Thursday, April 7, 2016

PRO Rugby Positional Breakdown: Scrumhalf & Flyhalf

With the PRO Rugby season fast approaching we're looking at each of the five rosters and comparing and contrasting players at various positions. A couple of days ago we looked at the prop and hooker positions and yesterday we turned our attention to lock and the back-row. 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.

This is a category in which there is a lot of potential in the competition along with a few proven players. A quick look around the league and you seen young U.S. names in Niku Kruger, Will Magie, JP Eloff, Garrett Brewer, Jope Motokana, Tom Bliss, and Kalei Konrad. All of these players are going to get an opportunity to see if they have what it takes this year. Some will make it, some won't but at the end of the year the Eagles and U.S. fans are going to get a much better group of players because they will have been put through tough competition.

In addition to the young names there are established club players also available. Mose Timoteo is ageless and will be with Denver who also have Bobby Impson, Ata Malifa, and Max De Achaval. Other teams have the likes of Robbie Shaw, Harry Bennett, and Charlie Purdon--all solid club players. San Diego is going to arguably have the most experienced flyhalf in Kurt Morath.

Take the jump to read more.

Like in a lot of other positions Denver has a lot of depth on first take. They've been one of the more active teams in announcing a complete roster so that helps but overall Denver can have a player or two go down with injury and have another step up. At scrumhalf Niku Kruger looks like he's initially going to be the starter. The World Cup veteran has had some ups and downs since the tournament but he's also had bright moments. He'll likely get pressure from his Glendale teammate Timoteo. As mentioned, time had no hold on Timoteo. Bobby Impson from Denver can also hold his own.

At flyhalf there should be a real battle to see who comes out as the starter. Will Magie has played briefly in the RFU Championship and for longer spells in the National League One. He's also a former Junior All-American captain. It's a possibility that he forms a young halfback pairing with Will Magie but Ata Malifa, Max De Achaval, and Armandt Peens are also very good options. Magie can also kick along with Kruger and Malifa, De Achaval, and Peens.

Scrumhalf: Bobby Impson, Niku Kruger, Mose Timoteo
Flyhalf: Will Magie, Ata Malifa, Max De Achaval, Armandt Peens

Ohio have an embarrassment of riches at scrumhalf. Both Shaun Davies and Robbie Shaw have had the distinction of being the last scrumhalf cut from a World Cup team. Davies has been considered by some to be the best domestic scrumhalf in the country over the last few years. He's going to have to battle with Shaw and Eagle camp invitee Chris Saint to start. No matter who gets the nod Ohio have to be happy with their choices.

At flyhalf JP Eloff seems to the be starter at the moment. He had some good moments in the ARC and his kicking is going to be a good option. Taylor Howden is a local player that has a lot of fans while Chris Kunkel is a young flyhalf out of James Madison.

Scrumhalf: Shaun Davies, Chris Saint, Robbie Shaw
Flyhalf: JP Eloff, Taylor Howden, Chris Kunkel

Watch out this year for Sacramento's Jope Motokana at scrumhalf. For the last couple of years he's been hidden up in Seattle turning out solid performance after solid performance. He's also still young and has plenty of room to grow. He may play in 7s a little bit during the season but if he's with the team the he is going to impress.

At flyhalf Garrett Brewer could easily take his turn as the starter. He's put in four years at St. Mary's and has some experience playing in Ireland. He's going to have to ward off Harry Bennett, who has been Santa Monica's best player the last two years, and Pate Takiveikata from the Sacramento Lions and Metropolis. He's also really young and has time to develop.

Scrumhalf: Josh Holland, Jope Motokana
Flyhalf: Garrett Brewer, Pate Takiveikata, Harry Bennett

The situation San Diego seems fairly straightforward. Kurt Morath brings lots of experience and solid kicking to the flyhalf position with Kalei Konrad a capable back-up. He's extremely valuable as a player and look for him to be a leader as well. At scrumhalf Tom Bliss has a lot of fans and was good for the Eagles in limited play.

Scrumhalf: Tom Bliss, Charlie Purdon
Flyhalf: Kurt Morath, Kalei Konrad, Pono Haitsuka

The coaching staff in San Francisco is very high on their young scrumhalf duo of Devereaux Ferris and Michael Reid. They may both be young but they think each has the opportunity to play for the Eagles in the future. They are going to get thrown into the deep end quickly so it's going to be sink or swim for both.

At flyhalf the odds have Orene Ai'i as the starter. There could be some local players like Tai Enosa in the mix but Ai'i brings a lot of quality. Martini Talapusi, a Samoan player with experience in Ireland and New Zealand is an option but he's also a fullback. That said, Jake Anderson may push him down into the flyhalf role.

Scrumhalf: Devereaux Ferris, Michael Reid
Flyhalf: Orene Ai'i, Martini Talapusi

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