It’s time for our last edition of 30 tickets prior to the Eagles summer series against Scotland, Japan, and Canada. As we have stated in previous editions the U.S. is likely to use more than 30 players this summer due to some squad rotation. However, we pick who we think are the first choice 30. As always, expect one or two surprises from the Eagles coaching staff.
Prop: Eric Fry, Shawn Pittman, Titi Lamositele, Nick Wallace
If Shawn Pittman is healthy it looks like there will be a battle for the fourth spot at prop. Eric Fry, Pittman, and recently Titi Lamositele have been the favored props as of late. All three should get a look barring injury. Fry has been playing regularly with London Scottish and just booked a move to Newcastle in the Premiership. Lamositele is coming off his first season with Saracens and will need game time.
Oliver Kilifi, Patrick Latu, and Nick Wallace seem to be competing for that fourth spot. Kilifi is the arguably the second best scrummager on the team next to Pittman. While he isn’t as good in the open field that may be enough to see him on the team, just like it did in World Cup qualifying. Latu had a strong season with Metropolis and good a look last year but not since. Wallace was also selected for World Cup qualifying and has been playing very well for BC Premier League champions James Bay. We think that Wallace gets the initial look and if Pittman isn’t able to go than Kilifi gets his spot.
Hooker: Phil Thiel, Tom Coolican
Thiel is the no question starter for the side and has been one of their better players over the last year. Coolican beat out Fenoglio for a spot on the World Cup qualifying side and appears to have the edge. Expect both to get called into camp where they will fight it out once again. We think Coolican keeps his spot.
Lock: Samu Manoa, Lou Stanfill, Tai Tuisamoa, Hayden Smith
A lot depends on who is used in the back-row but the Eagles have plenty of options at lock. Samu Manoa has been shortlisted for nearly every award in the Premiership and should be the first name on any team sheet. The big question is who will pair with him. Hayden Smith has been seeing more time with Saracens. Even without a lot of training behind him he started against Uruguay. He needs game time so expect him to partner with Manoa.
Lou Stanfill is another option. He has shown a lot of leadership lately and is probably the first option off the bench at lock or back-row. Tai Tuisamoa formed a strong partnership with Manoa last year and is another strong option. Brian Doyle is back to health, Graham Harriman has been playing well with James Bay, and Nick Civetta completed a strong season in Italy. However, all three are probably the fifth option on the depth chart right now. Inaki Basauri is another option but is most likely on his way out.
Back-row: Todd Clever, Cam Dolan, Scott LaValla, Kyle Sumsion, Peter Dahl
The U.S. also has a lot of options at back-row. Todd Clever, Cam Dolan, and Scott LaValla have been the chosen starting combination for a reason. They work well together and defensively make the tough plays. Clever looks rejuvenated playing at flanker rather than number eight while Dolan has been touted to make a breakout with Northampton next season.
Because the starting three are set and several players can play in the back-row and at lock it creates fewer opportunities for back-ups. Kyle Sumsion was the preferred choice in March and is coming off a very strong Varsity Cup campaign. He should be a part of the team. There is likely room for one of Derek Asbun, John Quill, Liam Murphy, and Peter Dahl. All bring their attributes to the squad and all could see time at some point. At this time we think that Dahl gets the chance.
Scrumhalf: Mike Petri, Shaun Davies, Madison Hughes
The Eagles situation at scrumhalf has been less than ideal of late. Mike Petri has had the majority of the starts lately but hasn’t excelled. Robbie Shaw was called into the qualifiers but then left off the roster while Shaun Davies didn’t earn a call in at all. This is a position that could definitely use some new blood and that may happen this summer. Madison Hughes is a player that has excelled at every level he has played at and this summer may be his opportunity to break in. He has played fullback for Dartmouth but projects as a scrumhalf for the Eagles. Tom Bliss was the best player on the Junior All-Americans in 2013 and has seen time with London Irish ‘A.’ He could be the surprise selection of the summer. We think that Petri and Davies get called in but with Hughes as the third option.
Fly-half: Shalom Suniula, Folau Niua
With injuries to Adam Siddall and Toby L’Estrange ruling them out for the summer the Eagles are in the market for a new fly-half. Shalom Suniula and Folau Niua are the only players still around the squad to have seen time there. Expect both to get on the roster and to start at some point. If there was a surprise selection it would be Garrett Brewer, who had a great season for St. Mary’s.
Center: Andrew Suniula, Seamus Kelly, Chad London, Paul Lasike
Andrew Suniula has been a staple at #12 for years but has been paired with both Seamus Kelly and Folau Niua over the last year. If Niua moves to fly-half, which is very likely, then Kelly should be the starter creating an opening. Roland Suniula has been playing in France for the last two years but hasn’t been called in. Chad London led the Pacific Rugby Premiership in scoring and has been in camp before. He is the most likely to fill in the gap. Head coach Mike Tolkin could also choose to take a younger player like Kingsley McGowan or Paul Lasike to fill in the gap.
Tolkin could also choose to play someone like Blaine Scully or Chris Wyles in the centers and open up a position on the wing. Both have played in the centers before and would do quite well. However, sudden depth issues on the wing make that seem unlikely.
Wing: Tim Maupin, Blaine Scully, Luke Hume, Tai Enosa, Miles Craigwell
If he isn’t moved to the centers Scully will start on one of the wings. Tim Maupin has been his preferred partner thanks to his defense. However, if you are going for an offensive approach it’s Luke Hume. Either way both will be on the team. Taku Ngwenya and James Paterson won’t be on the team. Ngwenya isn’t favored at the moment and Paterson is still recovering. If there is room on the team than look for Miles Craigwell, Tai Enosa, or Preston Bryant to get a look.
Fullback: Chris Wyles
Like Scully, if Wyles isn’t moved to the centers he will start at fullback. Often he has gone without a back-up as Tolkin has shifted a wing into the position if needed. If that isn’t the case this time look for Zach Pangelinan or Joe Cowley to get a look.
Forwards: Fry, Pittman, Lamositele, Wallace, Thiel, Coolican, Manoa, Smith, Stanfill, Tuisamoa, Clever, Dolan, LaValla, Sumsion, Dahl
Backs: Petri, Davies, Hughes, S. Suniula, Niua, A. Suniula, Kelly, London, Lasike, Scully, Hume, Maupin, Craigwell, Wyles, Enosa