John Mitchell's initial Eagle roster shows neither confidence in his predecessor's depth chart nor willingness to initiate a youth movement, a timid start toward 2019.
Tapping most of the 2015 World Cup veterans who aren't retired or playing 7s, USARFU's Americas Rugby Championship squad encompasses 37 players, 11 more than the tournament's weekly limit of 26. One-third are already 27 or older, and so unlikely to feature in the 2019 championship.
Athletes are being evaluated on their ability to contribute now, and USARFU has opted to use senior players in a competition suited for developing the next rung. The revived ARC, expanded to include Brazil and Chile, mainly consists of 'tier 3' opponents; 4 of 5 opponents are ranked below the US.
Beyond the return of 33-year-old Newcastle flanker Todd Clever, who fell out with past coach Mike Tolkin, there are recalls for 28-year-old Old Blue wing Luke Hume, who hasn't played for the national team in nearly 2 years, and 31-year-old 7s Eagle Nic Edwards, who has never earned a cap. Of the European professionals, only Samu Manoa and AJ McGinty aren't returning for at least a week; domestically, only Al McFarland and Seamus Kelly are healthy but unavailable.
The 7s Eagles have been ruled out of 15s competition through the Summer Olympics. As is historically true, roughly one-third of the national team retired following the end of the quadrennial cycle.
As in the 2006 launch of the North American 4, another moment when USARFU was in the midst of a coaching transition, Boulder has shied from sampling a large cohort in their teens or early 20s. Back then, Canada took the opposite approach and won 10 of the next 11 Can-Am matches.
Argentina will field 19 of 26 players aged 23 years or less: just 3 of them have more than 6 caps. At last fall's world championship, some of the Pumas' success was attributable to the four-year policy of blooding players 'not ready' for international competition.
'The contracted players overseas bring the necessary experience of professionalism from their club cultures and, as long as they bring the right enthusiasm with that awareness to their preparation and performance, this rubs off on the younger players,' Mitchell said in a prepared statement. 'This is such an essential part of the younger players' development with our most experienced players around.'
Mitchell himself played a modest role in selections. The New Zealander has been living in South Africa, and does not yet have a visa to work in the US. Dave Williams, the national team's strength and conditioning coach for a decade, and high performance director Alex Magleby steered the process.
All of Mitchell's top three assistants also are foreigners; all played for England's Wasps, where USARFU chief executive Nigel Melville once coached, as noted by RugbyToday; none were part of the 2015 World Cup staff.
After the tournament, Melville second-guessed Tolkin's decision to leave Clever out of the squad. However, the Xavier High and New York Athletic Club man is seen to have lost his job after posting an 0-4 World Cup record.
Zach Test *Kevin Swiryn* and Brett Thompson each suffered knee injuries at the weekend's Wellington 7s, potentially ruling them out of the Rio de Janeiro Games, RugbyToday reported. The Eagles bowed out to Australia in the plate semifinal, and lie 6th in the standings.