Friday, January 24, 2014

Hayden Smith to make professional return to rugby for Saracens against Newcastle.

Photo Telegraph
Smith wins a lineout against
Ireland in RWC 2011

Twenty-eight year old USA Eagles forward Hayden Smith is two days away from making his return to playing a professional rugby match in a run-on XV. Smith left rugby in 2012 to play NFL for the New York Jets but is now set to start for Aviva Premieship leaders Saracens in a LV=Cup match against the New castle Falcons on Sunday.

Smith has been named to start in the second-row in what is a much changed team due to the Saracens club placing little importance in the LV=Cup. The competition is the Anglo-Welsh Cup which ranks significantly behind the Aviva Premiership and the Heineken Cup, two competitions which Saracens has performed strongly in this season. Saracens will also be playing on Saturday in an intercontinental friendly match against Souh african Super Rugby franchise the Sharks. Involved in the match for the English side will be USA Eagles utility Chris Wyles and Argentine centre Marcelo Bosch. 

Smith played eighteen test matches for the USA from 2008-2011 and he started in all but one match. He formed a second-row combination with former Bath forward John van der Giessen with the pair offering a much improved combination from that of Rugby World Cup 2007. van der Giessen left the frame after the World Cup which saw the USA avert to new combinations such as moving back-rower Lou Stanfill to the second-row and utilizing Samu Manoa and Scott LaValla in the position. 

Stanfill, Manoa and LaValla are all versatile and offer quality options in either position. The current depth in the back-row which also includes Todd Clever, Cam Dolan and John Quill which has been highly influential in team selection. Smith´s return though gives the USA a specialist second-rower playing professional rugby. Alongside Brian Doyle Smit is wel placed as a specialist in the position. Injuries and non-availability resulted in Graham Harriman and Tai Tuisamoa starting in the second-row with Manoa against Georgia and Russia in November. 

USA winger Blaine Scully was a teammate of Smith at the World Cup in New Zealand and will start for Leicster against the Harlquins in a LV=Cup match on Saturday. Scully will be joined by twenty year old Pumas back-rower Pablo Matera in the starting lineup. Others from Argentina and the USA will also be starting in other fixtures as will players from Canada.

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