Five players have started at either flyhalf or scrumhalf for the 7s Eagles through three 2012/2013 World Series tournaments, and for the first time all season, all of them are healthy and available for selection for the Wellington and Las Vegas stretch of the Series.
Luke Hume, who missed out on Dubai for the 15s Eagles' November Tour, is limping around with a torn meniscus. But he’s been playing on it for some time and leads all halfbacks with 10 starts this season (not all of which have come at a halfback position).
Captain Shalom Suniula is in second with eight starts, but only one came in the last tournament where the Eagles made the Cup Quarterfinals for the first time in two years.
Tai Enosa, who is back after missing South Africa due to injury, has six starts this season.
Folau Niua, like Hume, was also sporting a wrapped knee in training this week, but he was participating in all drills and didn’t seem to favor his weak leg while sprinting. He has five starts this season, all of them coming in the only tournament he’s been healthy enough to play in – South Africa.
Nate Augspurger also has five starts, all of which came in Dubai. And then there’s Mike Te’o, who hasn’t recorded a start yet but is competing at the OTC.
So there are six players vying for a spot on the Eagles roster to be named soon, and it’s unlikely Eagles coach Alex Magleby will take more than four halfbacks to New Zealand and Sin City, as that’s what he’s carried to all tournaments so far. Consider that two more forwards likely to be selected are back healthy – Blaine Scully and Andrew Durutalo – and it seems possible Magleby will put just three halfbacks on the plane to New Zealand Saturday.
“It is competitive and I think you can see that,” said Magleby. “You can start seeing the depth is being produced, and that’s what we’ve been aiming to do…It’s nice to have that competition. They’re all playing better rugby now than they had two months ago, and I think good competition fuels that.”
The competition even has Suniula sweating selections. After years of being a routine starter, he has spent ample time on the bench lately.
“It’s been a lot of character building for me, and actually it’s been good, because I’ve got to revisit some skills and stuff that I need to work on and it’s been good,” said Suniula.
“I’ve worked hard these last couple weeks…For me, in the back of my head, I know I can’t be complacent. I know I’ve been here the longest, but I can’t be complacent because there are lots of new guys, which is good for the program, to be pushing all of the veterans.”
An announcement on selections is expected sometime this week and possibly as early as Wednesday.