Wednesday, April 13, 2016

PRO Rugby Positional Breakdown: Center, Wing, & Fullback

With the PRO Rugby season fast approaching we're looking at each of the five rosters and comparing and contrasting players at various positions. Earlier we looked at the prop and hooker positionslock and the back-row, and the halfbacks. Today we look at the scrumhalfs and flyhalfs. As always it comes with the disclaimer that full rosters are not yet available and some names may be added before the start of the season.

Denver seemingly have some of the most depth in the backs. They have a lot of players listed as centers but they are going to have to play other positions as well. Chad London seems like he should be an automatic starter from day one. He's going to have some options for who pairs with him. Mike Garrity was recently capped by the Eagles and has played with London before. However, Garrity is going to have to fight off competition from Michael Al-Jiboori from the Denver Barbarians. He was extremely hot in the PRP before turning to PRO Rugby. Martin Knoetze has been pumping in the tries for Glendale in the PRP. Justin Pauga, Armandt Peens, and Max De Achaval can all play in the centers as well.

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Whoever doesn't start in the centers is going to pair with Timana Tahu who can also play in the centers. Al-Jiboori seems like a natural fit. One of these players could also move into the fullback position. Dustin Croy looks to have the inside edge but others are going to push for a spot.

Center: Michael Al-Jiboori, Mike Garrity, Martin Knoetze, Chad London, Justin Pauga, Armandt Peens
Wing: Timana Tahu
Fullback: Dustin Croy

Over in Ohio, the side is going to have a couple of experienced players and then will be relying on some who are in this type of atmosphere for the first time. Roland Suniula has spent the last couple of years playing in France. He'll be able to slide in at center and provide leadership. Dom Waldouck has experience playing in the Premiership and with the England Saxons. It would be an absolute shock not to see him start.

Spike Davis and Matt Hughston are also options but they can also play on the wing as well. Davis is an exciting prospect who will have his first real opportunity to show what he can do while Hughston has been one of the best players in the South for awhile. Mason Baum from Davenport is a big unit that has been very good at 7s. Alex Elkins, Shawn Rile, Allan Hanson, and Zac Mizell will have an opportunity to start or play fullback as will Ahmad Harajly.

Center: Spike Davis, Matt Hughston, Roland Suniula, Dom Waldouck
Wing: Mason Baum, Alex Elkins, Shawn Riley
Fullback: Allan Hanson, Zac Mizell, Ahmad Harajly

Sacramento are another side that has some international experience with players that are tasting professional rugby for the first time. Mirco Bergamasco can be pencilled in from day one as a starter in the centers. He's got nearly 90 caps for Italy and has been a professional for years. Nemia Qoro is an former Junior All-American and an exciting young prospect. He's been talked about as a breakout player for awhile and he'll get an opportunity to play in Sacramento. Ryan Thompson, one of the Thompson brothers, could also be an option.

Out on the wing Sacramento native Jojo Tikoisuva has been in Fiji 7s camp and has been a star for Metropolis in recent years. He's a good kicker and will give the team options. Rashad Harbor and Fatai Vailala are options while you could also see a player like Garrett Brewer move out to the wing or fullback. Harry Bennett played fly-half with Santa Monica and could start their for the team or he could start at fullback. Despite Santa Monica's poor record he's been outstanding.

Center: Mirco Bergamasco, Nemia Qoro, Kaliv Tavake, Ryan Thompson
Wing: Rashad Harbor, Jojo Tikoisuva, Fatai Vailala
Fullback: Harry Bennett

San Diego on paper have the most depth in the competition and it's going to be a fantastic thing to watch to see who is going to start. Andrew Suniula should probably be counted on to be a starter. He's played in a couple of World Cups and will be a leader. A player like Phil Mackenzie could play in the centers with him or could play out on the wing. Either way, Mackenzie is a starter. Tim Stanfill has been capped for the Eagles on the wing and would be another strong candidate to start. Whoever it is is likely to give way to Taku Ngwenya once he arrives from France.

Ryan Matyas has also been playing well and can slide in the centers, wing, or fullback. Jean-Baptiste Gobelet is a former France 7s player who can play anywhere in the backs or sometimes in the back-row. Mike Te'o is also a likely starter. He's been groomed as a scrumhalf but he's traditionally played fullback. If we had to pick, based on who is available in two weeks, we'd say that Mackenzie and Stanfill start on the wings, Matyas and Suniula in the centers, and Te'o at fullback.

Center: Ryan Matyas, Arnold Meredith, Andrew Suniula
Wing:  Jean-Baptiste Gobelet (not signed yet), Taku Ngwenya, Seb Sharpe, Tim Stanfill, Phil Mackenzie
Fullback: Mike Te'o

San Francisco is going to have a lot of local players that can step up and play. They could also have players from different positions step in. Beginning with fullback the conversation starts and ends with Mils Muliaina. He is the biggest name in the league and is going to be a focal point for San Francisco. That means that Jake Anderson is going to have to either come off the bench or move to a different spot. We think he starts and moves into the centers alongside Canadian Nick Blevins. That means that Jack O'Hara, or a player like Jack Halalilo, if he's on the roster, could get the nod. (Note: Kingsley McGowan has been associated with SF this year but has opted out.)

Center: Nick Blevins, Michael Haley
Wing: Colin Hawley, Jack O'Hara
Fullback: Jake Anderson, Mils Muliaina

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