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What will they do at hooker, since it appears that Chris Biller is on his way out?
How many props will they take, and did anyone make enough of an impression to be a serious Eagle candidate over the incumbents?
What’s going on at lock, given the fact that both Brian Doyle and Lou Stanfill are recovering from surgery?
Are there any dark horses out there?
First the hooker question. Yes, it does seem as if Chris Biller, who has a young family but who also has not been playing well, could be left behind. If that happens, it’s certain that Phil Thiel did enough at the ARC to show he is in shape, motivated, and a leader.
Cam Falcon did not light the world on fire, but he is young and has a way
to go. Zach Fenoglio is a more dependable option, and he will likely be
For props? They will probably take five, as it’s such a demanding position, and certainly someone put his hand up – Nick Wallace.
Lock? That’s a huge question-mark area. With the back row coming together well enough, expect against Georgia and Russia to see Samu Manoa and Scott LaValla pack down together. But it is likely that Manoa may not be available for the New Zealand Maori game, and if that’s the case, Tai Tuisamoa took a big step with his ARC performance. Graham Harriman is in the mix, too.
Dark horses? Tuisamoa is definitely one. Tim Maupin, Danny Barrett, and even Joe Cowley.
Here’s our look at who will be chosen and why:
One other – could be Chris Sullivan, could be someone else (Patrick Latu??). Also, look for Lamositele to get at least one start, probably against Russia.
These guys are gritty and work hard. Now is the time to make a change at #2.
Just because someone is playing pro doesn’t make him an Eagle, but it can’t hurt for Nick Civetta, who may get a chance to show himself. In addition, with Brian Doyle and Lou Stanfill out because of injury, getting someone who is playing lock at a high level every week.
Both Manoa and LaValla are probably preferred at flanker, but if you’re looking to use your best athletes, it might be the right move to put them at lock.
John Cullen? Tolkin seems to like him a lot, and there is a lot to like. Too green? Nick Barrett? Maybe not quite yet.
Obviously we’re doubling up here. Tolkin would likely have wanted to look at John Quill and Liam Murphy, but both are hurt. Asbun provides some flexibility because he can play hooker. Barrett is a big play guy, and Dolan was really outstanding in the ARC. Dolan’s ability to rescue ball in a confused scrum might be enough to move Clever to 6 or 7.
Peter Dahl? Maybe, but the young guys look pretty good. Pierce Dargan? Possible if there's room for a flyer.
Petri might not be able to play all of the games, but Davies played well. Shaw is a more sure thing in the test arena. All are solid.
Max de Achaval (?)
Well we got it wrong in that we touted the likelihood of Adam Siddall playing, and starting, at flyhalf in the ARC. We saw him running that position in training and it looked like he was going to be an option. But Tolkin never used him there, and seemed happier to put him at 13 or 15.
So with that, we still don’t really have a backup flyhalf for Toby L’Estrange. Now L’Estrange has been playing better and looks more in control of the position, maybe it’s less of an issue.
Folau Niua looked really good in his moments against Canada in the summer. He is in terrific shape, and the only question is, how available is he?
Most likely he could play in the first game (Nov. 9 in Philadelphia), maybe the second (Nov. 16 in Tbilisi) but not the third (Nov. 23 in London)>
Tolkin had high hopes for Zach Pangelinan, but he’s been difficult to get a commitment from, and thus it doesn’t look like we’ll see him. De Achaval looked, early on in the ARC assembly, like he couldn’t hang with L’Estrange and Siddall, but he did some good things when thrown onto the field, and showed the one thing he has always demonstrated – poise.
It’s unclear whether Mile Pulu or Chris Chapman were exciting enough or consistent enough to break into this group. Chris Wyles has been playing a lot of center lately at Saracens. Roland Suniula has been playing a lot, but not at a high level in France. It's likely Tolkin would look at a longer-term option (read, younger).
Taku Ngwenya (?)
Colin Hawley (?)
Here’s the thing about Taku Ngwenya, he might be an exciting player, but it seems as if the USA team spends far too much time figuring out how to set him up for a try. Luke Hume is available and should be one of the USA wings. Maupin and Cowley are somewhat untried, but haven’t done too badly. Not sure if Colin Hawley is in a position to push for a spot here, but why not?
Look for Blaine Scully to also be a wing candidate. And Cowley can play fullback. But if all goes well, Wyles is in at center and Scully plays fullback.