Sunday, 28 November 2010 00:00    PDF Print Write e-mail
Minutes Tell Story for Eagle Players
National Teams - USA Men

Paul Emerick try v Georgia
By Alex Goff

You can read a lot into actions, and putting aside for now whether you feel the USA played well or not on tour (most observers are mixed on the issue), have a look at who Head Coach Eddie O'Sullivan has been using.

We at tracked the minutes of every player on tour, giving us an idea of who O'Sullivan likes, who he isn't sure about, and who changed his mind.

Players who played every minute of both test matches:
Todd Clever, Nese Malifa, Taku Ngwenya, Shawn Pittman, Lou Stanfill, Andrew Suniula, Kevin Swiryn,Chris Wyles

Mostly no surprises there. Malifa is right now the only test flyhalf the USA has, as O'Sullivan is still pondering whether Tai Enosa, Volney Rouse or someone else should be the backup. The back three of wings Ngwenya and Swiryn and fullback Chris Wyles are set. O'Sullivan loves Lou Stanfill's versatility and grit, and has established Shawn Pittman as the man at tighthead (at least until Will Johnson recoveres from a broken hand).

Andrew SUniula is a bit of a surprise, as there's been a huge amount of competition at center. You'd have figured Pate Tuilevuka would have garnered some time at #12, but he didn't. Could it be the question is settled?

Players who play no minutes in the test matches:
Pat Danahy, Tai Enosa, Eric Fry, Colin Hawley, Zack Test, Pate Tuilevuka.

Some of these are obvious. Fry, Hawley and Enosa are very young. Danahy was a mid-tour replacement. As we said, Tuilevuka is the surprise here.

Fewest minutes:
John van der Giessen 28
Pat Danahy 80
Tai Enosa 98
Mike MacDonald 123
Seta Tuilevuka 130
Phil Thiel 137

This number can be misleading, because Thiel, for example, played all his minutes in tests, while Chris Biller got more time, but more in the fiendlies. Van der Giessen broke his cheekbone in his first match. Danahy played one game, against Scotland A, after replacing van der Gissen. So those kind of don't count.

Enosa is clearly young and being eased into a role. O'Sullivan needed to get Malifa on the field against Saracens, leaving Enosa only one start, against Scotland A.

MacDonald came back into the squad after being dropped earlier this year. His minutes haven't been good, as he has been a late-game replacement in test matches. When Johnson comes back, will Big Mac be squeezed out? He remains a huge question-mark for this team.

Seta Tuilevuka started the Portugal test, but was replaced after 50 minutes. He didn't see any action after that. Minor injury or a reflection of his form?

Most minutes:
Paul Emerick  280
Inaki Basauri  277
Andrew Suniula  250
Nese Malifa  232
Samu Manoa  216

This list we find fascinating. Manoa clearly played his way to more minutes and had a strong match against Georgia. He is rumored to be lining up a pro contract in Europe, and certainly the numbers reflect his improved play. Remember he was on the outside looking in on the USA Selects in the ARC, and played his way onto the starting lineup there, and from there onto the Eagles. That's a great story.

Malifa, as we mentioned, is really O'Sullivan's only flyhalf option at present, and as such dominates minutes there. Suniula, as we mentioned, seems to have latched onto the inside center position. We'll see how things go once Junior Sifa comes back.

The top two we find most interesting. Inaki Basauri came into this tour as a total unknown. Yes, he'd played for the Eagles before, but not for O'Sullivan, who acknowledged he knew little about the loose forward. Basauri looked to get time in the friendlies, but ended up starting in all four matches. Stangest of all was Saturday, when on a squad that had five players who have played No.8 internationally or professionally, it was Basauri, who has never done so on even close to a regular basis, who played at the back of the scrum.

What that means we're not sure, but it's interesting.

And finally all that brings us to Paul Emerick. We've covered the Emerick redemption before, but the numbers show this in clear relief. Paul Emerick started against Saracens but was on the bench against Portugal. He looked to be on the outs, and yet came in as a sub, sparked the USA to victory, and followed that up with wire-to-wire performances against Scotland A and Georgia. He scored the USA's lone try against Georgia (Emerick had two on the tour, everyone else had two total), and made the try-saving tackle that prevented Georgia from scoring on that final scrum (Georgia scores soon after but Emerick still stopped them on the first attempt). It added up to the former University of Northern Iowa All American playing the most minutes of any USA player.

It just seems like anytime anyone counts Emerick out, he comes back. And in some small way the numbers show this.

Final notes: Some players saw their time dwindle: JJ Gagiano, Scott LaValla, Seta Tuilavuka. COuld be because O'Sullivan liked other players better, or made choices based on the opposition.

In a class of his own is Mike Petri, who captained the USA against Scotland A, but can't seem to buy minutes in the full test matches.

USA Player Minutes November 2010
(Note, we counted 90 minutes for the Georgia game)
PlayerSaracensPortugalScotland AGeorgia
Paul Emerick 80308090280
Inaki Basauri 80528065277
Andrew Suniula 0808090250
Nese Malifa 6280090232
Samu Manoa 5507190216
Mate Moeakiola 6608061207
Louis Stanfill 2580090195
Chris Biller 8088025193
JJ Gaganio 8020800180
Mike Petri 808805173
Todd Clever 080090170
Shawn Pittman 080090170
Hayden Smith 008090170
Takudzwa Ngwenya 080090170
Kevin Swiryn 080090170
Chris Wyles 080090170
Scott LaValla 808090169
Nic Johnson 8060025165
Eric Fry 800800160
Colin Hawley 800800160
Zack Test 800800160
Alipate Tulievuka 800800160
Tim Usasz 072085157
Phil Thiel 072065137
Seta Tulievuka 805000130
Mike MacDonald 7420029123
Tai Enosa 18080098
Pat Danahy0080080
John van der Giessen 0280028