|Photo: Michael Kreizenbeck|
Now that John Mitchell has announced his roster for the upcoming Americas Rugby Championship we thought it would be a good time to take a look at the battles at each position.
Prop: Chris Baumann, Tony Purpura, Ben Tarr (all five matches), Alex Maughan (Uruguay & Brazil), Dino Waldren (Uruguay, Brazil, & Canada), Ollie Kilifi (Canada, Chile, and Argentina), Demecus Beach (Chile and Argentina)
This is obviously a group that John Mitchell sees as up in the air. Outside of Titi Lamositele and Chris Baumann there don't seem to be many selection guarantees at prop. We would put Eric Fry in that group but he's missing out on the ARC completely in order to get time playing for Vannes. It's hard to read too much into his non-selection when other players like Joe Taufete'e and Thretton Palamo also miss out. That said, there is plenty of competition to see who can fill out the prop group.
Tony Purpura is a surprise selection. It's been pretty much a whole World Cup cycle since he was involved with the team yet he's in for all five matches. Another player that looks to be given another shot is Ollie Kilifi. We thought he did well in PRO Rugby but after last year's ARC seemed to be left out for the most part of Mitchell's plans. Demecus Beach could also fit in this category. He was not good in last year's tournament but has a whole year of PRO Rugby under him now.
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Ben Tarr has been looked at as a long-term option for awhile now and after a year of injury this will be his big chance for him to prove himself. He'll get a chance for selection in all five matches. Dino Waldren and Alex Maughan are also two young props that will see opportunities. A lot of eyes have been on Waldren and with a half a season in Ireland he should be improved.
Hooker: James Hilterbrand, Peter Malcolm (all five), Hanco Germishuys (Chile & Argentina)
James Hilterbrand is the only true hooker on the roster and should be penciled in to start all five weeks. Both Peter Malcolm and Hanco Germishuys have seen time at the position and may feature as reserves.
Lock: Todd Clever, Siaosi Mahoni (all five), Nick Civetta (Uruguay & Brazil), Nate Brakeley (Uruguay, Brazil, & Canada), Cam Dolan (Brazil, Canada, Chile, & Argentina), David Tameilau (Canada, Chile, & Argentina), Matt Jensen (Chile & Argentina)
Who plays in the locks is going to depend a lot on who is available both in terms of matches and position. If you are looking at Uruguay you have to think that Nate Brakeley and Nick Civetta are going to resume their partnership pushing Todd Clever into the back-row. Cam Dolan then comes in for Brazil through the rest of the tournament so there are options. Matt Jensen will fill in when Brakeley and Civetta are away. Throw in David Tameilau who can play in the locks and has done that for Narbonne this year. The wildcard in it all is Siaosi Mahoni. He's quietly put in a big year for San Francisco and Life West.
Back-row: Todd Clever, Tony Lamborn, Peter Malcolm (all five), Al McFarland (Uruguay & Brazil), John Quill (Uruguay, Brazil, & Canada), David Tameilau (Canada, Chile, & Argentina), Hanco Germishuys (Chile & Argentina)
The same situation that applies to lock also applies to the back-row. Tony Lamborn seems pretty much like a five match starter while Todd Clever should fit in if he's not in the locks. Al McFarland and John Quill will bring experience for the first two and three matches respectively while David Tameilau is available for the last three. If Peter Malcolm and Hanco Germishuys are not pulling back-up hooker duty you have to think they will see time in the back-row, especially as the team heads to South America.
Scrumhalf: Nate Augspurger, Shaun Davies (all five)
Both Nate Augspurger and Shaun Davies are with the team for all five matches. Someone like Mike Te'o or Luke Hume can play scrumhalf in a pinch but it looks like Augspurger and Davies are it. For us, this is going to be one of the most fun position battles to watch. Competition is only going to make both players better.
Fly-half: Ben Cima, JP Eloff, Will Magie (all five), AJ MacGinty (Uruguay)
This is another battle we will have our eyes fixed on. AJ MacGinty is the absolute starter against Uruguay. It makes no sense to fly him across the ocean to have him come off the bench. The rest of the time the battle will be between Ben Cima, Will Magie, or possibly JP Eloff. Cima was solid for the team at the Americas Pacific Challenge and has been mooted as a future back-up to MacGinty at the World Cup. Still, he's going to have to win the spot over Will Magie who had an outstanding season for the Denver Stampede. Either way, this is a win for the Eagles because two of their best prospects are going to get time against great opponents. JP Eloff could also see time at fly-half but with things being thin elsewhere our guess is that he ends up in the centers or at fullback.
Center: Bryce Campbell (all five), Ryan Matyas (Uruguay, Brazil, & Canada), Calvin Whiting (Chile & Argentina)
The Centers are going to be interesting. There are only three true centers on the team throughout the tournament. Bryce Campbell will be there for all five while Ryan Matyas and Calvin Whiting will split the duty. It would not be very surprising for us to see Mike Te'o, JP Eloff, or Spike Davis end up playing center for long stretches.
Wing: Spike Davis, Zack Test (all five), Blaine Scully (Uruguay), Andrew Turner (Brazil, Canada, Chile, & Argentina), Luke Hume (Canada & Chile)
Blaine Scully is going to start against Uruguay while we think it's a good bet that Spike Davis and Zack Test see a lot of good time. Both are available for all five matches. Andrew Turner, who played for London Scottish in the past, is pretty much an unknown to American fans. Luke Hume is also available for two matches.
Fullback: Mike Te'o (all five)
This one is up in the air. It could be Te'o, or Eloff, and someone like Hume. Fullback is such a vital decision that we find it odd that there hasn't been more weight given to selecting players that could be permanent fullbacks.