Tuesday, February 21, 2017

30 Tickets To Japan: Lock & Back-row

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Our 30 Tickets continues with a look at the locks and back-row. These are two very solid positions for the Eagles. 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.

Lock Pool: Siaosi Mahoni, Nick Civetta, Nate Brakeley, Cam Dolan, David Tameilau, Samu Manoa, Todd Clever, Matt Jensen, James King, Ben Landry, Greg Peterson, Christian Ostberg

After the Eagles-Canada match last Saturday head coach John Mitchell mentioned that a year ago he wasn't sure what depth he had at lock but with the emergence of Nick Civetta and Nate Brakeley suddenly he has options. As good as Civetta and Brakeley have played, and they have been fantastic, but given the Eagles depth at back-row and the ability of players like Samu Manoa and David Tameilau to play in the locks, along with Greg Peterson returning to health, there are questions about whether or not that starting combination is going to last even to the summer. That's a fantastic thing from a fans and a coaches perspective.

Take the jump to read more.

Civetta and Brakeley have played well enough that it seems like they are going to be on the World Cup team. Samu Manoa and Greg Peterson should be there as well. We think that Manoa slides into the locks given that he has played there for the Eagles before. A foursome of Manoa, Peterson, Civetta, and Brakeley would be an outstanding group for the Eagles going to Japan.

There is still potential for someone to break through. Matt Jensen has been impressive in his opportunities. If Ben Landry gets back into the swing of things with rugby he could be there. James King and Christian Ostberg are also on the fringe of the discussion. Then there is young Siaosi Mahoni who is drawing a lot of praise in Eagles camp. Injuries could play a factor but it also seems like one of this group needs to have a big year to break the group of players above them.

Our picks: Manoa, Peterson, Civetta, Brakeley

Back-row Pool: Samu Manoa, Todd Clever, Tony Lamborn, John Quill, Cam Dolan, David Tameilau, Hanco Germishuys, Malon Al-Jiboori, Danny Barrett, Garrett Bender, Andrew Durutalo, Langilangi Haupeakui, Harry Higgins, Al McFarland, Ben Pinkelman, Alex Gletzer, Aladdin Schirmer, Sione Tuihalamaka

There are going to be some very good back-row players that are going to miss out on the World Cup. This is the deepest position on the Eagles and even with players like Samu Manoa playing lock the Eagles are so deep here. In our eventual picks every single player is either a professional in Europe or the Southern Hemisphere or on a 7s contract.

With the pool so deep there aren't any "automatic" selections but there are players that are close. Tony Lamborn has been very impressive since joining the team. Cam Dolan has also been excellent. When not on 7s duty both Danny Barrett and Andrew Durutalo are so solid. They could easily be starters or impact players off the bench. Think about that. We've only named four players but already one of those players has to miss out on the starting line-up. David Tameilau is another player that also looks like a favorite to make it. He's playing very well in France and as he gets more experience he's only going to get better.

After Tameilau comes the bubble players for us. These are players like Todd Clever, John Quill, Langilangi Haupeakui, and Ben Pinkelman. Clever can obviously make his case and he's still playing good rugby but there are legitimate questions whether he can give a full 80 minutes at the level needed at the World Cup. Quill has also been good during the ARC but unless he is in a fully professional environment he may have reached a limit. Pinkelman and Haupeakui are the big wild cards. If Pinkelman can keep on his current trajectory we think he has the capability to start in Japan. If Haupeakui can find a good professional environment then he has all the tools to be great.

If you consider that the Eagles took 18 forwards to England in 2015 that will likely be the same for Japan. If you include four props, three hookers (including the versatile Joe Taufete'e who can also play prop), and four locks that leaves seven spots for back-row players. It could be less but if we're going with seven we think that that a player like Todd Clever misses out. That just shows how deep the Eagles are. If a player falters off we think Clever is the last man in but there are a lot of players banging on the door.

Our Picks: Tony Lamborn, Cam Dolan, David Tameilau, Danny Barrett, Andrew Durutalo, Ben Pinkelman, Langilangi Haupeakui

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