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Selects Rundown

Friday Sep 11, 2009 in Elite Level Rugby National Teams

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(Lots of talk about Chris Baumann and how he's developed. Photo of Baumann helping Steamboat Springs to a Mountain League title.)

The USA Selects squad is a mixture of established domestic national team players and those who want to be in that group. Here’s a quick look at who will be with the team in October, and who won’t:

Chris Baumann (Life University). Baumann emerged in Aspen as a real talent. He was a prop to start out with, has enormous athletic ability and is superbly strong. He has made the switch to hooker and has scouts very excited.

Chris Biller (California). Biller started with the Eagles this summer and was very good. He was tapped by coach Eddie O’Sullivan is a player who could get go-forward, and had a lot of early carries. He’s got some open field skills.

Peter Dahl (Belmont Shore RFC). Impressive debut for the USA against Ireland. Dahl is a ball-poacher first and foremost, and a good one.

Patrick Danahy (Life University). Back in the USA from a year in Ireland, Danahy is strong and athletic at lock.

Brian Doyle (New York Athletic Club RFC). A year at Sydney Universities was Doyle’s choice to put him in a better position to get on the national team. He was a starter for a successful SU team, and now we’ll see how that helps the lock forward.

Nate Ellis (Chicago Lions). A product of the USA club system, Ellis is a 30-year-old prop with power and lots of pace. He is an effective runner, and O’Sullivan likes forwards who can run with the ball.

Jason Englebrecht (Dallas Harlequins). Not blessed with size, Englebrecht is an effective flanker because he has been playing in the USA and Super League system for ages (despite being still quite young) and he is smart.

Kevin Erskine (San Francisco Golden Gate). Is he a tweener, a lock who’s too light or a flanker who’s not fast enough? Or is he the perfect lineout weapon. He’s stronger than his frame suggests and he’s very mobile.

Nic Johnson (Denver Barbarians RFC). Was monstrous (in a good way) for the USA this summer. Just so imposing on the eightman pickup.

Daniel LaPrevotte (San Francisco Golden Gate). We’ve been talking about him as a potential Eagle for five years now. Somehow it hasn’t happened even as he seems to do everything he needs to do in the domestic game. Can play lock or blindside flank.

Mate Moeakiola (Pearl City RFC). Hard to recognize the big hair and (for him) small body compared to the guy of a couple of years ago.

Samuela Manoa (San Francisco Golden Gate RFC). Might have blown his shot this summer. Here’s his other shot. Can play lock or No. 8.

Shawn Pittman (Bayside RFC). Well he’s played very well. Like Erskine a product of Washington State’s U19 pipeline. What he needs to do is raise his power stats, but his feel for the game and his heart are there.

Jacob Sprague (Mystic River). Another one of those guys we’ve been talking about for a while. Injury and work slowed him, but he has the ability to challenge for a front row spot. The USA has a lot of good props right now.

Louis Stanfill (New York Athletic Club Rugby). Remember he scored two tries in the 2007 World Cup as a No. 8? Can play 4,5,6 or 8, and the big thing with Stanfill is that he has gotten into the habit of giving up costly penalties.

Phil Theil (Life University). Another of Life’s powerful forwards. Can play hooker or prop.

Ben Wiedemer (Belmont Shore RFC). Was an Eagle and then off the radar. Smart player who, remember, was a wide receiver in college, so he can run and has hands.

Tai Enosa (Pearl City RFC). Another player who has moved to Pearl City. Very young and still has a lot to learn. It will be interesting to see how he carries himself in this assembly.

Maximo DeAchaval (Denver Barbarians). Played in France before coming back to Denver. Very smooth player, plays a little off-the-cuff. Can kick, pass and run from flyhalf or fullback, and can drop a goal, too.

Nicholas Edwards (New York Athletic Club RFC). Grew up in Australia (his dad is American). Played with NYAC in 2008 and then returned to Sydney Universities, scoring a try in the Shute Cup final. Hard-running wing/fullback who has some potential, and fills a need.

Nese Malifa (Belmont Shore RFC). Malifa has shown many flashes of brilliance as a flyhalf in 7s, but also many troubled spots. His consistency in 7s has not been repeated in XVs. Yet.

Benny Mateialona (Life University). A smart and hard-working scrumhalf who can also play a little center if needed. One of nine in this list with U19 or HS rugby experience in the USA.

Leonard Peters (Gentlemen of Aspen). Has never played XVs, and only played a few tournaments in 7s. Huge athletic upside. But many, many more decisions to make in XVs for a new player, so it will be difficult.

Milemoti Pulu (San Francisco Golden Gate RFC). Notice there are a lot of SFGG players on this list and the coach is from SFGG? We spoke to Paul Keeler about that well before the team was named. He knew it would happen, and so did we, because the Super League champs have so many good players who were passed over for Eagle consideration. Pulu got noticed as a 19-year-old with enormous potential. He’s filled out and can make an impact now.

Dallas Robinson (Unattached). Peters may have not played any XVs. Robinson hasn’t played any rugby except in training camps. Coming off an injury, he’s in camp in part because (we think) everyone else wants to see what he offers.

Volney Rouse (San Francisco Golden Gate). Volney Rouse is great. He swift and can tackle with physicality and that is why many have been tempted to put him at center or wing or fullback. But why not flyhalf? Time to give him a chance. He was great in the NA4, great for SFGG, great for his club in New Zealand. How much testing does he need?

Roland Suniula (Pearl City RFC). Well he seems fully committed to XVs now, no 7s. Big issue is positioning on defense. Can score and set up tries, but we need a hole-blasting presence in the centers.

Shalom Suniula (Pearl City RFC). Nifty player who can play all over the backline.

Kevin Swiryn (Old Puget Sound Beach RFC). Everything he has touched so far was shone, maybe not with gold but close. Just needs to get the ball on the front foot a little more. Playing wing, but we can see him at center or even fullback.

Several players were specifically named who aren’t available. They include some established Eagles such as Alec Parker, Mike Petri and John van der Giessen. Some others who have played some for the USA – Pat Quinn, Colin Hawley and Pate Tuilevuka were also named. Mike Palefau hasn’t played for the XVs USA team since 2006. Rikus Pretorius pans out as a potential USA #7, but may be somewhat undersized. Some think his future remains in 7s. JJ Gagiano is a good player as a loose forward.

Brian Lemay is another of the very good prop corps. His job makes it tough for him to play. Cameron Dolan need some maturing, but has many tools as a lock/loose forward, while Hanno Dirksen could be a longtime Eagle if he’s not lost to Wales.

Junior Sifa brings a dimension we haven’t seen from Roland Suniula at center. But his rather nasty jaw injury at the Churchill Cup precludes his participation.

It's worth noting players who weren't listed as unavailable - they were just not listed. Hookers Joe Welch and Brian McClenahan, for example. The only domestic-based scrumhalves discussed are Mateialona and Petri.

That leaves Casey Rock, who is a tall, rangy center who has, with Glendale, displayed some impressive ball-handling and open-field running skills. He’s 6-8 and can move, and is under the tutelage of Luke Gross with regard to his lineout work and, more importantly, his defense.

Players who are based overseas were not considered for this team, and others who are in school aren’t, either. That basically makes the USA Selects more of a USA Clubs All-Stars. Overall it’s a team of players who will need to prove something if they are to be considered for USA spots.

- Alex Goff

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