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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Toni Pulu, James McMahon Emerge As Latest U.S.-Eligibles


A few months ago when the IRB announced that players could switch countries if they held a passport, played on the IRB Sevens Series with their new team, and hadn't played with their old team for 18 months it only looked like Ronan O'Gara fit that bill and the idea of O'Gara coming out of retirement to play for the U.S. at the Olympics was pretty absurd. However, another American-born player has emerged that could fit the bill. Toni Pulu of Counties Manukau in New Zealand was born in the United States (a big up to @raysrugby for the tip) and has been a big part of the Steelers for the last several years.

Pulu was born in the United States but played for Niue at the 2011 Gold Coast 7s. Since then he's played for the Steelers and has been a consistent presence in their starting line-up. Last year he played and started in nine of the team's ten matches scoring twice. The year before that he played and started in seven matches. This year he has already started both of Counties Manukau's matches.

Take the jump to read more.
In order to play for the Eagles he would have to obtain a U.S. passport, which shouldn't be too hard since he was born in the United States, and play for the team on the IRB Sevens Series. That may be more difficult considering he is based in New Zealand and hasn't been on the radar of most in the United States. Also, there is the big question of whether he would even want to play for the Eagles. As a winger he would face stiff competition and wouldn't be guaranteed a spot but could be worth taking a look at. Pulu is 24 years old.

Another player born in the U.S. but playing overseas is James McMahon of the Sydney Stars in the new National Rugby Championship. McMahon is a medical student at Sydney University where he has been playing in the Shute Shield with the students. He also played six matches with the Melbourne Rebels earlier this season as a substitute. He's 26 years old and plays center. Unlike Pulu he would not need a nationality switch. However, as a medical student he may not want to travel around the world for a chance at trying to make the Eagles for the World Cup. That's a huge time commitment for something that's not guaranteed.

As we see every World Cup cycle a few players emerge that have the potential to represent the United States. James Paterson was the example from 2011 although he was familiar with the U.S. system and had lived here for part of his youth. He has strong ties to the Colorado area. Whether Pulu or McMahon play for the U.S. is a bit of a long-shot but the chance to play in a World Cup can be a big motivator for some players. (Again, @raysrugby with the tip.)

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