The Eagles Selects roster for the Americas Rugby Championship is due to be released any day now. The big question for U.S. fans is who is going to be on the roster? Under Eddie O’Sullivan, the ARC was used mainly to test out domestic players ahead of the Eagles autumn tours. This meant that a good chunk of the squad were current Eagles that were always going to be included on the autumn roster, with a few college players and few Super League players. However, new head coach Mike Tolkin suggested in a recent interview that he is looking to use the ARC as more of a development squad rather than an ‘A’ squad. He planned more on using the tournament to give time to players that are young and just on the fringe of the Eagles. He also suggested that it will be a domestic camp and that no overseas players will be called in.
Eagles Summer Roster
One category of player that Tolkin specifically mentioned as a possibility for the tour are players that were invited to the Eagles summer camp but didn’t make, as well as those that got little playing time. According to a Rugbymag report, no player on the team will have more than three caps. Based on this criteria, domestic players from the summer roster like Chris Biller, Brian Doyle, Mike Petri, Andrew Suniula (who is rehabbing anyways), and James Paterson are ruled out.
That leaves the following eligible sixteen players from the summer roster. Of those players, Derek Asbun is the only player overseas. However, that does not mean he won’t be playing in the ARC. For one, he is not currently tied down to a team (Tolkin, rightly, doesn’t want to pull a player away from his club, no matter how small, because that player is already getting experience). Asbun recently graduated from Oxford, and as those who read our interview know, he trained with Rosslyn Park in the pre-season. He also appeared for the London Wasps ‘A’ team this last weekend. He is currently looking for opportunities and needs a window in which to shop himself. The ARC is the perfect opportunity for him and will probably be on the squad as the only player based overseas.
Some of the players in this group of sixteen are members of the 7’s residency program: Luke Hume, Colin Hawley, Andrew Durutalo, and Taylor Mokate. Normally their participation in the ARC would be possible, but the Gold Coast 7’s will be running at the same time. However, that doesn’t mean that these four players won’t be eligible. Hume and Hawley are consistent starters for the 7’s team and will most likely not be on the ARC team. It could get interesting for Durutalo and Mokate though. Both play similar positions and the 7’s Eagles already have Zach Test, Mike Palefau, Jack Halalilio, Maka Unufe, and Hawley all capable of playing at forward. That means that it’s conceivable that either Durutalo or Mokate could be released for the ARC. Of the two, Mokate seems to be the more natural choice given that he isn’t as experienced as Durutalo at 7’s and hasn’t broken through to become a starter on the team.
The other big group of players from the summer roster are those that traveled with the College All-Americans to Ireland. These are the exact types of players that Tolkin is looking to bring onto the team. So expect, Andrew Cook, Ray Forrester, Cam Dolan, and Hynie Leaaetoa to all make the team barring an injury or scheduling conflict. You can also include Shaun Davies in the group as he had to miss the Ireland tour for personal reasons.
There were also several club players on the fringe of the summer squad. Tom Katzfey is a lock that has been on the edges of the Eagles squad for awhile and should finally get a look. The same for Kris Headlee and Conor Coyne. Tim Paulson is another interesting player. Paulson played for the Chicago Griffins last spring but before that played for Sale in the Aviva Premiership ‘A’ League.
Lastly, there are the cases of Will Holder and Pate Tuilevuka. Holder would be a great choice to include in the squad, but he is still in school and it would be hard to envision him getting out for a couple of weeks to play in this tournament. The other All-Americans mentioned above are seniors and will be available. The U.S. is willing to be patient with Holder so including him in this ARC would be nice, but not essential. As for Tuilevuka, he doesn’t have many caps for the Eagles and is probably a little older than what Tolkin is considering for this team.
In our recent interview, Tolkin stressed that there isn’t really a pathway for players from the College All-Americans to the Eagles. One of the few ways these players have is the Eagles Select, so it’s reasonable to assume that many of the players from the tour of Ireland could be called into the ARC assembly. However, the major obstacle to this is availability. The fact that the tournament takes place in October means it will be difficult for many players to get the time off to play. Underclassmen like Joe Cowley, Don Pati, JP Eloff, Seamus Kelly, and Madison Hughes will probably not be able to attend. That’s disappointing to fans who wanted to see these players pushing for a spot on the Eagles, but that is what it is. Some All-Americans that could make the squad due to graduation are Mikey Su’a, Ryan Roundy, and Shaun Potgeiter. Nate Brakeley would have been in that category but he has moved to England to go to school and play rugby for Cambridge.
Another source Tolkin might turn toward to find players for the tournament is the club game. There are players out there, like Mike Te’o who are still young but have shown great skill. Another relatively young player that has had injury but has been a strong player in the past is Mile Pulu. Glendale also has some good young players, and the ARC may be the perfect opportunity to give a player like Derek Lipscomb or Kyle Granby and opportunity to make an impact.
It’s not impossible that Tolkin will find a player that no one has heard of before. In our interview, he mentioned that a couple of players were turned over to the coaching staff that could be included on the tour. Some of these could include players that grew up overseas but now live and play in the United States. Don’t be surprised if you see a couple of names you have never heard of.
Who do you think will make the team? Leave a comment and let us know.
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