Thursday, January 4, 2018

30 Tickets To Japan: The Backs

Photo: Cody Schmelter

Earlier we covered which forwards we thought would make the Eagles if the World Cup was held today and now we take a look at the backs. In many ways the backs are more settled than the forwards. Yes, there is an opportunity to break through but assuming full health for players there aren't as many battles as in the past.

Scrumhalf: Shaun Davies, Nate Augspurger

One position that has settled out is scrumhalf. The starter hasn't been settled, although Shaun Davies has the edge, but it's clear that Davies and Nate Augspurger are the top options at the moment. The fact that Augspurger has shown he can be versatile is a big plus.

Flyhalf: AJ MacGinty, Ben Cima, James Bird

There is no question that if healthy AJ MacGinty will be the starting flyhalf for the Eagles. He is exactly what the team has been looking for since the days of Mike Hercus. He can kick with the best of them and he runs a fantastic game. We wouldn't be shocked to see him fight all four games at the World Cup. The question remains who will be his back-up. Right now that seems to be Will Magie. He's proven himself capable and will probably be given the reins at the ARC. Ben Cima and James Bird are the other choices here. Cima has been used elsewhere which might suit him at the moment. Bird has been good for Old Blue for a number of years now and will get a look, possibly at the ARC.

Take the jump to read more.

Center: Bryce Campbell, Marcel Brache, Folau Niua, Thretton Palamo

Here is where things get interesting for the Eagles in the backs. They have tried a number of players at center over the last couple of years. During that time the steady presence was that of Bryce Campbell. No matter what role he is asked to play he has responded and will be on the team. The question is who goes next to him. There are plenty of candidates in the likes of Thretton Palamo, Folau Niua, Martin Iosefo, Mike Te'o, Ryan Matyas, Marcel Brache, and JP Eloff. Of this group we think that Brache is a no-brainer. It's rare a player with Super Rugby experience plays for the Eagles. After an okay start he has also had some good games for the Eagles.

For us the big question mark is whether Folau Niua wants to play in the World Cup. He's got the 7s World Cup on tap this year and then potentially Olympic qualifying in 2019. If he wants to play Niua is one of the best players the Eagles can put on the pitch. Seriously folks, he is extremely underrated. He could easily be considered the best U.S. player not with a professional contract overseas. We also think that if he's healthy and had a run of games Thretton Palamo is on the team.

Wing: Blaine Scully, Ryan Matyas, Maka Unufe, Martin Iosefo

Right next to Samu Manoa being the first name on the team sheet is Blaine Scully. The Eagles captain is going to go down as a legend not just for his leadership but for his talent. Who fits next to him is much more up in the air and with most candidates likely to get time during the ARC there is going to be competition for the spot. Right now Ryan Matyas looks like the answer. He has been awesome over the last year (see last year's match against Argentina XV) and he's only getting better. We think he makes the team.

Taku Ngwenya is an option if he commits himself. He has over a dozen years of experience playing at the top levels and being able to play in a fourth World Cup would be special. Martin Iosefo is also an interesting option. He's big but he also has plenty of pace. The same could be said of Maka Unufe. A lot of people have wanted to see Unufe in 15s and they could get what they want soon. If they commit themselves, like Niua, we think both Iosefo and Unufe make the team. There is also the possibility of a young player like Mose Fuala'au breaking through.

Fullback: Mike Te'o, Will Magie

The U.S. is still searching for a replacement to Chris Wyles. They have rotated through a number of players with Mike Te'o being given the most opportunities. He has the ability to turn a match around but his kicking continues to be a weakness. We could easily see a player like Will Magie here which would open up a spot for James Bird elsewhere. JP Eloff is a name that can work here or maybe it is a player from out of left field. We think that Te'o makes the team along with Bird.

In the end this is the 31 players we have (World Rugby gives teams and extra front-row player):

Forwards: Eric Fry, Titi Lamositele, Chris Baumann, Dino Waldren, David Ainuu, Greg Peterson, Nick Civetta, Nate Brakeley, Samu Manoa, Andrew Durutalo, Tony Lamborn, David Tameilau, Ben Landry, Cam Dolan, John Quill, James Hilterbrand

Backs: Shaun Davies, Nate Augspurger, AJ MacGinty, Will Magie, Ben Cima, Bryce Campbell, Marcel Brache, Folau Niua, Thretton Palamo, Blaine Scully, Ryan Matyas, Maka Unufe, Martin Iosefo, Mike Te'o, James Bird


  1. Wonder if Lasike would be ready...

    1. That's what I was thinking. It will be interesting to see if he can get himself into top shape. He's in the ARC roster so he's on the radar.