Thursday, January 4, 2018

30 Tickets To Japan: The Forwards

Photo: Cody Schmelter

The Eagles Americas Rugby Championship roster is out. This year's ARC is going to be big for players wanting to make the World Cup team. After this it is just the summer series, the fall tour, and then next year's ARC before things get heavy. There can be a lot that can change in that time and Major League Rugby will have an impact but still, impressions are going to be made for new coach Gary Gold. With all that in mind we thought we'd give our take on who we'd select for the World Cup if the tournament was held today.

Prop: Titi Lamositele, Eric Fry, Chris Baumann, Dino Waldren, David Ainuu

As always we begin with the props. By and large things have settled out in the prop area if everyone is healthy. That's a big if. Titi Lamositele returned to action a few weeks ago but still he's been out for awhile. Then there is Eric Fry. He was getting a good run of games with Vanne before he was injured.  Fry may catch a lot of flack but he's one of the few American props in the last few years to see significant pro action. In fact, only Mike MacDonald has more professional club appearances as a prop. We think if healthy both make it.

That then leaves two. Chris Baumann missed out on the November internationals but he's in the team. Again, there aren't many American props playing professionally. The only other one is Dino Waldren. I'm sure the prop experts will leave comments on the difference between tight-head and loose-head but we think that for the Eagles it is one of those situations where experience outweighs specialty.

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That means there are going to be some good players missing out. Ollie Kilifi, Ben Tarr, Tony Purpura, and Paddy Ryan are all in the mix for the extra front-row spot. Then you have a player like David Ainuu who after playing in France might make things happen. Still, there is a clear top four when discussing props but for the fifth person we think Ainuu is brought along for experience.

Hooker: Joe Taufete'e, Peter Malcolm

Hooker is pretty straightforward in Joe Taufete'e and Peter Malcolm. It is going to take something special to unseat these two. Taufete'e has been excellent for the U.S. and for Worcester. Malcolm has always been consistent for the Eagles. The only complication is whether James Hilterbrand makes his way back in. That could push out a flanker from the rotation.

Lock: Greg Peterson, Nick Civetta, Nate Brakeley

As always things can get interesting at lock al depending on what happens at flanker. All of that said, over the last few camps the emphasis has been to bring in pure locks rather thank flankers that can also play lock. With that in mind there are some strong candidates. When healthy Greg Peterson should be near the top of the list. He played well next to Nick Civetta in the fall so they can keep that going (Civetta seems to be good partners with everyone). We think Peterson and Civetta are the starters. For us the battle for the last spot--with a number of players that can play lock if needed like David Tameilau, Samu Manoa, and Cam Dolan the U.S. could only take one surplus lock--comes down to Nate Brakeley and Matt Jensen. Brakely might have the edge at this point but with a strong season in MLR Jensen could find his way in.

Back-row: Samu Manoa, Tony Lamborn, Andrew Durutalo, Cam Dolan, David Tameilau, Ben Landry

The Eagles depth in the back-row continues to be strong. There are going to some good players to miss out. The first name on the team sheet is Samu Manoa. He hasn't always been available for the eagles but when he has he's shown his worth. He'll line up as No. 8 leaving the two flanker spots open. Maybe no player has been playing as well as Andrew Durutalo recently. Even if he's not in the starting line-up he's going to be in the squad. So is Tony Lamborn who continues to be consistent.

We think the Eagles could take up six flankers to the tournament. If that's the case that is good news for Cam Dolan and David Tameilau. We think both are safe to make it. The only thing that could railroad things is a lack of high-level game time for Dolan. That leaves John Quill and Ben Landry to fight it out. Landry had a fantastic November while Quill does a lot of things right. Both should be involved for the ARC which will be big for them. Right now we think Landry has the edge.

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