Expect to see some changes in the USA Selects lineup for the second round of the Americas Rugby Championship.
The USA Selects will take on Canada Selects on Tuesday evening at Westhills Stadium in Lasngford, BC, and Head Coach Mike Tolkin has some decisions to make.
Following Friday’s 27-9 loss to Argentina, the USA team ran through a recovery session, followed by some relaxation time which included ziplining through the massive forests of Vancouver Island, and a hockey game in the evening.
Meanwhile, Tolkin and his staff of Justin Fitzpatrick and Billy Millard spent some time evaluating performances.
Overall the front row of Shawn Pittman, Phil Thiel, and Titi Lamositele came out of the game in good shape and having played well. It’s unlikely we’ll see a lot of changes there unless a player needs to rest.
The second row wasn’t as fortunate. Graham Harriman worked hard, but sometimes found himself behind the play. Will Haydock did not play well and was replaced early in the second half. Look for Trevor Cassidy, John Cullen (coming in to the squad in place of the injured Liam Murphy) or Tai Tuisamoa to get time there. Of those three, Tuisamoa has impressed the most with his hard-nosed style.
In the back row, No. 8 Cam Dolan had a strong game – perhaps his biggest misstep being the quick tap near the Argentina goal line that might have been a try if Dolan had gone into contact lower – making tackles, winning lineouts, and rescuing some iffy scrum ball.
Murphy was injured early, and Derek Asbun replaced him, but wasn’t as good as he has been. Danny Barrett, normally a high-profile player, was somewhat quiet but, in his debut senior international (even if it’s a non-cap game) likely deserves a mulligan.
So it’s quite possible we will see a change in the back row, but not a sure thing.
At scrumhalf, Shaun Davies was outstanding, and will retain his position. At flyhalf is where a decision needs to be made. Toby L’Estrange played well, although he needs to trust his outside backs more on offense. But Tolkin wants to start Adam Siddall in a game at flyhalf, and this game coming up could be the one.
It's unlikely Max de Achaval will get a start. His style of play is not the same as that of L'Estrange and Siddall, whose style seems to fit the attack pattern better.
Meanwhile, while Mile Pulu showed flashes at inside center, and Chris Chapman was solid at outside, we might see some changes in the rest of the backline. Peter Moala made a big impression coming off the bench, and Tim Maupin did as well. Mark Roberts had a rough game, especially on defense, for the Selects at right wing (where three of the Argentina tries were scored), and while Ed Mills almost scored a late try, it took him a while to get into the game.
So … look perhaps for Siddall to get the #10 jersey against Canada, and L’Estrange to either slot in at inside center, or be on the bench. Pulu will probably move to outside center, with Moala and Maupin at wing.
That leaves fullback, and here is a chance for young Life University fullback Joe Cowley, who didn’t make the squad of 23 against Argentina. Cowley is a multi-skilled young player and may well get a start, or at least some significant game time, against Canada.