The June tests have come and gone and they were largely a mixed bag, edging more towards positive and certainly an upgrade on the miserable November that the Americas endured. Brazil took a miracle win over Portugal but were taught a lesson by Romania, while Argentina stumbled against England but redeemed themselves somewhat against the Lelos. Uruguay were in top form to claim the Nations Cup, and the USA were the big winners in the Americas 1 series. As for Canada, the less said the better.
1 – Djustice Sears-Duru (Canada) After a slow start to the year ‘DJ’ took a step in the right direction with a solid month of work at the coal face. Still has plenty of room for improvement, like many of his teammates, but his power was evident at the scrum and he made a strong impression with ball in hand.
2 – Agustín Creevy (Argentina) Not a great showing from the Pumas against England though they did find some solace with the win over Georgia. Their captain was short of his best but he is still comfortably the best in his position in the Americas. That said one does wonder why Joe Taufete’e spent so little time on the field for the Eagles.
3 – Mario Sagario (Uruguay) Perhaps feeling the pressure from understudy Juan Echeverría, the former Munster prop looked back in form as a major part of the Teros scrum that set the platform for their historic Nations Cup tournament victory. Could well be fronting up against Sears-Duru for the Americas 2 spot in January.
4 – Matías Alemanno (Argentina) While the more lauded Tomás Lavanini was busy catching eyes for the wrong reasons, Alemanno was putting his head down and doing the hard yards. Not as brutal as Lavanini or as athletic as Guido Petti, the 25-year-old has nonetheless become an indispensable name on match day with his size and durability key attributes.
5 – Nick Civetta (USA) It’s been a breakthrough year for the New York native, and he took another step forward to becoming a nailed-on starter for the Eagles with an impressive June series. Athletic, committed, and increasingly aggressive. No longer just a lineout presence, an all-round contributor.
6 – Todd Clever (USA) What a way to go out. Fairy tale endings don’t often happen in real life but the sun was certainly shining on the Eagles talisman in his last run-out with the team in San Diego. It was his willingness to put his body on the line throughout that sealed his spot in our selection.
7 – Javier Ortega Desio (Argentina) The best of an underwhelming Pumas back row. With Pablo Matera starting to look stretched and Facundo Isa sipping lattes in France, it was up to Ortega Desio to provide what impetus he could muster. Like Alemanno, less heralded than others but a versatile and integral part of the Pumas squad.
8 – Cam Dolan (USA) Out of contract at Cardiff Blues where he was seen as a utility forward, the long-striding Florida native reminded us that his best position is at the back of the scrum. Given the freedom to roam, his pace and lines of running gave Canada fits in the qualifying series. At 27 years of age still has plenty of time to contribute to whichever club wins his signature next.
9 – Santiago Arata (Uruguay) There could be a changing of the guard at scrumhalf for the Teros who have unearthed a gem in the 20-year-old whirlwind. Such has been his form that World Cup starter Agustín Ormaechea has been relegated to a reserve role, at least for the short term. Arata’s speed off the mark and nose for the tryline makes him equally capable of breaking the line or finishing off a sweeping attacking move.
10 – AJ MacGinty (USA) A slow start was redeemed with two commanding outings against the Canucks that saw get the best of his former Connacht mate Shane O’Leary in their head-to-head battle. Saved his best for last with a superb match in San Diego that puts him into the side ahead of Nicolás Sánchez, solid if unspectacular for the Pumas.
11 – Emiliano Boffelli (Argentina) At long last made his test debut and showed it was worth the wait. Tall and lean but deceivingly powerful, his pace and ability to spot the gap mark him as a deadly attacker whose long-term position should be at outside center or fullback. Should be a fixture in the Pumas team for years to come.
12 – Jerónimo de la Fuente (Argentina) Gave the Pumas backline a different look with his running game a direct contrast to the classic distributing style of Santiago Fernández and Juan Martín Hernández. Never seems to have a bad game and almost invariably makes it over the gainline.
13 – DTH van der Merwe (Canada) It was desperately sad to see his body break down again before the match in San Diego after his superb performance in Hamilton. He was also one of very few in the red jersey to play well against Romania despite an untimely yellow card. Canada look a different team with him in the lineup.
14 – Mike Te’o (USA) Perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea but the excitement he brings every time he touches the ball cannot be denied. While he prefers the open sky that fullback offers, it could be that the wing is his new home for the Eagles. The question now is when will we get to see him on action again?
15 – Rodrigo Silva (Uruguay) Has now firmly established himself as first choice at the back for the Teros. While not the biggest runner, he makes up for it with vision and attacking flair, and a very useful kicking game when he needs to get out of trouble. An outstanding Nations Cup sees him hold off the challenge of Joaquín Tuculet, who returned to form with the Pumas.