Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Forecasting the Eagles Team Against Maori All Blacks

The Eagles might have caught a break in recent days as the Premiership has seemingly softened their stance on releasing players outside the regulation 9 window. However, there are still some very real questions whether the likes of AJ MacGinty, Titi Lamositele, Thretton Palamo, and Nick Civetta will be released to play against the Maori All Blacks. While the Premiership is allowing Welsh players to face off against Australia on November 5th that match is an official test while the Eagles-Maori All Blacks match is non-capped. As such it doesn't apply to regulation 9 and it would be highly surprisingly if any of those players listed above played in the match.

Players in the Pro12--Blaine Scully, Cam Dolan, Langilangi Haupeakui (Greg Peterson is injured)--and the Top 14--Samu Manoa and Taku Ngwenya--will not be available for selection. It may also be very difficult to secure the release of players in any league currently playing. However, for Americans that played in the Mitre 10 Cup, the NRC, or any other league currently not playing they should be available.

Take the jump to read more.
So who does that leave for selection against the Maori All Blacks? While the main players in Europe are out there is still a relatively strong side. As usual this should come with the disclaimer that there are always surprises on the Eagles roster and I'm sure we've left someone out. Let's dive in.

Prop: Chris Baumann, Angus McLellan, Ben Tarr, Eric Fry

It's pretty clear that without Lamositele the Eagles are missing one of the foundations of their scrum. It's not just the scrum that Lamositele is key but also in his defense and general work around the park. He really is the best option for the Eagles at the moment and will be missed. However, the Eagles will have Chris Baumann. He's enjoyed a fantastic year of rugby highlighted by good time down in New Zealand. He's a lock to make the team and play the Maori All Blacks the big question is who are the three players that are going to join him.

Eric Fry may not be available due to regulation 9 issues but if he is he's shown enough resilience over the last year to be included. Fry deserves a lot of credit for how he has improved his game over the last year after being dropped in June. If he can't go then the Eagles are going to have to turn to lesser experienced players. If you look at players that played in the ARC Angus McLellan and Ben Tarr are two good choices if healthy. They were left out of the APC team which may mean they had some things they needed to recover from after the PRO Rugby season.

After that you have the likes of Ollie Kilifi, who has been out of the picture for most of Mitchell's tenure, and then the APC group of Demecus Beach, Alex Maughan, Mason Pedersen, Jake Turnbull, and Chance Wenglewski. None of this group performed that well at the tournament and are going to have to take a big step up against the Maori All Blacks. Pedersen was probably the most effective.

If we had to pick a group we'd go with Baumann, Fry, McLellan, and Tarr. If Lamostitele is available then we would obviously include him. If one of these players is not available we think Pedersen gets the pick.

Hooker: James Hilterbrand, Joe Taufete'e

The Eagles have experimented at hooker in the APC and even the ARC but on the surface it's pretty clear that James Hilterbrand and Joe Taufete'e seem to be the top two options. If a player like Zach Fenoglio made himself available he should push into that conversation but that's a big if. Our money has Hilterbrand and Taufete'e gaining selection with players like Tom Coolican, Mike Sosene-Feagai, and Cam Falcon on the outside looking in. If Dylan Fawsitt is U.S.-eligible he may also get a look.

Lock: Nate Brakeley, Harry Higgins

Greg Peterson is out and Nick Civetta, Cam Dolan, and Samu Manoa are unlikely to feature against the Maori All Blacks but the Eagles do have a stable of capable players. Nate Brakeley has continually impressed Mitchell and the odds are high that he is involved. The same goes for the likes of Harry Higgins and James King. The versatility of those two players also helps their cause. If Ben Landry is back rugby fit from his stint trying football he might also be a good one to look at. Christian Ostberg is another. That said, we think Mitchell will go with Brakeley, Higgins, and King as his options with one of them making the bench.

Back-row: Todd Clever, Tony Lamborn, Andrew Durutalo, Danny Barrett, Aladdin Schirmer

This is looking like the wheelhouse of the Eagles against the Maori All Blacks. Todd Clever, Tony Lamborn, and Andrew Durutalo should all be available. If that's the case it's easy to see that group as your starting line-up and a fantastic one at that. Aladdin Schirmer should be in the picture as should Danny Barrett. It's possible that Malon Al-Jiboori, Alec Gletzer, or Hanco Germishuys makes the cut but with only five spots realistically open for the match the top four are set with only one spot available.

Scrumhalf: Nate Augspurger, Nick Boyer

The Eagles are suddenly looking like they have depth at scrumhalf but no one has yet to put their hand up to win the starting job. Shaun Davies had a fantastic PRO Rugby season and in many quarters has been a player long neglected by the Eagles. Robbie Shaw has had his time but with younger options like Mikey Te'o, Nate Augspurger, Steve Tomasin, Nick Boyer, and Tom Bliss all having their chance he may be passed over. Te'o can play scrumhalf but is a better fit somewhere else, especially in a depleted line-up. We think it's Augspurger that gets his chance. He is a dynamic player that could shine in 15s now that the Olympics are over. The same could be said for Shalom Suniula. We think it's Augspurger and Boyer who get the shot. Boyer showed a lot during the APC and a back-up chance against the Maori All Blacks could be on the cards.

Flyhalf: James Bird, Ben Cima

With AJ MacGinty very unlikely to play the battle of the back-ups will occur to see which player can put their stamp on the jersey. James Bird has performed very well in the past and looked comfortable during the ARC. We'd give him the number two spot at the moment. Ben Cima and JP Eloff took turns at the APC. We thought that Cima did the better job of the two. He's also primed for a big breakout and being a part of the fall tour should be that.

Center: Chad London, Will Holder, Martin Iosefo

Thretton Palamo is out which takes away one of the options at center. Mitchell has shown to experiment in the backline some and it wouldn't shock us to see that in Chicago. Chad London has played particularly well in an Eagles shirt over the last year. We think he is at least on the roster. We're also going with two 7s players in Will Holder and Martin Iosefo. Holder can play elsewhere, including fly-half and fullback, but we think he's a center here. It also wouldn't shock us to see either Lemoto Filkitonga or Ryan Matyas involved, or a completely new surprise, but we think London, Holder, and Iosefo make the center trio in the 23. Or maybe a surprise return of Folau Niua?

Wing: Spike Davis, Brett Thompson, Matai Leuta, Luke Hume

Blaine Scully and a rotating group have been used to fill in on the wing recently. Taku Ngwenya isn't available as an option and we think it's more likely the one of Luke Hume, Brett Thompson, or Matai Leuta is called upon. It also wouldn't shock to see a player move out to the wing who hasn't usually played there. For us, Thompson, Hume, and Leuta should all be in camp with whoever outlasts the other making the gameday roster. It could also be a good opportunity for Spike Davis to have his shot. In fact, the more we think about it the more we like Davis as an option here. Wings of Davis and Thompson would be provide versatility.

Fullback: Mikey Te'o

We think fullback is Mikey Te'o's to lose at the moment. Will Holder would be a good option but Te'o has grown into the position.

Again, we're sure we've missed someone so feel free to leave your predictions.


  1. I don't think Spike Davis will be selected because he's still very green. He gave up some simple defensive plays during the PRO season and still is really learning the nuances of the game. The ARC seems like a better fit. Though, I wouldn't be surprised to see him on the bench.

  2. How have the Eagles caught a break with Reg 9 if nobody of consequence is going to play. Seems rather a hollow break.

    Todd Clever... Nice career but time to move on and Danny Barrett should be assuming that mantle.

    Bird was so so at best in the ARC. Give Cima a shot. Throwing him in the deep end but his long term upside is far greater than Bird.

    It's going to be a tough game for the Eagles but the domestic players have to begin to step up as we enter the next WC cycle.

  3. The Eagles really have to start seriously looking at the US-eligible Toni Pulu. He has been in stellar form playing for Counties-Manukau in NZ. He has a natural feel for the game, good pace and power and scores tries.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I think there is a bit of a disconnect between US eligible and US interested - not all players that are eligible are actually interested in playing for the US. It would be helpful to sort that out.

    3. Technically, he isn't immediately eligible as he's represented Niue internationally. He is eligible to switch with the Olympic loophole, but the rules surrounding that are pretty strange and the scenario that allows him to switch may not come up for a few more years. And then, like James is saying above, we have no clue as to whether he's interested in playing for the Eagles or not.

  4. Very interesting roster that I don't agree much with. Especially since I'm hearing lots of different players are heading to Chula Vista this week for camp to get ready for Maori. Think to much emphasis has been put on players from Pro Rugby that is not even comparable to playing against the Maori All Blacks!

  5. I keep hearing Marcel Brache mentioned,hope to see him commit to the Eagles

  6. Be nice to see Test on the bench. Anyone know what position he's playing with the Maccabiah team?

  7. Dylan Fawsitt will be the starting Hooker by the next RwC. Superstar in the domestic leagues. He has the power of a front row forward and the skills around the breakdown of a No.7...KINGS!!

  8. re : Todd Clever I'd he still has plenty of gas in the tank as displayed with his Hat Trick in the last assembly Sure there's always going to be the 'rugby know it all' But you must admit that Mitchell is a bit more experienced than the nay saying armchair quarterbacks that chime in

  9. https://www.usarugby.org/2016/10/premiership-rugby-releases-pair-for-eagles-duty/#eD1J1eUAecbHIPQd.97

    This should help out a bit.

  10. Any word on the broadcast schedule?

  11. Any word on the broadcast schedule?

  12. That entire list of available players is a third tier group. Even the top players who are ineligible are 2nd tier players. What's the plan USA for becoming a top flight rugby nation? Someone show the public. It's time. So frustrating.

    1. Totally agree. Maori All Blacks are probably the toughest team we will play and we get to put out our weakest lineup? It is not often I say that soccer has is right over rugby, but when they have an international weekend, ALL players are available without question.