USA Eagles 23 Named for French Barbarians Match

Houston, we have a lineup.

Gary Gold has named his first Eagles team of the year:

A trio of internationally based players start in the tight five. Toulouse’s David Ainu’u and Saracens’ Kapeli Pifeleti team up with Utah’s Paul Mullen in the front row. Newcastle Falcons’ Greg Peterson pairs with New York’s Nick Civetta in the locks, while the loosies all ply their trade in American (Hanco Germishuys with LA and Moni Tonga’uiha and Cam Dolan with NOLA).

The backline is once again built around the pairing of Saracens’ Ruben de Haas and Sale Sharks’ AJ MacGinty in the halves. Austin’s Bryce Campbell and Seattle’s Tavite Lopeti return to the centers. Houston’s Christian Dyer, New England’s Mitch Wilson, and Austin’s Marcel Brache make up the back three.

Mikey Sosene-Feagai (hooker, Toulon), Chance Wenglewski (prop, New York), Joe Taufete’e (prop, LA), Siaosi Mahoni (lock, Houston), and Ben Bonasso (back row, New York) will provide cover for the forwards. Nate Augspurger (9/wing, San Diego), Paul Lasike (center, Utah), and Luke Carty (10/15, LA) will cover the backs.

Things to Watch

Gary Gold’s first lineup card is an upgrade from the rotating roster he managed last year. With that, a few points to watch:

Can the US win with the forwards?

There’s some electricty in this backline, but the pack is what’s really stepping forward. The front row is closing the gap with the Tier 1 test sides in the world. The performance of the back row will weigh heavily on this result. The French Barbarians play fast and loose. Will the loosies be able to make a mess at the ruck?

How will de Haas perform?

Ruben de Haas is a potential future star of the global game. Still just 23 years of age, he’s one of the few players on this roster that could still be around to play a World Cup on home soil in 2031. However, he’s in a state of career transition. His move to Saracens included better facilities and coaching than he’s had before, but he saw little time with the senior squad and was largely relegated to the Cup team. He’s put in plenty of work to get better, but does he have enough recent game time to jump back into the game at a high level? Gary Gold might see this match as a way to resolve that issue.

The Eagles have a real centers pairing

If Ruben de Haas is the most likely to be a Dream 23 player one day, Tavite Lopeti is a tantalizing second prospect. The Seawolf started for the Eagles before playing his first game at professional club level. His footwork continues to improve, and he’s only getting better slipping through defenses.

The key is who plays 12. Bryce Campbell provides an intriguing first choice. Bringing a fair amount of power and a healthy amount of craftiness, he can create enough issues with the ball in hand to open a bit of space at help tire a defense.

The Eagles could close games in impressive fashion

The scary proposition is how the Eagles will end games. de Haas could feed MacGinty for nearly 80 minutes. Somewhere around 20-30 to play, Lasike likely comes in for Campbell. If Campbell is there to wear down a defense, Lasike is there to bust through. Built like a loose forward, he could be running downhill like a running back fresh off the bench.

The other interesting piece is in the back three. Carty likely spells Brache at 15. The LA man would provide a second playmaker at 15 that can find space out of hand or with his boot.

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