With less than month to go before the Eagles World Cup qualifying series against Uruguay we thought it was a good time to share our latest 30 tickets. While the series normally targets the 30 players that will likely make the Eagles next roster this one is going to take a bit of a turn due to the Eagles only taking a squad of 26 next month.
Prop: Eric Fry, Shawn Pittman, Nick Wallace, Titi Lamositele
Over the last year the prop situation has essentially sorted itself out with Fry, Pittman, Wallace, and Lamositele being the main group. Each of their strengths and weaknesses but as a whole are the best available to the team. The biggest concern among the group is the health of Shawn Pittman but assurances have been made that he will be able to recover from his concussion symptoms in time. If Pittman can’t go then it’s likely that Oliver Kilifi will step in. Blake Burdette and Patrick Latu are considerations but Kilifi is the favorite at the moment.
Hooker: Phil Thiel, Zach Fenoglio
Thiel will be the starter against Uruguay barring something unforeseen. Fenoglio offers a lot of good qualities as a back-up but with a squad of only 26 there have to be cuts somewhere and Fenoglio may be it, especially if a player like Derek Asbun, who has played hooker in the past, makes the team as a back-row player. That said, he still makes our list.
Lock: Samu Manoa, Tai Tuisamoa, Lou Stanfill
A year ago lock was a position of deep concern for the Eagles and now it is one of their strengths. The emergence of Cam Dolan has allowed Manoa to play down in the second row. He was outstanding when paired with Tai Tuisamoa this last fall. Smith’s return complicates things. He is just getting back in the swing of rugby but brings a lot of skill and athleticism. The same goes for Stanfill who is now healthy.
We think that only three locks will be on the side and it will be Manoa, Tuisamoa, and Stanfill. Smith would normally be there but this gives him time to readjust to rugby while with Saracens. Plus, he’ll have more time to adjust back to Eagles play during the summer. This means that Brian Doyle, Nick Civetta, and Graham Harriman will all be on the outside looking in after some strong player over the past year for the Eagles or their club.
Back-row: Todd Clever, Scott LaValla, Cam Dolan, Peter Dahl, Derek Asbun
This is another position which is fairly stacked. By our count there are five players all very capable of playing significant minutes for the team that won’t be on the roster. The starting three is evident with Clever, LaValla, and Dolan expected to get the nod after playing so well last fall. Who will play back-up is a better question. Peter Dahl was phenomenal against the Maori All Blacks but Danny Barrett and Derek Asbun have played well at times too. Then there are players like Matt Trouville, John Quill, and Inaki Basauri. It’s a tough call but we think that Asbun brings a lot of positive traits to the team in terms of leadership, work-rate, and his ability to play emergency hooker if needed. Dahl also gets the nod from us based on his recent form. The next closest would be Quill but he’s left off in a numbers game.
Scrumhalf: Mike Petri, Robbie Shaw
This is a position that head coach Mike Tolkin feels like there is room for improvement and that no one has nailed down the starting spot. Petri and Shaw have split time before but Shaw is the only one playing regularly at the moment. Shaun Davies has been the number three for awhile and could get his chance. We think that Petri and Shaw will have one more go together.
Fly-half: Adam Siddall, Toby L’Estrange
After L’Estrange went down with an injury against the Maori All-Blacks Siddall seized the position and looked strong. His kicking game in particular has been what the Eagles have needed for a long time. He will be one of the first names Tolkin puts on the team sheet. L’Estrange is back healthy and playing with London Welsh. He can play fly-half, center, and fullback, versatility that is valuable.
Center: Folau Niua, Seamus Kelly, Andrew Suniula
Andrew Suniula has been the constant on the team. When he’s been paired with either Niua or Kelly he has looked solid. Both Niua and Kelly have proven themselves over the past year and will make the team.
Wing: Blaine Scully, Luke Hume, Tim Maupin, Brett Thompson
Scully is an automatic selection. He has proved over this last year with the Eagles and with Leicester that he is an extremely valuable player. Maupin was one of the surprise players from last fall and has seemed to cement a place in the starting line-up at the expense of Luke Hume, who will still make the team but more as a reserve. Brett Thompson is our surprise selection. He has all the tools to be a successful international wing and has been known to be a target of Tolkin. This will be the perfect time to bring him in despite conflicts with the 7s team. Those on the outside looking in include James Paterson, who is dealing with injury, Miles Craigwell, and Taku Ngwenya, who is dealing with Biarritz’s poor position in the Top 14.
Fullback: Chris Wyles
Wyles is a no-brainer at this position. Back-ups will likely come from elsewhere on the field.