Friday, April 1, 2016

Mitchell Picks First Eagles Elite Training Squad

In a new wrinkle, at least one that is public, Eagles head coach John Mitchell has announced his first Elite Training Squad. The squad is set to be picked every two years and it encompasses some of the top players based in the U.S. and around the world. Eagles 7s assistant and Head Performance Coach Chris Brown will over standards for the team. The squad is also made easier with the introduction of PRO Rugby.

"We are kidding ourselves if we think we are as fit as we can be, so we have to find a way to bridge our gap in 15s to realistically and authentically compete against Tier One nations," Mitchell said in a U.S.A. Rugby press release. "We cannot do this without creating a model by where the players take greater ownership for targeting and raising their standards in their total distance covered and high velocity speed percentages daily. We need to find better ways to help the player implement to be in the optimal zone daily through guidance, supervision, and updating their daily work and volume."

Take the jump to read more.
He went on to add that "the past has been very much about the inputs in test week only. The Eagles Elite Training Squad's intention is more about the whole of the inputs and the discipline necessary to their preparation before test week so that, in a test match preparation, we can prepare with the right intensity and training load to bring the right performance.

In addition, this will surface the best players and raise them to the top to help us to select and create the best USA Eagles team mix for each test match while still having time to have an eye on the development of the best future talent."

Most of the major names are there, including all of the regular Eagles 7s players, but there are a few exceptions. Mike Sosene-Feagai, the starting hooker for most of the ARC ins't on the list. Niku Kruger is also missing.

Along with the main group there is a development group that include current college or youth level players or those just recently graduated.

We'll have more of a breakdown of the team later.

Prop: Chris Baumann (Denver), Eric Fry (Newcastle), Ollie Kilifi (Sacramento), Titi Lamositele (Saracens), Angus MacLellan (Ohio), Ben Tarr (Denver)

Hooker: Tom Coolican (San Francisco), James Hilterbrand (Waratahs), Joe Taufete'e (San Diego)

Lock: Nate Brakeley (NYAC), Ben Landry (Denver), Samu Manoa (Toulon), Brodie Orth (Denver), Greg Peterson (Glasgow),

Back-row: Danny Barrett (Eagles 7s), Garrett Bender (Eagles 7s), Todd Clever (Newcastle), Cam Dolan (Cardiff), Andrew Durutalo (Sunwolves), Harry Higgins (Old Blue), James King (Unattached) Al McFarland (NYAC), Ben Pinkelman (Eagles 7s), Aladdin Schirmer (Central Washington), David Tameilau (San Francisco), Bruce Thomas (SFGG)

Scrumhalf: Nate Augspurger (Eagles 7s), Tom Bliss (San Diego), JP Eloff (Ohio), Madison Hughes (Eagles 7s)

Fly-half: James Bird (Old Blue), AJ MacGinty (Connacht), Shalom Suniula (Eagles 7s), Steve Tomasin (Eagles 7s)

Center: Lemoto Filikitonga (Metropolis), Martin Iosefo (Eagles 7s), Chad London (Denver), Folau Niua (Eagles 7s), Thretton Palamo (Eagles 7s), Andrew Suniula (San Diego), Peter Tiberio (Eagles 7s)

Wing: Perry Baker (Eagles 7s), Pila Huihui (SFGG), Luke Hume (Old Blue), Carlin Isles (Eagles 7s), Matai Leuta (Eagles 7s), Taku Ngwenya (San Diego), Blaine Scully (Cardiff), Brett Thompson (Eagles 7s), Maka Unufe (Eagles 7s)

Fullback: Will Holder (Eagles 7s), Mike Te'o (San Diego), Zack Test (Eagles 7s)

Development: Jake Anderson (San Francisco), Dylan Audsley (St. Mary's), Demecus Beach (Ohio), Ben Cima (Rocky Gorge), Hanco Germishuys (Denver), Alec Gletzer (San Francisco), Seth Halliman (Central Washington), Kalei Konrad (San Diego), Jope Motokana (Sacramento), Deion Mikesell (Lindenwood), Christian Ostberg (Aurillac), Lorenzo Thomas (Lindenwood)


  1. Some interesting non selections. Specifically Kingsley McGowan and Seamus Kelly. I do wonder if Kelly has chosen to move on from test rugby. McGowan perhaps is not quite ready for test level but I would think he would be on the developmental squad. The absence of Kruger is no real surprise. He has been fast tracked too quickly. I am very surprised Andrew Siniula is on the Elite squad. His best days seem well past. John Quill's absence is also a surprise and does Duratolo's selection mean he could be with the Eagles for the Olympics?

    I like Mitchell's honesty. The selection of so many 7's players is clear affirmation of the value of high performance athletics.

  2. I'm disappointed that Seamus Kelly and John Quill are not on the list.
    The omission of Niku Kruger is puzzling - if not on the development team, doesn't he warrant a spot on the development squad? He's capped, right?

  3. Just a matter of semantics - I read elsewhere that the team selection would be done biannually, which means every two years, which makes sense with the World Cup schedule.
    You say twice a year, (semi-annually), which is changing the selection seven times in the World Cup cycle.
    What is the intention here? Set it up like school semesters, with marks given every six months? Or like a community college, where you get two years to prove yourself ?

    This program IS a test, right? Establish fitness standards, to be incorporated into each player's club routine, to be tested, in this case, every six months, and possibly get tossed off the squad?

    What next - they will have to pass SEAL training?

    What is the intention here?

  4. I would say Taufetee was the starter for bigger games once he proved himself.

    Agree that this is a test. Especially guys like Suniula that might struggle on fitness. Step it up or else. It's also only semi annual and explicitly says other can still get considered. Anyone in PRO could put their hand up by crushing it in the season.

    I would also wonder whether guys were asked first. And hose that don't want to deal with international play said no

  5. It appears that the intention is to raise the fitness standards across the board. If you don't meet minimum fitness standards, you aren't an elite player. Seems rather simple to me. If the WC showed us anything, it is that we have the athletes to compete, but they lack the fitness and core skills necessary to play an 80 minute match. As far as details go, I'm sure more will be forthcoming as the program develops.

    In regards to Kruger and Kelly, their absence isn't that surprising. They both need more time to develop. Kruger's decision making isn't at the international level yet. I watched several matches and questioned why he would continually pass to the blind side when right up against the touch line or why he would pass to isolated players. The WC showed that Kelly isn't an international #13 because he cannot distribute after a line break. There were several line breaks were his inability to make a pass to a support runner cost points. Both players are young and have time to develop, but they aren't the best options at present.

  6. Coaches can help Mitch by worrying less about who is and isn't on the lists and concentrating more on the reason this group is put together in the first place:

    American rugby players are not fit enough for test rugby.

    Seriously, we have got to get that through our thick heads. Just because the USA produces some of the world's greatest athletes does not necessarily mean the USA produces the world's greatest rugby athletes. And until we are thumping every single Tier 2 and Tier 3 opponent that we face, we do not have the necessary individual and team strength, flexibility, speed, or quickness to execute the functional and mental skills necessary over 80 minutes of test rugby for five weeks straight. The Eagles flashed the pan in the ARC and, overall, it was due to team fitness. That should not happen, but it will again.

    I posit that the Eagles will only consistently soar when the EETS list is numbered at ~200 with each position being at least 10 names deep (Front Rows at least 12) with ALL of those names are within 75% of the fitness levels set by the program and at least half of the names on the list have met or exceeded and consistently maintained those fitness standards.

  7. Truth!

    Some hate comparing 7s to 15s but roughly the same squad went from ~13th to 6th in a year. It was the fitness & mental fundamentals

  8. Agree with fitness and need for a larger pool. It would be great if USA Rugby Website made fitness more of a feature. There should be well known fitness standards for every level of the game for every position. Power, Speed, and Endurance. Fitness needs to become a leading element of US rugby culture.

  9. Disappointed to see so many of the same names on the EETS. We had so many old guys who performed so poorly and were clearly of of shape at the ARC. Wish there was more clarification around the Eagles Development Group. Many young players listed that I thought would have been on the EETS. Like Ben Cima, Christian Ostberg, Hanco. We need more our professional Rugby players that play overseas and that are in a full time pro environments. The fitness, speed of the game and expectations are very different then just playing for your school or a club team.