NEW YORK, NY – Happy New Year! We hope this finds you hale, hearty and happy! Now that our hangovers are all in the rear-view mirror, let’s get to rugby… Following form from our 2012 Players To Watch, we’ve got a new year and thus, a new crop to sow. 2013 USA Rugby Players To Watch. The 2013 addition, however, is even more of a team effort than the 2012 version. Joining me & RWU contributors Mike Holzman and Phaidra Knight are Bryan Ray of RaysRugby.com, Curtis the Honorable of ThisIsAmericanRugby.com, Wendy Young of Your Scrumhalf Connection (ScrumhalfConnection.com) and Molly Dengler, Assistant Coach USA Women’s U-17, Program Director NYRC U-19 & player for the perennial power NYRC Women. We were also able to get some off-the-record input from members of the USA National team set-up.
Like last year, our selected players were noted not for their 2012 record but for what we expect them to achieve in 2013. Tomorrow, we will name our 2013 USA Clubs, Coaches & Administrators To Watch. Throughout January, we will do the same for other countries, but to start things off, here’s our 2013 USA Rugby Players To Watch:
Rosie “R2” Miesner: Yes, Rosie is a fellow NYRC member. So go ahead and accuse us of being homers. But before you do, note that we acknowledge Sadie Anderson and Katy “Kit Kat”Agustyn are worthy candidates. However, considering she just got her first 3 caps last month and shown impeccable form for a rebuilding NYRC team, we stand by our choice. It can be tough to tell how a player is performing when their club is not a playoff team, but Rosie’s performances for Team USA in France and Italy showed she international caliber and only scratching the surface of her potential.
Toby L’Strange: The NYAC fly-half can sometimes be seen playing outside center for his club but he is a natural fly-half. For those wondering, L’Strange was born in California but raised in Australia. One parent is American, the other is an Aussie. Toby would have gotten capped in the summer if not for injury but he did get 3 caps during the November Internationals. Toby thrives in the expansive and up-tempo game that National Team Coach Mike Tolkin likes to play. He posses great vision, good pace and the ability to put his receivers in space. Although a large number of USA Rugby die-hards are expecting the flyhalf position to fall to Class of 2012 member JP Eloff, it will not happen automatically and the emergence of L’Strange allows Tolkin to not rush the process, while providing a mentor and competitor for Eloff.
Derek Asbun: Our Men’s Overseas Player choice, Derek is another standout player from that University of California – Berkeley rugby factory. Asbun is no tackling dummy off the pitch, either – he went on to Oxford University (note the jersey in his picture) for a post-graduate degree. He played well for the Oxford Dark Blues and managed to get a cap with the Eagles during the summer. He performed so well that he was picked up by the London Wasps Academy. It is expected he will be loaned out to a RFU Championship side, where he can really display his talents. Tenacity, work-rate and physicality are his main attributes. Hopefully he’ll he land a not only a starting spot – but a definite position at the Academy – as he currently bounces between backrow and hooker.
Akalaini “Bui” Baravilala: Bui could have won the Women’s Young Player of the Year. She is the youngest player on a USA 7s contract in Chula Vista, CA. and really shined in the 2012 Amsterdam 7s and in Dubai. The Hawaiian-born Fijian possess loads of pace and attacking flair, which we expect her to take to the next level in 2013. Being a season wiser and becoming a starter on the circuit will only. Along with Class 2012 choice Vanesha McGee, Baravilala will make the USA Women an even more dangerous proposition in the HSBC 7s Series and Rugby World Cup 7s.
Carlin Isles: Some will say that he is no longer an unknown entity. However, we picked him in our round-table discussions for this column before his now famous YouTube video went viral. The video and the commentators say all that needs to be said. Just try to comprehend is that the time this highlight reel was composed he had only been playing rugby for 3 months! We will have a Q&A with Mr. Isles in coming weeks. In the meantime, watch the video and witness the next big thing in USA Rugby.
Amelia “Meya” Bizer: Not many players can make the jump from a U-20 stud player to the full women’s National Team. In the short span of a year, Bizer made such a jump. She has been a success since touching a rugby ball. and has two Texas High School State Rugby Titles to her name, along with being a college all-american and a U-20 player. Texas rugby expert Grant Cole can verify that. Scarier still is the fact she won’t turn 20 until next year! She is equally at home playing outside center or fullback, where her solid defense and ability to ghost through gaps have made lots of onlookers shake their heads in disbelief. It will really be interesting to see if she she’ll be joining a D1 team or a WPL side… and which one.
Otusia Tupouata: This was an incredibly tough call. With the emergence at the Collegiate National 7s Championship of Zinzan Elan-Puttick (ZEP) and news that U-20 Eagle Cameron Falcon of New Orleans and Louisiana State University RFC is expected to attend Trinity College in 2013. But if you look at Tupouata’s highlight reel, you cannot deny that he reminds us of a young Thretton Palamo. At 6-4, the 250lb Tupouata is not just a big – he actually has skill and a turn of pace. His biggest problem now is trying to settle with a club. He has been in contact with some French clubs and San Francisco-Golden Gate, but has yet to choose. We expect him to land in France sometime next year and to at least be in the Eagle training squad by the November Internationals. His talent and potential is such that Coach Tolkin will likely be monitoring him from here on in, which means anything can happen.
That’s it’s for now… Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @RugbyWrapUp, @JunoirBlaber, @Declan Yeats, @Mathew Drew Turner, and @Ebstide52 respectively.
That’s it for now… Stay low and keep pumping those legs.