|Clever, if remotely healthy, will be on the plane to NZ. Numina photo|
|Basauri will also be in NZ pending medical clearance. Ian Muir photo |
|12 months ago Scully was a longshot. Now he's a lock. Muir photo|
|Enosa will make the team, but where will he play? Numina photo|
|Malifa may not be a concrete starter, but he's on the team. Numina|
The 30-man World Cup roster is set to be released Monday, and though many of the personnel decisions seem to have already been made, there are still some potential changes in the wind that could use monitoring.
World Cup Squad Weather Forecast
Inaki Basauri Partly Sunny. Hasn’t been in the 22 of late but O’Sullivan knows what he gets from this flanker.
Chris Biller Sunny. Despite having not played his best rugby, he’s considered the #2 #2.
Ryan Chapman Steadily clearing. After not being in the squad he was plucked last week and earned his first cap on Sunday. Put in enough work and did enough useful things to make you wonder. In terms of supporting the development of home-grown American talent, he’d be a good player to take to New Zealand.
Todd Clever Sunny and hot. Injured, but unless it’s terminal, will be on squad.
Pat Danahy Clearing. Had a very nice performance against Japan in a full 80 minutes.
Cameron Dolan. Rain. Injured. No longer a candidate.
Eric Fry Mostly sunny. Struggled at times in scrum against Japan, but a good player in the loose. With Will Johnson left home, O’Sullivan has essentially made his front row decisions.
JJ Gagiano Getting cloudier. Wasn’t stupendous against Japan and kind of needed to be.
Nic Johnson Sunny. Was outstanding in the ten minutes or so he played for the USA against Japan. Injured, but it didn’t seem serious. Has been playing really well.
Will Johnson Rain. Left home from Japan trip, which is too bad because he is very good.
Scott LaValla Sunny. Probably the best forward for the Eagles against Japan. EOS has to find a spot for him.
Mike MacDonald Warm front moving in. Scrummaging solid. Probably in is best form in some years.
Brian McClenahan Rain. Looks like two hookers for Eagles.
Mate Moeakiola Partly sunny. MacDonald may have taken his starting position, but Mate is on pace for a second World Cup.
Shawn Pittman Sunny. Overall still the best tighthead the USA has.
Hayden Smith Bright and sunny, with one cloud on horizon. How badly hurt is he? Looked banged up but probably could have played if he were needed. He is needed.
Louis Stanfill Sunny. Brings lots of grit and determination to the team. Will battle with LaValla for playing time, most likely.
Phil Thiel Sunny. Set piece had speed bumps against Japan, but not all his fault. Elsewhere was outstanding.
John van der Giessen Sunny. A lock forward who can jump, tackle, and fight without stopping? Yeah, we need one of those.
Paul Emerick Bright and sunny with a cool refreshing breeze when you need one. Cannot imagine any scenario where he doesn’t anchor the USA backline.
Tai Enosa Cloudy. Exciting runner, who still needs to work his way itno team defense. Like him as a wing, but center?
Troy Hall Rain. Left home and not being considered.
Colin Hawley Drizzle. Could be the odd man out in a crowded group of outside backs.
Nese Malifa Mostly sunny. Some drops, not all his fault, against Japan, but did a lot of things right. Didn’t miss any penalties because USA never had any worth kicking.
Taku Ngwenya Sunny. Playing well.
Mike Palefau Rain. Ended up not joining team.
James Paterson Alternating clouds and sun. Didn’t make you sit up and say “oh, that guy is a Super 15 player.” But was effective and showed he can tackle without writhing around in pain.
Mike Petri Sunny. What impressed us, and, we hope, the coaches, was he started poorly against Japan, and then shook that off and regained his form.
Blaine Scully Sunny. Given the question-marks throughout the backline, Scully has been a steady influence and a big man in cover defense at fullback.
Robbie Shaw Cloudy and windy. Who knows? Hasn’t been given but one chance to play, and in that game did everything he was asked to do. Unless O’Sullivan decided to take three scrumhalves, he is on the outside looking in.
Junior Sifa Cloudy. Hasn’t played in some time.
Andrew Suniula Mostly sunny. Still has an opportunity to grab inside center position. Needs to avoid peaks-and-valleys type games.
Roland Suniula Warming trend. Could he be the starting flyhalf? It’s entirely possible. His ability to play many positions puts him on the plane to NZ.
Kevin Swiryn Warm front coming in. Great timing with a big game against Japan. Defense improved.
Zack Test Rain. Not taken to Japan.
Tim Usasz Mostly sunny. Still battling with Petri for starting spot. Should be on the plane.
Chris Wyles Sunny but with variable winds and outside chance of thunderstorm. If he’s healthy, he goes to New Zealand. If he’s really hurt, he doesn’t. If he’s sort of hurt, he likely is still on the squad. But Chris Wyles hasn’t played for the Ealges since November, and one wonders where he fits in. Right now, with Emerick’s outstanding performance at inside center, the #13 is there for the taking. But he has to be healthy.
So that gives me a squad of:
Biller, Clever, Danahy, Fry, N. Johnson, LaValla, MacDonald, Moeakiola, Pittman, Smith, Stanfill, Thiel and van der Giessen for sure, and Basauri, Gagiano and Chapman likely. Will Johnson an outside chance.
And in the backs:
Emerick, Malifa, Ngwenya, Paterson, Petri, Scully, A. Suniula, R. Suniula, Swiryn, Usasz and Wyles for sure, with Enosa, Hawley, Shaw, and Sifa battling it out for three spots.