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Head coach Mike Tolkin has named a 31-man traveling sqaud for the Eagles' three remaining World Cup primers against Canada Aug. 22, Harlequins Aug. 30 and Australia Sept. 5. Unlike the roster named for the Pacific Nations Cup, this squad is not restrictive, as Tolkin has the ability to add or drop players as he sees. These three matches provide players their last opportunity to earn one of 31 roster spots for the World Cup.
One glaring omission is Todd Clever, the former captain who was dropped mid-Pacific Nations Cup for missing two mandatory sessions the week of the Samoa match. Tolkin planned to readdress Clever's status after the PNC, and the fact that he's not in the mix for the next three matches indicates his chances of playing in a fourth World Cup are slim to none.
Troy Hall and Toby L'Estrange join Clever as players who participated in the Pacific Nations Cup but are not on the newly named squad. Nick Wallace and Tim Stanfill weren't named to the original PNC squad, but filled in, and are also not in the pre-RWC 31.
Olive Kilifi, Samu Manoa and Joseph Taufete'e fill the vacant spots. Manoa was unavailable for the PNC and will not make the trip for the Canada match, but he'll be ripe for the picking for the Harlequins and Australia clashes. Kilifi and Taufete'e provide more options in the front row, while the biggest question mark for Manoa is whether he'll line up at No. 8 or in the second row.
Niku Kruger was named to the original PNC squad but saw no action and was not selected to any match-day roster. He's been picked for the pre-RWC squad, and this time expect to see him get on the field. The scrumhalf play in the PNC was shaky, and Tolkin will want to exhaust all options before heading off to the U.K.
“We made a couple of tough cuts of guys who were quality players and quality teammates,” Tolkin said. “That was hard, but it shows we’re not just filling out names for a roster, and that we actually have quality here to fill out all 31 spots.
“We have most of the squad in a pecking order, but there are still going to be a few spots where guys are duking it out. We need to see what the best option is for us after these next three games.”
The Harlequin match will be streamed live by ESPN3 at 3 p.m. ET, while it's unclear if the Canada game will be available for viewing in the United States at all. USA Rugby says broadcast information for the Australia game will be announced in due time. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CST at Soldier Field.