USA vs Uruguay: USA Rugby World Cup Qualifier Analysis

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USA v URU
USA vs Uruguay

NEW YORK, NY: Over the weekend USA Rugby announced the traveling squad for the Rugby World Cup 2015 Qualifier series against Uruguay. The side is predominantly the squad from the very successful November Tour. A couple of new faces were added to keep things fresh and competitive but that was expected. For the November tour we looked at travel, roster and availability of players and management. However, with this being a two-match, home & home series, we won’t need to dive as in-depth but we will look at the same aspects again.

TRAVEL:
Uruguay – Estadio Charrúa, Montevideo, Uruguay. – Mar. 22 – 15:00 EST 
Uruguay – Fifth Third Bank Stadium, Kennesaw, Atlanta, Georgia, USA – Mar. 29 – 15:00 EST 

There is somewhat heavy travel, as it is a 14 hour flight. However, unlike November it won’t be a series of trips around the globe. Also, the time zone crossing is minimal, so only the European pros will deal with jet-lag but they are in the best shape to overcome it. Plus, they were released by their pro clubs earlier in the week and have met up with the National team already, so they should be good to go.

AVAILABILITY:
Players: As this was an International Rugby Board (IRB) RWCQ, the IRB put substantial pressure on the pro clubs to release players for this series. If a player was unavailable it was likely due to injury, though the Rugby Rain Man Collective nerd-vine suggests there are one or two players for both squads whose pro clubs helped rule them unavailable  but it appears the key players were free to play… On the domestic front, full credit to the players, clubs and employers on finding a way to be available for the selection camps and these matches.

Now let’s Look at the Management Availability.
Mike Tolkin – Head Coach
William (Billy) Millard – Assistant Coach/ Backs and Attack
Justin Fitzpatrick – Assistant Coach/ Forwards and Scrum
Phil Bailey – Assistant Coach/Defense
Dave Williams – Assistant Coach/Strength and Conditioning
Chris O’Brien – Kicking Coach
James Walton – Video Analyst
Jeff Mjaanes – Doctor
Richard Quincy, Jr. – Physio
Zach Vyhananek – Physio
Sarah Sall – Massage Therapist
Tristan Lewis – Manager

There is a new video analyst and team doctor but the rest of the staff stays intact. The video analyst change is interesting, however having done video analysis work before, we assure you it is more about looking for things/answers for the coach’s questions, rather than uncovering an unknown weakness… A new doctor is not great but with the rest of the physio and massage team are the same and can provide experience and knowledge to a new team doctor.

All the coaches being available means that the successful November tour team is there again to help re-instill their styles from the last time, as well as add in new wrinkles. Billy Millard‘s growing duties within USA Rugby (National Development manager and U20 JAA head coach) will be something to keep an eye on.

Adam Siddall
Adam Siddall

ROSTER
Notable Omissions:
Adam Siddall – USA 7s
Graham Harriman – James Bay RFC
John Cullen – Seattle-OPSB
Derek Asbun – New York Athletic Club
Zach Fenoglio – Glendale
Inaki Basauri – Tarbes RFC (France)
Zach Pangelinan – Old Mission Beach Athletic Club
Taku “Z” Ngwenya – Biarritz RFC (France)

Indeed, the above is quite a list. The first name is the biggest name, since we recently interviewed Coach Tolkin on the flyhalf debate.  The omission of Siddall has fans extremely curious as to why. We have confirmed reports that he is indeed injured and failed a fitness test. When we know the severity, we’ll pass it along… Locks Graham Harriman and John Cullen were just squeezed out by the selected locks, plus there are backrows that can fill in at lock and Coach Tolkin likes mobile athletic locks. Derek Asbun was left off the roster because of the much bigger flankers, it looks like Tolkin has gone for a more physical backrow, expecting a much more physical game… Zach Fenoglio appears to have been outplayed by Tom Coolican for the back-up spot. It is a bit of a shock, as Fenoglio has been working hard to get more minutes. This does show that the domestic camps matter in terms of players making a name for themselves…  Zach Pangelinan is a flyhalf that can play 15 and wing but with L’Strange back in form and despite no Siddall, there was no room for Pangelian… “Z” Ngwenyas situation is surrounded by mystery. To be frank, it has long been speculated by the likes of Mike Holzman and “Bones” Attewell that Z is given more freedom and less responsibility with his pro club than what is required by the USA. Further, he is found wanting on the defensive requirements, so combining all this with his lack of communication with the coach and USA Rugby, perhaps he has been jettisoned.

Prop:
Olive Kilifi – Seattle-OPSB
Titi Lamositele – Saracens RFC
Nick Wallace – James Bay RFC
Eric Fry – London Scottish RFC

This group kind of picks itself when you have two looseheads and two tightheads. It will be interesting to see who starts at tighthead, although it will likely be Eric “Curly” Fry. Up against a Uruguay team coached by a prop that views the scrum as a weapon, this will be a huge concern. Scrums don’t happen as often as they use to in the international game, but when they do, the pressure will be on.

Hooker:
Tom Coolican – Richmond RFC
Phil Thiel – Life Rugby

Barring injury or a blowout in the USA’s favor, expect Phil Thiel to go at least 75 minutes. Tolkin is not a fan of scheduled subs at the 60th minute. Thiel clocked 75 minutes per game during the fall tour and expect more of the same. Coolican is in an intriguing spot because to make bench means if anything goes wrong, an uncapped hooker will now handle the throws. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Hayden Smith
Hayden Smith

Lock:
Hayden Smith – Saracens RFC
Louis Stanfill – Seattle-OPSB
Tai Tuisamoa – Old Mission Beach Athletic Club

It seems essentially that Tolkin has picked his 3 locks. Do not be surprised if Hayden Smith moves right into the starting line-up. He plays for a pro club and gives a good shove in the scrum. Tuisamoa has been a revelation since the Americas Rugby Championship (ARC) so he will likely start. Stanfill filled in at lock in 2013 and will do so again but don’t be surprised if Tolkin uses one of the backrows that can cover lock on the bench.

Backrow:
Todd Clever – NTT Shining Arcs
Cameron Dolan – Northampton FC
Scott LaValla – Stade Francais
Samu Manoa – Northampton FC
Kyle Sumsion – Brigham Young University Rugby

It appears that Tolkin went with his biggest and best backrow. Though we talked about one of the backrowers being a bench option, don’t be surprised if Tolkin jams Manoa into lock and pushes out one of the locks to the bench. He may like Sumsion but is not sure if the kid is ready to play in a RWCQ match.

Mike Petri
Mike Petri

Scrum-Half:
Mike Petri – New York Athletic Club
Robbie Shaw – London Scottish RFC

Based on the fall, one would hope Shaw starts. However, expect Petri to start and organize the defense, make bad decisions at the breakdown and make poor box kicks. Petri is under intense pressure from critics to prove that he is not being picked because he played for Tolkin at club and high school level. Shaw showed great form in the fall and his fast delivery will be needed at some point.

Fly-Half:
Toby L’Estrange – London Welsh RFC

L’Strange (or L’Sigh, as some call him) is the only full-time fly-half on the roster. With Siddall hurt this may be the best chance he has to repay Tolkin’s faith in him. The fans faith in him is Little to None and Little is grabbing his hat and coat.

Centres:
Seamus Kelly – University of California
Folau Niua – Glasgow Warriors
Andrew Suniula – London Wasps RFC
Shalom Suniula – Seattle-OPSB

Kelly is another Tolkin favorite and looks to be finally turning the corner and becoming a solid outside centreAndrew Suniula has found the fountain of youth at Wasps and has looked great at inside centre; those two will be your likely centres… but it will be interesting which of the versatile 7s/inside backs of Shalom Suniula and Folau Niua, he chooses. Since Niua has played with the team in the fall, he is the likely the one that will get chosen.

Miles Craigwell
Miles Craigwell

Wingers:
Miles Craigwell – Seattle-OPSB
Luke Hume – Narbonne
Tim Maupin – Olympic Club

Though there are 3 options, expect only 1 of the 3 to be in the final roster. It will likely be Luke Hume, he has test match experience and has been playing pro rugby. Craigwell has a good chance and don’t rule out Tim “Cris Carter” Maupin who keeps getting written off (at college, at club and international level) but just keeps scoring tries.

Fullback:
Blaine Scully – Leicester Tigers RFC
Chris Wyles – Saracens RFC

These two guys have been in great form for club and country. Expect Scully to take over one wing position and Wyles to take his normal place at fullback. The USA counter attack will look to put Uruguay under serious pressure.

That is it for now. Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter  @RugbyWrapUp,Junoir BlaberDJ EberleNick HallJames HarringtonCody KuxmannJaime LoydKaren Ritter Jamie Wall and Declan Yeats, respectively.

And until the next time… stay low and keep pumping those legs.

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About Junoir Blaber 868 Articles
Born in Osu, Accra, Ghana, West Africa, Junoir Blaber is a rare commodity; while most Ghanians eat, sleep and dream Soccer (football), Junoir is all about Rugby. A self-proclaimed Rugbyologist, he has been involved in Rugby as a ref, coach, administrator and player since Columbus discovered Ohio. His useful/trivial rugby knowledge qualify Blaber as RWU's Senior Correspondent & known in rugby circles as The Rugby Rain Man. He can also be found moonlighting for our American partners at MeetTheMatts.com.