Thursday, February 21, 2013

2013 with an eye to 2015 - USA´s Toby L'Estrange

Photo:  SA Rugby

One of the greatest concerns for USA rugby teams throughout the history of the Rugby World Cup has been the inability to field a quality flyhalf. The most successful players in the position has arguably been Mike Hercus who features in Rugby World Cup 2003 and 2007. He was one of the teams best performers in 2003 as he scored tries, kicked goals and, in general, organized play well. He almost saw the USA get a win over Fiji in 2003 but he missed a conversion on full time which enabled Fiji to hold on for victory. 

The players around Hercus in 2003 and 2007 appeared to be more talented than those from earlier World Cup´s as the skill level had improved thanks to the progress of the sport within the USA and better eligible players enabling the side to be closer to the leading Tier Two sides than to rugby´s Tier Three nations. It has been a phenomenal move that has seen the USA achieve impressive results such as November´s 34-3 hammering of Romania in Bucharest. The match featured a combination of established Eagles players and new comers such as Luke Hume, John Quill and the 24 year old from Berkley, California Toby L'Estrange

L'Estrange was playing his third test for the USA after having been called up into the USA Eagles squad for the first time for the November tour. He debuted at flyhalf against Russia in Colwyn Bay, Wales and had a memorable debut as he scored a try and had a hand in contributing to a number of other tries and play in general as the North Americans enjoyed a 40-26 victory. He went on to start against Tonga the following weekend and then against Romania to end the tour as a general player to pay attention to into the future. 

The 2013 international season wll be the most important for the USA outside of the Rugby World Cup. The USA wll face Canada in home and away matches in July with the winner on aggregate advancing to Rugby World Cup 2015 as Americas 1. That team will take on France, Ireland, Italy and an additional European qualifier (possibly Romania) while the loser will face the winner of CONSUR (probably Uruguay) at a yet to be confirmed time, but likely in November. The matches against Canada will be key and the chances of L'Estrange starting at flyhalf are strong.

He appears to be a better option as a genuine flyhalf than other who have played in the position in recent times. Roland Suniula has the skills of a centre but played flyhalf in June against Italy while Will Holder was tested against Canada. Suniula also played at flyhalf in the crunch World Cup match against Russia and he was backed up by Nese Mailifa. L'Estrange could well establish himself as the USA´s premier flyhalf this year and contribute to the USA attempting to, for the first tiome, win two matches at a World Cup in 2015.

Toby L'Estrange on international debut

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