All American Taylor Mokate, currently playing in New Zealand, and Tolifili (Andre) Liufau, a prop with a strong football background now playing in France.
All of these newish players have been on the radar as All Americans, age-grade Eagles, or on the USA Selects or 7s team.
Tolkin has opted for three hookers – Biller, Coyne, and Asbun. That is likely partly because Biller is the only one tested at the international level. (If Asbun plays hooker for the Eagles, he will be the 6th Cal hooker to make the national team since Tom Billups retired from international play, and joined Cal as a coach. Billups was a teammate and mentor of Kirk Khasigian, and then helped develop Chris Miller, Joe Welch, Brian McClenahan, and Biller.)
Tolkin is also looking for second rows, as he has seen Hayden Smith sign with the NY Jets, John van der Giessen retire, and Samu Manoa be unavailable. Only Doyle and Katzfey are specialist second rows, but Stanfill, LaValla, and Mokate can all also play lock.
In the backs, Paul Emerick, Tai Enosa, Colin Hawley, Taku Ngwenya, James Paterson, Andrew and Roland Suniula, Mike Petri and Chris Wyles all return from the World Cup squad.
Enosa was not in the domestic camp, but was brought in as cover at flyhalf after L’Estrange’s injury.
Another player not in the camp but brought in was Seamus Kelly, a player Tolkin has been known to like (he coached Kelly in high school), and expected to develop as a potential Eagle. With L’Estrange and Tuilevuka hurt, now is as good a time as any to get started.
Also new to the team: BYU scrumhalf Shaun Davies, who adds another dimension by being a very good goalkicker; USMA flyhalf Will Holder, who impressed despite his youth, flashy-running fullback Luke Hume of Old Blue, and Mose Timoteo, the SFGG scrumhalf first capped by the USA in 2000.
Timoteo obviously provides veteran leadership, while some of the younger players, including Enosa, are still developing into their roles. Holder, however, has shown enormous poise, and could well break into a starting role soon.
USA Squad for June Tests:
Derek Asbun Oxford University, England Flanker/Hooker
Chris Biller Northampton, England Hooker
Todd Clever NTT Communications, Japan Flanker
Conor Coyne NYAC Hooker
Brian Doyle NYAC Lock
Andrew Durutalo OPSB/USA 7s Flanker
Eric Fry Old Boys Univ. New Zealand Prop
Tom Katzfey Life College Lock
Scott LaValla Stade Francais, France Lock/Flanker
Tolifili (Andre) Liufau l'Uson Rugby, France Prop
Mike MacDonald Leeds Carnegie, England Prop
Taylor Mokate Old Boys Univ. New Zealand Flanker/Lock
Shawn Pittman London Welsh, England Prop
Louis Stanfill NYAC Flanker/Lock
Shaun Davies BYU Scrumhalf
Paul Emerick London Wasps, England Center
Tai Enosa USA 7s Flyhalf/Fullback
Colin Hawley USA 7s Wing/Fullback/Center
Will Holder Army Flyhalf
Luke Hume Old Blue Fullback/Wing
Seamus Kelly Univ. of California Center
Taku Ngwenya Biarritz, France Wing
James Paterson Glendale Raptors Wing/Center/Fullback
Mike Petri NYAC Scrumhalf
Andrew Suniula Cornish Pirates, England Center
Roland Suniula Chicago Griffins Center/Flyhalf
Mose Timoteo SFGG Scrumhalf
Chris Wyles Saracens, England Fullback/Center/Wing