Thursday, July 11, 2013

Professional USA Rugby Players in the Pro12 - 2013-2014 season

Could Callum Black debut for the USA in 2013?
The 2013-2014 season will offer great insight into the probable squads of all participating nations at Rugby World Cup 2015. While there are still eight yet to be confirmed qualifying nations two that are certain to make the cut are Canada and the USA. Both North American nations are to have players in the 2013-2014 Rabo Direct Pro 12 and others also playing in Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. Canada´s three test players are to out number the total number of USA test players in the Celtic-Italian league but there is, nonetheless no shortage of USA born or eligible players who will be in action.

The Washington D.C. born Callum Black is to play his third season for Ulster. The 27 year old prop played for the Worcester Warriors in England from 2006-2010 before moving to Northern Ireland. His non-capped status is such that he could, in theory, play in Rugby World Cup 2015 for any of England, Ireland and the USA. He qualifies for Ireland due to having a grandparent from Belfast and he played for Ireland at Under 18, 19 and 21 level. His contract with Ulster would certainly come to an end immediately should he be capped by the USA. 

A similar example to Black is Dave Ryan who is eligible for Ireland, the USA and will soon be eligible to represent Italy. Ryan will be playing his third year in Italy this season and do so for Zebre. He played for the team last season after having played the 2011-2012 season for Lazio in the domestic Italian league. Ryan was named in the USA preliminary squad ahead of the June 2013 international series but remains uncapped. Previously he played for Munster, where he was born. Should Ryan play for the USA then his contract with Zebre would end. As such if either or both Black and Ryan are to play for the USA it is likely that their debuts will not come in 2013. 

Another who had the option of playing for multiple nations is the Nashville born and raised Tommy Seymour. The 25 year old winger made his test debut for Scotland in the June internationals in South Africa. The Glasgow Warriors winger qualified to represent the Scot´s based on his mother, Sue who was born in Glasgow. Seymour will be playing his third season for thhe Glasgow Warriors and his fourth overall after he played the 2010-2011 season for Ulster.

Seymour could possibly be in the USA Eagles lineup starting in the World Cup as could Hanno Dirksen. Aged just 22 Dirksen appears set to be lost to the USA to instead play for Wales. He was recently married to a Welsh women and is on a long term contract with the Ospreys. Dirksen was born in South Africa but raised in the USA. He played age grade rugby for the USA and was offered a place in the squad for Rugby World Cup 2011 only to turn down the offer. He declined the offer to remain eligible to represent Wales but will only become eligible in 2014. His brother, Cornelius made his debut for the USA in 2012.

Lower down there are a number of USA players playing rugby in the Celtic nations who could well feature for the USA Eagles at Rugby World Cup 2013. Dublin club Trinity is home to two USA players - Shawn Pittman and Pierce Dargan. Frontrower Pittman played in Rugby World Cup 2011 while secondrower Dargan previously played for the USA at under 20 level. A third Trinity player, Conor Kearns, also has experience at junior level. 

Two other USA under 20 players in Dublin are UCD captain Liam Bourke and Ross Deacon of Lansdowne. Although they are not playing professional rugby they are likely to have an increased opportunity similar to the case of Scott LaValla who before joining Stade Français played his rugby for Trinity.

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