The USA National Team is only a few hours from naming its lineup to face Ireland on Sunday, September 11, and Head Coach Eddie O’Sullivan has some decisions to make.
The most high-profile decision is whether to play Saracens star Chris Wyles. Wyles is well-known in England and around the world, and therefore his status garners plenty of questions for the world press.
But that’s not the only decision O’Sullivan has to ponder.
Up front it seems likely O’Sullivan will start Mike MacDonald – allowing Big Mac the record for Eagle caps – and Shawn Pittman at tighthead prop. Hooker remains a bit of a question-mark, but Phil Thiel appears to have the inside track.
In the second row, Hayden Smith will likely start, but there’s a question as to whether Scott LaValla or John van der Giessen get the nod at the other second row position.
The back row doesn’t seem too unsure. Lou Stanfill, Todd Clever and Nic Johnson have been in strong form. O’Sullivan, however, might look to rest one of those players for Russia.
Mike Petri will probably get the start at scrumhalf, and at flyhalf Nese Malifa is still the guy, but Roland Suniula is gaining on him.
In the centers there’s a big question to answer. Should Paul Emerick be inside center, and if so, who goes to #13? Many observers had hoped to see Kevin Swiryn or James Paterson at outside center. That could still happen, as Taku Ngwenya is a sure thing on the right wing. But we could see any combination in the midfield – Andrew Suniula at inside, Roland Suniula at outside, Junior Sifa at either … no one knows right now which combination has really taken.
And then there’s fullback, where Wyles is expected to play if he’s healthy, and where Blaine Scully will likely start if Wyles can’t go.
“We are working hard and trying to get everything in place before the off,” said O’Sullivan. “The more time we spend together, the more cohesive we get, but I’m very happy with where we are at the moment.
Chris Wyles is a tough call. It’s down to the wire with Chris. He trained hard today, and we’ll make a decision tomorrow morning. That’s the one piece of the jigsaw not in place … [but] we’ve been running Blaine (Scully) at full back all week, and he’ll step into the breach if Chris is not available.”