Wednesday, February 22, 2017

30 Tickets To Japan: Center, Wing, & Fullback

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Our 30 Tickets continues with a look at center, wing, and fullback. For those that aren't aware 30 Tickets (okay it's 31 since there is an extra front row player) a guess at who would be on the Eagles World Cup roster if the tournament started today.

Center Pool: Thretton Palamo, Bryce Campbell, JP Eloff, Calvin Whiting, Lemoto Filikitonga, Ahmad Harajly, Martin Iosefo, Chad London, Folau Niua, Dylan Audsley, Tanner Barnes, Lorenzo Thomas

The final Eagles center pairing is up in the air for head coach John Mitchell. Bryce Campbell seems to have firmly established himself as a go-to center but when players like Thretton Palamo, Martin Iosefo, and Folau Niua are all available that may change things. Palamo has gained good time playing for Bristol and has proven himself valuable every time he's played. The same could be said of Martin Iosefo. A pairing of Palamo and Iosefo as #13s could be outstanding.

Take the jump to read more.

For us we really want to see Folau Niua in the playmaker #12 role that Mitchell likes so much. For our money Niua is the most underrated player in America. His passing ability is fantastic and he's a great runner and defender. We really think he's what Mitchell is looking for and is going to help the Eagles take off. If he's not there then maybe a JP Eloff can earn a spot.

There are other options at center. Calvin Whiting is going to impress people during his stint at the ARC and could force his way back into the competition. Other players include Lemoto Filikitonga, Ahmad Harajly, Chad London, and Dylan Audsley. If PRO Rugby doesn't have a second season that is going to limit who can show they can break through.

Our Picks: Palamo, Campbell, Niua, Iosefo

Wing Pool: Spike Davis, Luke Hume, Zack Test, Ryan Matyas, Matai Leuta, Perry Baker, Carlin Isles, Taku Ngwenya, Blaine Scully, Brett Thompson, Maka Unufe, Tua Laei, Cody Melphy, Deion Mikesell, Marcel Brache

Wing is another area that could see a heavy 7s influence. Blaine Scully is an automatic selection and the first name on the team sheet. The only other player that could be considered fairly automatic is Taku Ngwenya. He's always ready to play and has a big impact. It's hard to overrate over 10 years of experience at the top level of Europe.

With roughly 13 players available to take in the backs whoever is picked at wing is going to have to be versatile enough to also play fullback. Scully can do that in a pinch but if the U.S. are looking for another player like him that might be someone like Brett Thompson if healthy or even a Luke Hume.

All in all it's going to be very wide open. You could have 7s players like Perry Baker (or even Carlin Isles), Maka Unufe, Matai Leuta, or Zack Test making an impact. Then there are the likes of Ryan Matyas and Deion Mikesell who have Eagles experience. We think that given Mike Friday's influence on the team a player like Maka Unufe is finally going to get a shot but not not ultimately make the team. We also think that as Mikesell matures he breaks through as well. It's also possible that a player like Mike Te'o shifts in at wing. We think that is a likely scenario and we'll explain why in a minute. That said, there also has to be a place for Marcel Brache on the roster. He can slide in at center or play on the wing where he plays for the Western Force. All in all there are a lot of options and we think the overall experience of Blaine, Taku Ngwenya, and Marcel Brache sees them on the roster while the versatility of Mike Te'o puts him there.

Our Picks: Blaine Scully, Taku Ngwenya, Maka Unufe, Mike Te'o

Fullback Pool: Mike Te'o, Will Holder, Conor Kearns

Mike Te'o has the inside track as he's been relied on for awhile now at fullback. No one else has really put their hand up and claimed the spot. Te'o is a great runner as evidenced by his performance against Canada. However, he does have a slight problem in his kicking game. Against some of the best teams in the world he could be in major trouble if they elect to kick. The U.S. need someone at fullback that can handle that.

Two players that could potentially fill that role are Will Holder and Conor Kearns. Holder fits the bill as a good runner and defender that can also place a kick. Kearns hasn't been with the Eagles yet but already has gained a lot of traction with his performances for Trinity and now Cambridge. This summer is the perfect time to bring him in for a look and we think he grabs it.

Our Pick: Conor Kearns


  1. I wish Scully would be considered as a Fullback more than a wing. He has a decent kicking game, is a solid defender and is outstanding under the high ball. He's also occasionally playing fullback at professional level. His talents are wasted a little out on the wing, where the US has depth.

    I love Te'o as a runner, but his positioning and kicking game is poor. I don't even know what position he really should play. I'd have him as a maverick utility back on the bench.

    Niua is absolutely the guy I'd like to see at 12. I'd like to see his passes and playmaking really bring more out of Palamo from 13 - rather than him simply being a battering ram I'd like to see him in space more.

    Ngwenya's experience should make him automatic on the right wing (his preferred side) and I'd look at Iosefo or Brache on the left. I like what Hume can do, but I gather he's working full time so it's hard to imagine him being fit enough for a WC.

    I worry a little about talented 7s players with limited 15s experience coming in for a RWC. It's a very different game. Wing in 7s is more about running, finishing and cover tackling. In 15s there is a lot of contesting high kicks, dropping back to receive kicks etc That needs direct experience.

  2. Hume is so underrated. Every time he touches the ball he makes something happen. I agree with James above....Scully is wasted on the wing. He's excellent under the high ball and his kicking far exceeds Teo. Teo can fill in everywhere else, but I don't think he's a starter.

    I like Scully at 15 w/ Eloff/Holder backing that up. Wings I like Ngwenya, Hume, Thompson and Unufe/Teo.