Friday, March 24, 2017

30 Tickets To Japan: Center, Wing, & Fullback

Our latest edition of 30 Tickets to Japan is out. Yesterday we looked at prop and hooker, as well as lock and back-row, and earlier today w looked at flyhalf and scrumhalf. Now we fill out the rest of the roster. For those that aren't aware this is an series of pieces that predicts who would be on the Eagles roster at the World Cup if it started today (there are actually 31 spots with an extra spot for a front-row player). Almost certainly things will change between now and 2019 and you can bet that some new players are going to come out of the woodwork and state their case.

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

The centers are going to be interesting. Outside of a few players not many have put their hand definitely forward to make head coach John Mitchell's job easier. Things have also changed at center from where things were a year ago. Mitchell wants a playmaking 12 and even played AJ MacGinty at the spot against Uruguay earlier in the year. With that in mind that could open things up for a few players while limiting them for others.

Take the jump to read more.
In terms of attacking 12s MacGinty is an obvious candidate but we think it's far more likely he is used at 10. The name that immediately jumps out for us is Folau Niua. He's been a familiar face at 12 in the past and has the playmaking tools to be successful in Mitchell's system. In fact, it seems like a position he was born to play. The problem so far is that he hasn't had a lot of time for 15s over the last year. JP Eloff played a lot of time at 12 in the ARC and while he did okay he didn't put his stamp on the position.

Again, if Mitchell is going with an attacking 12 rather than a typical center that limits the pool with really only Calvin Whiting seeming like a possibility. Dylan Audsley could also find himself in the mix. One other name

At 13 there are plenty of options. Thretton Palamo has the experience the big body to make a lot of carries. Martin Iosefo has also shown a lot recently and could be a perfect fit. Then you have Bryce Campbell who has become a consistent presence under Mitchell. It's hard to see him not being involved for Mitchell.

With Niua, Palamo, Iosefo, and Campbell looking like the top four choices at the moment in our opinion the question becomes whether Mitchell thinks he can run with a player like Iosefo at the 12 if needed. Unfortunately for the other candidates they have their work cut out for them and even one of those top four may miss out due to numbers at the World Cup.

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

Wing has a lot of possibilities for Mitchell but outside of one or two players it is relatively wide open. Blaine Scully will be one of the starters. That is for certain barring injury. Taku Ngwenya is a likely candidate to be on the other side of the field. Those players are playing some great rugby at the moment.

Outside of those two it really is going to come down to form. The 7s players could make a good fit if healthy. Unfortunately Zack Test is out for awhile. Brett Thompson is working his way back. One 7s player that could be huge is Maka Unufe. 15s coaches have wanted him for awhile but it's never quite worked out. This summer may be the perfect opportunity to slide him into a team. If he takes off he could make the World Cup team. He brings power, he's good in the air, and he has a great rugby IQ. Perry Baker and Carlin Isles (Isles is out injured) are probably too slight for the 15s game.

Other options include Nate Augspurger. He did really well at the ARC put we think he is more of an emergency wing and will get time at scrumhalf instead. That could be good news for Spike Davis. Augspurger's emergence on the wing limited playing time for Davis at the ARC and despite some good moments didn't make a terribly strong case to beat out his contenders. One of those contenders is Marcel Brache. He's back with the Western Force and would be a great addition to the Eagles. If he's available he's on the team.

Players like Ryan Matyas, Matai Leuta, Tui Laei, Deion Mikesell and others will have a shot but at the moment they look like they are on the outside looking in. 

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

There are real questions over what Mitchell should do at fullback. Without question Mike Te'o is a fantastic runner and may be an option on the wing but he struggles in a kicking game. That is going to be trouble at the World Cup. The Eagles need a player who can do well in that department. Ben Cima did well against Argentina while Will Magie can also fill in at fullback. In fact, we thought Magie was impressive enough that he should start at fullback is MacGinty is at flyhalf.

Two other options are Will Holder and Conor Kearns. Army duties are keeping Holder from getting the playing time he needs. Kearns has played for the All-Americans and would be a good option to look at in the summer. He can kick and has been a standout in Ireland and with Oxford. We think he gets a look at could make his imprint on the 15 jersey but at this moment we're going with Cima and Te'o here. We'd include Magie but he already mades the roster in the flyhalf department. 

Center: Niua, Palamo, Campbell

Wing: Scully, Ngwenya, Unufe, Brache

Fullback: Te'o, Cima

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