Eddie O’Sullivan has head coached two World Cup teams in his career: Ireland in 2003 and 2007. His third RWC squad, the Eagles, takes the pitch in New Zealand in just over three months.
O’Sullivan has whittled his potential squad down to 50 players, 20 of whom will not make the final roster. I have taken a look back at the positional makeup of O’Sullivan’s first two teams to get an idea of what he might take to New Zealand.
17 Forwards, 13 Backs
Prop: 4 Hooker: 3, 2nd & Back Row: 10, Scrumhalf: 3, Flyhalf: 3, Center: 3, Wing: 3, FB: 1
16 Forwards, 14 Backs
Prop: 4, Hooker: 3, 2nd & Back Row: 9, Scrumhalf: 3, Flyhalf: 2, Center: 3, Wing: 4, FB: 2
Each of O’Sullivan’s Ireland teams consisted of exactly four props and three hookers, which indicates that’s the makeup he likes.
There are three hookers in camp: Phil Thiel, Chris Biller and Brian McClenahan.
There are six props: Eric Fry, Mike MacDonald, Mate Moeakiola, Will Johnson, Anthony Purpura and Shawn Pittman.
History indicates O’Sullivan will go with either nine or 10 locks, flankers and No. 8s. Since many of the Eagle candidates who play these positions can move from the engine room to loose forward somewhat seamlessly, we opted not to differentiate between them all.
There are 17 second and back rowers, so if history repeats, seven or eight of them will not make the trip to New Zealand: John van der Giessen, Hayden Smith, Samu Manoa, Todd Clever, Scott Lavalla, Nic Johnson, Inaki Basauri, Louis Stanfill, Pat Danahy, Cam Dolan, JJ Gagiano, Alec Parker, Matt Hawkins, Tom Katzfey, Ryan Chapman, Mark Bokhoven and Danny LaPrevotte.
Both of Eddie’s RWC teams have included three scrumhalves. There are four in the 50-man roster: Mike Petri, Tim Usasz, Robbie Shaw and Shalom Suniula.
In 2003 O’Sullivan selected three flyhalves, but cut that number to two in 2007. There are four potential No. 10s still in the running for the Eagles: Valenese Malifa, Tai Enosa, Volney Rouse and Troy Hall.
O’Sullivan has always selected three centers for his RWC squads. This could be where the most talent is trimmed. However, there are several players who play regularly elsewhere that could play in the midfield as well, such as Enosa, Rouse, Kevin Swiryn, Chris Wyles and James Paterson.
There are seven true centers in the 50-man list: Paul Emerick, Andrew and Roland Suniula, Seta and Alipate Tuilevuka, Junior Sifa and Thretton Palamo.
O’Sullivan has selected between four and six wings/fullbacks in his first two go-rounds. This, like the midfield, is where there is potentially a lot of talent that’ll be left stateside.
There are nine players who probably project as back three members: Mike Palefau, Swiryn, Wyles, Paterson, Taku Ngwenya, Colin Hawley, Blaine Scully, Zack Test and Folau Niua.
Of course, O’Sullivan is now dealing with a completely different crop of players with different experience and skill levels than he was in Ireland (are there really three true fly halves or a serious third hooker prospect?), so he may break the mold with his third RWC squad.