The Eagles four matches on their November Tour should really be split into two categories; full rankings test matches and other. Friday’s 25-0 loss to Scotland A, like the London bout with Saracens, should be filed under ‘other’.
Against Saracens, the Eagles were on their back foot much of the match and coach Eddie O’Sullivan was pleased with his defense. Against Scotland A, the Eagles having suffered three yellow cards? The same.
“I thought our defense was magnificent. We had to work very hard playing a lot of the game down numbers,” said O’Sullivan. “We worked very, very hard and we didn’t give up anything easy. If we hadn’t gotten the yellow cards it’s a reasonable debate to say they wouldn’t have picked up those two (second half, game clinching) tries, you know?”
Also like the in the Saracens game, O’Sullivan experimented a little bit with his lineup.
“It was never my plan to go in four games and put our best team on the field in all four matches. I wanted to try and develop the squad, and I wanted to try and win the ranking test, so if I was going to do that I have to give the other guys the run at some point in the tour, and we had two games and one of those games was tonight,” said O’Sullivan.
“We started people like Tai Enosa who has never started at fly half before tonight. Colin Hawley started his second game at fullback and some other combinations, so that was always part of the plan. I had to factor that into my thinking.”
For the Sarries, O’Sullivan started brothers Tuilevuaka in the midfield. The two had never played next to one another, believe it or not. This time, he went with a different midfield altogether.
“We had Paul Emerick tonight, he hadn’t played in the center in a while, with Andrew Suniula,” O’Sullivan said. “I wanted to look at that combination, and it worked pretty well. Just wish we had more ball for them.”
Pate Tuilevuka was on the field, however, at wing. Standing about 6’5”, Pate is a looming figure near the touch line.
“I’m trying to develop midfield players and see if they can play in the back three, so it gives us more options in selections and benching players,” O’Sullvan said.
“The whole point of putting him out there was to see how it went. I got a lot of information out of the game. I’m disappointed that we lost. I’m never over the moon if we lose a game…but I got a lot out of the game as far as watching players. Overall, there was some stuff that was good and some stuff that wasn’t so good.”
The Eagle round out their tour Nov. 27 against Georgia, in a rankings match, one O’Sullivan wants badly to win. Perhaps the 22 he chooses for that one will tell us which experiments he thought worked and which ones didn’t.