Cal produces the most persistently excellent Eagle forwards, judging from the roster of cap leaders by position.
Eight Bears stand amid the 23 men who rank in the USA's top 5 at prop, hooker, second row, flanker, or number eight. Two claim honors at more than 1 position.
They are Mike MacDonald, with 67 tests at prop to his name, Ray Lehner (38, prop), Eric Fry (36, prop), Kirk Khasigian (37, hooker), Chris Biller (28, hooker), Lou Stanfill (25 at lock and 23 at flanker), Kort Schubert (32 at flanker and 18 at eightman), and Rob Lumkong (28 at eightman). MacDonald is America's all-time cap leader, while Stanfill is 6th and Schubert 10th.
Another 5 of the all-timers can be described as collegiate All-Americans from sundry other schools, and the remainder issue from senior clubs. To date, none of the all-time forwards has been drafted into the American test team without having played domestically, nor mostly played overseas.
Among the all-time US backs (which I will treat separately), there is a far greater diversity.
The predominance of Cal forwards is interesting in two respects. First, all of them played the majority of their international rugby after graduation, but only half were long-term professionals (MacDonald, Fry, Stanfill, and arguably Schubert). This suggests training habits and performance standards survive the transition to different environments.
Second, with the US test calendar since 1995 averaging 8 games per year, top 5 players generally started over 5-plus seasons. But the average coaching tenure over the same period is 3 seasons. The Cal standouts have been first choice regardless of the head man.
Jack Clark, Cal's longtime head coach, of course lead the Eagles for 48 games over 1993-99. Six of the 8 all-timers started their test careers after his departure. Tom Billups, who joined Clark in Berkeley after his retirement, led the US for 33 games over 2001-05. Of the 4 who played during Billups' US tenure, 3 played for at least 1 more Eagle coach while the last wrapped up before Billups finished.
This underlines that the college, not the international, environment is where Clark and Billups have had the most influence.
Unsurprisingly, only 5 of the 23 all-timers played prior to 1995, when there were fewer tests: Chris Lippert (38, prop), Billups (44, hooker), Kevin Swords (36, lock), Brian Vizard (20, number 8), and Lumkong. All but the latter, plagued by injury, captained the US.
|Position caps||All caps|
|Mike MacDonald *||67||67|
|Ray Lehner *||37||38|
|Eric Fry *||36||36|
|Kirk Khasigian *||37||37|
|Chris Biller *||28||28|
|Lou Stanfill *||25||56|
|Kort Schubert *||32||50|
|Lou Stanfill *||23||56|
|Rob Lumkong *||28||29|
|Kort Schubert *||18||50|
* Univ. of California
Note: Following international convention, 'All Caps' acknowledges a player may have entered games as a replacement for another position, regardless of where he actually lined up. Then again, he may also have started and/or played another position.