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Eagles Playing Pro Catch-Up?

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Eagles Playing Pro Catch-Up?

USA Men’s 15s Head Coach Mike Tolkin says he is still leading a mostly amateur team to internationals this November.

While the team Tolkin was able to field against the All Blacks featured nine pros, the team that played Romania and Tonga had far fewer (this was due to a tradeoff USA Rugby made with Aviva Premiership clubs to make the top pros available for the New Zealand game).

Against Romania, the starting lineup featured five pros, including Folau Niua, who is with the USA 7s team. The team that face Tonga also featured five pros in the starting lineup.

“We have a team of nearly all amateur players, and ones who have played a handful of games over the last few months against varying pressure,” said Tolkin by way of explaining his team’s errors, especially against Tonga. “Every team we played this fall is fully professional.”

The All Backs were of course all pros. The Romania team was mostly made up of players that play around Europe, augmented by players paid to play in Romania. Almost the entire Tonga team plays in Europe or did until very recently.

Meanwhile, not only are the USA players not professional (for the most part), but many weren’t playing regularly going into the November games, and the games some are playing aren’t putting the top players under much pressure.

“Firstly, that needs to change,” said Tolkin, “and secondly, people must understand what our guys are up against. But [the USA players] do very well for the most part and keep getting better. We just need full-time, high pressure games and full-time training for all of them.”