USA Men's National 15s coach Mike Tolkin has named his squad for the 2013 Americas Rugby Championship.
This team will compete as the USA Selects, and full international caps will not be awarded, as the Americans take on Canada Selects, Argentina Jaguars, and Uruguay. The Uruguay team is expected to be the country's best players, while the Canadian and Argentina teams will be squads of the best available domestic players.
With some notable exceptions, Tolkin is going with experienced youth on this team as he works to develop depth and competition for places on the full USA squad.
Of the 26 players named, 11 have been capped in 15s, although most have been capped just a handful of times.
Leading the way in terms of international experience is prop forward Shawn Pittman, who will be getting some work at tighthead. Pittman is in the team in part because, while he's been an Eagle since 2008 and boasts 30 caps, Pittman has not played a great deal in the last year, and need playing time. He is now playing with Seattle-OPSB and Tolkin hopes Pittman will increase his strength and his ability to play tighthead.
Also in the front row are Nick Wallace and Titi Lamositele, both young props with a small number of Eagle caps who got their start (like Pittman) at the Chuckanut Bay U19 program in northern Washington state. Chris Sullivan from Life University, will also play prop, while Phil Thiel and Cameron Falcon come in at hooker.
Derek Asbun, who can play hooker and flanker, is also in the squad after finishing his season with the University of Cape Town.
Thiel is an experienced player who was an Eagle during the 2011 Rugby World Cup. After time off to play rugby league, Thiel is back, and has been working hard to get into international-level shape. Falcon is the former USA U20 hooker who played this past season at Dublin University after time at LSU.
Of those seven (including Asbun), all but Sullivan played for the USA age-grade (U20, U19 or HS All Americans) programs.
In the second row Tolkin picks three players who have been capped, or come close to it, but have not been able to break into a starting position. Will Haydock is a rangy second row for Seattle-OPSB, while Graham Harriman has been a standout for the Chicago Griffins and now for Metropolis. Harriman has had some time overseas, and seems to be the #3 lock on the USA depth chart right now. Cam Dolan, a former USA U20 captain, and who captained the USA Selects last season, can play lock or back row.
Danny Barrett also looks to play either lock or back row. The recently-graduated Cal forward has had his best year as a player, and has the ability to break games open.
Trevor Cassidy is another player who can slot in at lock or as a loose forward. The Vermont native played a season with the Villagers club in South Africa, and is now playing for Old Blue.
In the back row, Tolkin is selecting a few experimental players with little, if any, international experience. The USA is looking for depth at back row, especially since three of the USA's top back-rowers are playing overseas and their availability for the April World Cup Qualifiers against Uruguay is in question.
Liam Og Murphy has two caps for the USA, and the Boston RFC player will likely play openside flanker. Tai Tuisamoa is a thundering No. 8 who runs well with the ball and is one of the oldest on the team, well into his 30s. Benji Goff is coming off an excellent season with Life University and can play blindside or openside, but is now hurt. Asbun, who was a No. 8 when he captained Cal, can cover all three back row positions.
In the backs, Shaun Davies and Chris Saint at the scrumhalves. Both are former All Americans, while only Davies has been capped. The former BYU player also is a strong goalkicker, giving him an edge in selection.
Flyhalf is a big question for the Eagles and that is reflected in Tolkin's selections. Toby L'Estrange (NYAC) gets a chance to play more and build his confidence. Adam Siddall (Old Blue) will almost certainly be given a chance to secure the #10 jersey. And Max de Achaval has been a successful flyhalf for the Denver Barbarians for years, but has not been invited to camps. This is his shot. A silky player with excellent kicking skills, de Achaval has been knocked for not being fast, but his decision-making is pretty speedy.
At center, L'Estrange or Siddall might also find time, but Tolkin is also bringing in Mile Pulu, the SFGG center and former USA 7s player, and Peter Moala, who has played with San Mateo and East Palo Alto, and is a bit of an unknown quantity, but a multi-skilled back who can run.
Chris Chapman can also play at center, but may be used more as a fullback. He will compete with Ed Mills for time in the #15 jersey, while former St. Mary's All American Tim Maupin and longtime Chicago Lions star Mark Roberts compete for time at wing. Joe Cowley comes in as a potential back at wing, fullback, or perhaps elsewhere.
USA Selects for 2013 ARC
Titi Lamositele - Prop - Saracens (on trial)
Chris Sullivan - Prop - Life University
Nick Wallace - Prop - Olympic Club
Shawn Pittman - Prop - Seattle-OPSB
Phil Thiel - Hooker/Prop - Life University
Cam Falcon - Hooker - LSU/Dublin University
Danny Barrett - Flanker/Lock - SFGG
Will Haydock - Lock - Seattle-OPSB
Graham Harriman - Lock - Metropolis
Trevor Cassidy - Lock/Flanker - Old Blue
Derek Asbun - Flanker/Hooker - University of Cape Town
Tai Tuisamoa - Loose Forward - OMBAC
Liam Og Murphy - Loose Forward - Boston
Cam Dolan - Loose Forward - Life University
Shaun Davies - Scrumhalf - Previously Glendale Raptors
Chris Saint - Scrumhalf - HARC
Max D'Achaval - Flyhalf - Denver Barbarians
Adam Siddall - Flyhalf/Center/Fullback - Old Blue
Chris Chapman - Center/Fullback - NYAC
Peter Moala - Center - E. Palo Alto
Mile Pulu - Center - SFGG
Toby L'Estrange - Flyhalf/Center - NYAC
Tim Maupin - Wing - SFGG
Mark Roberts - Wing - Chicago Lions
Joe Cowley - Fullback - Life University
Ed Mills - Fullback - KC Blues
Players who played high school rugby in the USA: 15
USA age-grade players: 10
Players who played college rugby in the USA: 13
College All Americans: 11
Players who learned their rugby mostly overseas: 6
Players from USA who got experience overseas: 6
Players with full USA caps: 11
Players with USA 7s caps: 3