USA Men's 15s Coach Mike Tolkin will soon release a list of 24 players who will return to camp March 11 in Marietta, Ga.
The players are a mostly domestic group that will spend close to a week trying to get onto the full USA squad for the World Cup Qualifiers March 22 and 29.
On March 16 and 17 most of the rest of the overseas-based Eagles will come in. With several of those players - Todd Clever, Samu Manoa, Scott LaValla, Chris Wyles, Blaine Scully, Andrew Suniula, Tai Tuisamoa, Luke Hume, Toby L'Estrange, Eric Fry, Folau Niua, John Quill, and potentially Taku Ngwenya - with a very high probability of being first-choice in any Eagle lineup, making the group of 26 to face Uruguay will be difficult.
Some notes on the positions and the players:
At prop, Shawn Pittman is still coming back from his concussion and likely will stay in Seattle. Eric Fry was out injured last week for London Scottish, but is expected to be ready to play.
Fry will join Titi Lamositele, Nick Wallace, and Oliver Kilifi as the top four prop candidates. There could be room for one more.
At hooker, it's Fenoglio and Thiel and then spin the wheel. Phil Thiel and Zach Fenoglio have cornered the market at #2 since Chris Biller retired. Tolkin is certainly looking for a third hooker, and a fourth.
At lock Brian Doyle is still hurt, but with Lou Stanfill, Tai Tuisamoa, Samu Manoa, and Graham Harriman, the Eagles are deep here. Scott LaValla can certainly play lock, as well. And don't forget that Hayden Smith is back. Of those healthy players, only Stanfill and Harriman are playing in North America.
With only 26 roster spots, Tolkin will want to have players who can suit up at 4-5-6-7 or 8, and he does. That could leave him with room for a specialist lock (Tuisamoa) and/or flanker (the unheralded Derek Asbun or more heralded Danny Barrett). Obviously loose forward will include captain Todd Clever and current Northampton Saint Cam Dolan.
Scrumhalf has become a three-way competition with Mike Petri, Robbie Shaw, and Shalom Suniula, with Shaun Davies not out of it. This could be interesting because at flyhalf word is that Adam Siddall may be carrying an injury. If that's true, then the fact that Suniula has seen time at flyhalf in 7s and at the last 15s camp could come into play.
Toby L'Estrange is, of course, the other flyhalf.
At center the USA is deep and Cal captain Seamus Kelly will be with the team, along with Andrew Suniula, and Folau Niua. There is a place for one more here - some of the Kelly Kolberg or Chad London or Chris Chapman persuasion. Kolberg, London, and Chapman are all very different types of players, so it all depends on who shows up ready, and whether Tolkin wants a basher, a speedster, or a 2nd-five-eighth.
At wing, Luke Hume should be in from Narbonne and Blaine Scully in from Leicester, and you can't count out Ngwenya from Biarritz, who was left off last fall's team on form.
Tim Maupin is now in the 7s camp, but should be here, too.
Fullback? Chris Wyles has this spot covered, but Blaine Scully could be there, too.
So it seems there could be one spot in the front row, one in the second or back row, a flyhalf spot (maybe), and one place in the centers up for grabs. Slim pickings, but the chances are there.