Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Samu Manoa set to replace Jamie Cudmore as the North American enforcer?

Photo: Zimbio
Samu Manoa tackles Chris Ashton
Aged six years younger than Jamie Cudmore, USA international Samu Manoa would appear to be heading into the prime of his career while Cudmore is certainly now into his twilight. The 28 year old Californian has been amongst the best players in the Aviva Premiership all season and is highly likely to be named in the Aviva Premiership Dream Team for the second straight season. The form of the North American has been quite extraordinary for the Northampton Saints with Manoa being a standout both in the secondrow, blindside flanker and at number 8. His efforts have been noticed by British journalists with the Guardian naming Manoa as the Aviva Premiership Club player of the season. In addition Manoa was named in the starting lineup of the Heieneken Cup Dream team. Together with Argentina´s Juan Imhoff the Americas was represented with two players - an impressive feat for the last remaining IRB region to host a Rugby World Cup. 

Upon moving to Northampton Manoa sacrificed a place at Rugby World Cup 2011. It was a choice made to secure a long term playing future as a professional athlete with a wife and children. The decision, in the end, was a screwed one as it meant he was indeed able to prove his work at the Northampton Saints and ensure he would be able to spend a significant proportion of his professional playing life in rugby. Indeed with the duration of a players career being limited to roughly ten years as a professional some individual decisions can have a significant outcome. Manoa missed out on played for the USA last November after it had been reported that he wa notmatch fit due to having a shoulder injury. This saw him miss the USA´s matches against Romania, Russia and Tonga. Manoa did, however, play club rugby which suggested the extent of his injury was not the real reason for him missing out on international duty.

Similar to Manoa, Jamie Cudmore has largely missed out on playing test rugby during his career. While he played at Rugby World Cup 2011 his appearances have been rare due to him taking the time in the off season to recover and prepare for the following season. Indeed between Rugby World Cup 2007 and 2011 Cudmore missed out on representing Canada time and time again. Coach Kieran Crowley was more than aware of his form for Clermont Auvergne and ended up building a team for Rugby World Cup 2011 and had Cudmore return to easily fit in and form a hard working secondrow with Jebb Sinclair.

Without Manoa the USA got by at Rugby World Cup 2011 but would have certainly had a stronger side should Manoa have played. Since New Zealand 2011 both of the USA´s starting secondrowers have moved one. This has seen changes with Lou Stanfill moving from the backrow to the secondrow while Scott LaValla has also played in both positions. Stanfill and LaValla both started in the secondrow in the USA´s highly impressive win against Romania last November and they could well be the combination for Rugby World Cup 2015. Meanwhile Todd Clever has moved from open side flanker to number 8 while  the emergence of John Quill and Taylor Mokate on the side of the scrum appears to give the USA a better set of back five forwards than at any time since Rugby World Cup 2003.

Manoa looms as being a vital component to give the USA possibly its greatest ever set of back five forwards. The 2003 side had  World class players Luke Gross, Dave Hodges and Dan Lyle combining with Gerard Klerck and Kort Schubert. The side in 2013 with Manoa joining Quill and Clever the backrow has the potential to replace the Hodges, Lyle and Schubert backrow as the greatest USA backrow of all time. Clever remains a strong performer in Japan while Manoa for Northampton has been outstanding and both LaValla and Stanfill have had good seasons in France and Italy. Peter Dahl is also a very useful player and could be on the bench as the reserve backrower. As such the upcoming USA v Canada series which will determine who is Americas 1 could well be tilted in favor of the USA.

Both Cudmore and Manoa have been in devastating form recently. Manoa had a lot to do with Northampton´s Semi Final upset win over Saracens and is set to start for the Saints in the Aviva Premiership Final. This coming Saturday Manoa will feature in the Aviva Premership Final and could follow in the footsteps of  USA Eagles fullback Chris Wyles in becoming and English Champion. Canada could also have a champion, but a French one with Cudmore in with a chance of becoming a French champion for the second time as Clermont Auvergne are to play in the Top 14 Semi Final this weekend and, if successful, the final the following Saturday. Cudmore had a very good match against Bakkies Botha in the Heineken Cup Final not only as a tackler and ruck clearer but also as a ball carrier and support runner. Cudmore showed just how good he still is despite being 34 years of age. With two years remaining before Rugby World Cup 2015 it seems plausible that Cudmore could play in the tournament which would be his fourth Rugby World Cup. For this to happen he needs to be well managed and will require a stand down period between seasons which decreases his chances of getting much game time for Canada. 

2 comments:

  1. Very generous write up on Manoa there.

    You don't think it was poor that Northampton took the piss last November by pulling him out saying he had a "minor shoulder injury" whilst him being fine to play 80 minutes away to Dragons in the LV Cup of all tournaments whilst the USA were playing against Tonga.

    Or the late manner he pulled out on Eddie O'Sullivan's team was also poor.

    Or that the way he used the USA to get one cap to help get a work permit to play in Europe, but then didn't turn up for the next 2 and half years.

    Many USA fans were not happy at Manoa's actions in these situations.

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