Friday, November 17, 2017

Preview: Eagles Ready For Germany Challenge

With only two matches in their November tour the Eagles need to make the most of their opener against Germany. Facing only Germany and Georgia is not ideal but it's what the Eagles have. On paper the U.S. should be very heavy favorites against Germany. The Germans have never been the World Cup (haven't really been close) and have been the team to toggle back and forth between the first and second division in Europe. On the flip side the Eagles have a team of players with experience in Super Rugby, the Premiership, Guiness Pro14, Top 14 and more. They U.S. also has a much bigger playing pool to choose from. The Eagles should dominate but that doesn't mean this match will be easy.

Ideally, the Eagles would go through the match building up a big lead in the first half an then cruising in the second. However, they have not had much time in camp and the U.S. has traditionally struggled in the first match of a tour simply for that reason. Realistically the Eagles should be pretty happy if they can come away with a multiple try win. The worst case scenario is a loss a la the loss to Brazil a few years ago. That doesn't seem likely but at the same time you worry that if the Eagles run away with the match that it won't develop your team the way you'd like. You don't learn as many lessons from a blow out either on the winning or losing end than you do when you have to make decisions in clutch time. It's a tough balancing act but not matter the result the Eagles are going to have to make the most of it.

Take the jump to read more.
The match from Frankfurt starts at 11:00 a.m. et/8:00 a.m. pt and can be seen on The Rugby Channel.

The Team

There are a few surprises in Dave Hewett's team. Samu Manoa was supposed available for both November matches but he's missing from the line-up. The word is that he's going to play for his club. That's disappointing but at the same time it opens up opportunities for other players, especially Ben Landry. He's going to get the starting nod at flanker where he had some success at the Americas Pacific Challenge. Joining him in the back-row is Tony Lamborn and Andrew Durutalo. Up front the Eagles have a lot of beef. Greg Peterson and Nick Civetta might be the biggest lock pairing the Eagles have had in some time. Ollie Kilifi, Joe Taufete', and Dino Waldren will all start in the front row. Kilifi and Waldren are going to come under pressure but Germany is a good introduction before Georgia the next week.

The backs are where there is the most consistency. Maybe the biggest difference from what the Eagles have run recently is that Shaun Davies starts at scrumhalf over Nate Augspurger. He'll join AJ MacGinty in the halfbacks. Ryan Matyas and Blaine Scully will be the wings. They could find some space this weekend and get on the board. Mike Te'o is the fullback. In the centers will be Bryce Campbell and Marcel Brache.

On again the Eagles will have plenty of size off the bench. Being able to bring in some big key bruisers in the second half has been critical to several wins recently and they'll look for that once again.

Forwards: Ollie Kilifi, Joe Taufete'e, Dino Waldren, Greg Peterson, Nick Civetta, Ben Landry, Tony Lamborn, Andrew Durutalo

Backs: Shaun Davies, AJ MacGinty, Ryan Matyas, Bryce Campbell, Marcel Brache, Blaine Scully (C), Mike Te'o

Bench: Peter Malcolm, Huluholo Moungoloa, Paddy Ryan, Cam Dolan, John Quill, Nate Augspurger, Will Magie, JP Eloff

The Opponents

Germany have made some changes to their big win over Brazil last week but not many. The first change is at prop with Julius Nostadt moving from the bench to the starting line-up. Jorn Schroder moves to the bench. The other change is at flyhalf where pro Christopher Hilsenbeck, who plays with Eric Fry at Vannes, starts. 

The most capped player in the team is the captain Sean Armstrong at 33. That doesn't mean there aren't experienced players but overall the cap number is lover. Most of the team plays in Germany with one of the bigger clubs. A few players, including Hilsenbeck, Mathieu Ducau, and Erik Marcs all play in France with clubs in the Pro D2. 

Forwards: Julius Nostadt, Dasch Barber, Samy Fuchsel, Michael Poppmeier, Eric Marcs, Sebastian Ferreira, Jaco Otto, Ayron Schramm

Backs: Sean Armstrong, Christopher Hilsenbeck, Mathieu Docau, Raynor Parkinson, Wynston Cameron-Dow, Marcel Coetzee, Hagen Schulte

Bench: Mikael Tyumenev, Anthony Dickinson, Jorn Schroder, Marcel Henn, Adam Preocanin, Steffen Liebig, Pierre Mathurin, Jamie Murphy

Keys to the Match

Play Their Game: As we've mentioned the Eagles should be able to win this match with relative ease. They are going to do that by playing to their strengths. They don't need to worry about what Germany are doing more than they need to focus on what they do well. The rest would take care of itself. That's what Tier I countries do when playing Tier II countries. 

Score Tries: White line fever is something that plagues every Eagles team no matter the level. It simply comes from repetition from matches like this. They should have plenty of opportunity against Germany to push in the tries. 

Scrum: Germany can have success here if the Eagles aren't careful. Kilifi and Waldren are going to have to set the tone early. On the plus side this could be a spark that energizes the Eagles against Georgia next week. 

The Takeaway

The bottom line is that the Eagles need to win. They cannot have another embarrassing defeat like they had against Brazil. Germany were supposed to be the easy match of the tour and they must win. Outside of a win the team needs to do a lot in a small period of time. The World Cup isn't that far off and time with the full team at a premium they need to use this match to work out some bugs. If they can pick up a win and learn more about themselves in the process than it will be a win-win.

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