Friday, June 8, 2018

Preview: U.S. Opens Summer Series Against Russia

In a press conference with members of the media this week head coach Gary Gold said that this is the start of his team's World Cup campaign. In that he meant that he's treating every match going forward as preparation for the World Cup. While that means he will be looking to chop and change his line-up at times it also means he is going to go with a core group of players. Gold repeatedly stressed that he doesn't believe in changing things around much. Things will change but this team is also likely what Gold things is his line-up for the World Cup opener.

That makes this weekend's match important. The U.S. are very likely to beat Russia on Saturday. They are heavy favorites and crushed Russia the last time they played in Sacramento a few years back. Outside of the match in the World Cup in 2011 the U.S. has been able to run away with nearly every match. Since then the U.S. has only gotten stronger while Russia is only in the World Cup because of the Rugby Europe debacle. Put it all together and with the U.S. having the expectation of winning it would make a loss or a close match worrying.

We don't think it's going to get that far. The U.S. are playing some fantastic rugby right now. They are back to back ARC champs, have players coming off strong European seasons, and have a bunch of players who have had a run out in Major League Rugby. They should beat Russia easily and it should kick off a strong summer.

Take the jump to read more.
The Team

The question was put to us why doesn't the team rest their top players in order to be ready for Scotland next week. While in theory that works it's important to take several things in mind. First, the lack of playing time together is always difficult for the Eagles. They really don't hit their stride until the third week and by that point the tour is over. If they can get a run out against Russia that will better prepare them for Scotland. Second, of the European players on the roster they have already had a few weeks rest. The season ended a month ago for many of them and even those that were in the playoffs have had some rest. Lastly, even though some players have played in Major League Rugby they still need more high-level time under their belts. International rugby is a step up from MLR.

In terms of selections coach Gold has chosen to go with experience at most positions. Eric Fry gets a recall at prop but will join newcomer Paul Mullen in the props. Joe Taufete'e is the hooker. Samu Manoa and Nick Civetta form a massive lock pairing. They are both excellent in the air and defensively. We are really looking forward to seeing how these two get on. The backrow of John Quill, Hanco Germishuys, and Cam Dolan should bring a very high work-rate.

The backs haven't changed much from what has been run out recently. Shaun Davies starts at scrumhalf with AJ MacGinty at flyhalf. The centers are two big guys in Paul Lasike and Bryce Campbell. Marcel Brache and Blaine Scully are the wings.

For us the most interesting move is Will Hooley at fullback. He gives the Eagles a lot of good options there. Coach Gold talked about having the need for a second playmaker with Campbell and Lasike in the centers. Hooley absolutely provides that but also provides a kicking game the U.S. has lacked since Chris Wyles retired.

Forwards: Eric Fry, Joe Taufete'e, Paul Mullen, Samu Manoa, Nick Civetta, John Quill, Hanco Germishuys, Cam Dolan

Backs: Shaun Davies, AJ MacGinty, Marcel Brache, Paul Lasike, Bryce Campbell, Blaine Scully (C), Will Hooley

Bench: James Hilterbrand, Ollie Kilifi, Chris Baumann, Greg Peterson, Ben Landry, Nate Augspurger, Will Magie, Dylan Audsley

The Opponents

We'll update this when the Russians release their roster.

The Takeaway

In many ways this is a hard match for the Eagles as mentioned above. If they win it is because they are expected to win. If they lose it would be a major stumbling block to building momentum for not only the summer but for their World Cup campaign. Again, like we said this is a match the Eagles should win and win without problems. We anticipate that they win by at least three tries.

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