With the Eagles World Cup qualifying series against Uruguay now in the books it’s time to issue our 30 tickets for the Eagles summer tour. Expect head coach Mike Tolkin to use a large and sometimes experimental squad as they begin the build-up for the World Cup.
Prop: Shawn Pittman, Titi Lamositele, Oliver Kilifi, Eric Fry, Nick Wallace
By and large the Eagles prop corps is set with Pittman, Lamositele, Kilifi, Wallace, and Fry having established themselves as the top five. However, you can never have too many choices at prop and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a player like Patrick Latu, Val Lee-Lo, or another dark horse to make the team.
Hooker: Phil Thiel, Tom Coolican
Thiel is the entrenched starter but there is a real battle between Coolican and Zach Fenoglio for the back-up role. It was Coolican who won that for the RWCQ squad but Fenoglio is right there. Outside of those three there isn’t a lot of depth at the moment.
Lock: Samu Manoa, Hayden Smith, Tai Tuisamoa, Lou Stanfill
Lock is one of the deeper positions on the team. Manoa is an automatic starter whether he plays lock or in the back-row. Tolkin prefers him at lock but his partner has shifted over the last year. Smith got the start in the first match against Uruguay but then Stanfill started the second match. He has also been paired with Tuisamoa. Although Smith could be rested having played most of the European season, he hasn’t always seen game time. Expect him to be called in during the summer.
Those on the outside looking in at the moment include Brian Doyle, Nick Civetta, Graham Harriman, and John Cullen. Doyle has been injured and has a way to get back in the picture, Civetta has had a full season in Italy and could get his first look this summer, while Cullen and Harriman are testing themselves every week in the BC Premier League. At least one, if not two, or these players will get called in at some point during the summer.
Back-row: Todd Clever, Scott LaValla, Cam Dolan, Kyle Sumsion, Derek Asbun, Peter Dahl
The back-row is easily the most complicated position for the Eagles to select. Clever, LaValla, and Dolan are the obvious choices and will be the starters. Behind them there is fierce competition with a handful of players all capable. Kyle Sumsion got the nod for the qualifiers but Matt Trouville and Derek Asbun were right there in contention. Peter Dahl, John Quill, and Inaki Basauri have all had their time in the position. Basauri seems like the most long-shot while Dahl and Quill featuring in the summer would not be strange. The same goes for Barrett. He was in consideration for the Uruguay series but it was decided he would be used more on the 7s series. It also wouldn’t be a surprise to see a complete newcomer as well.
Scrumhalf: Mike Petri, Shaun Davies, Madison Hughes
Of any position on the Eagles scrumhalf might be the most wide open. Mike Petri had flashes against Uruguay but by and large was found lacking. That said, Robbie Shaw didn’t even make the gameday roster while Shaun Davies didn’t even make the trip. If the Eagles were going to try and groom a scrumhalf for the World Cup they need to start this summer. Three possibilities include Madison Hughes, Mike Teo, and Tom Bliss.
Fly-half: Adam Siddall, Toby L’Estrange, Shalom Suniula
Siddall had to miss the Uruguay series with a concussion but he will be healthy for the summer. It would be a shock if he didn’t get a start at fly-half. L’Estrange has run the position for awhile now but is possible better suited somewhere else in the backs. Shalom Suniula played well during his time against Uruguay and should get more of a look. Summer may also be a good time to try out a new fly-half. Garrett Brewer has had a solid college career (he can also play elsewhere in the backs), Will Holder already has a cap and is back to focusing on rugby, while Keegan Engelbrecht has had a good season in the PRP.
Center: Andrew Suniula, Seamus Kelly, Folau Niua
Suniula, Kelly, and Niua have firmly established themselves as the go to centers. That said, there is room behind them for someone to make a push. Roland Suniula hasn’t been playing at the highest level in Europe but he’s been playing regularly and could be back in camp. Chad London, Dean Gericke, and Kelly Kolberg have all been in camp before. One name that could feature is Brett Thompson. Tolkin has wanted him in camp for awhile and he could finally make that happen.
Wing: Blaine Scully, Luke Hume, Tim Maupin, Thompson
Wing is also pretty much set. Scully, Hume, and Maupin have rotated in the position since last fall. Miles Craigwell got a look recently but you could also see a player like Thompson get a look here or one of the other 7s players. Like prop, you can never have too many wingers so expect a few surprise names here.
Fullback: Chris Wyles
The fullback conversation begins and ends with Wyles. Players like Zach Pangelinan and a number of others are in contention but it’s more likely the team would shift around one of the backs if Wyles was out.
Forwards: Pittman, Lamositele, Kilifi, Fry, Thiel, Coolican, Manoa, Smith, Tuisamoa, Stanfill, Clever, LaValla, Dolan, Sumsion, Asbun, Dahl
Backs: Petri, Davies, Hughes, Siddall, L’Estrange, S. Suniula, A. Suniula, Kelly, Niua, Scully, Hume, Maupin, Thompson, Wyles