Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Aviva Premiership: Greg Peterson signs for Leicester Tigers

Photo Rays Rugby
USA international second-rower Greg Peterson has signed to play professional rugby for English powerhouse the Leicester Tigers. Having impressed while on trial with the club recently the giant USA Eagle is now to stay on at Leicester on a permanent basis giving the club further options in what is an injury depleted position for the Tigers at present. The 23 year old will join international teammate Blaine Scully at the club. The arrival of the North American capped player in the Aviva Premiership is a significant boost for the USA Eagles ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015, a tournament in which the USA will face Samoa, Scotland, South Africa and Japan and target no fewer than two victories. Peterson will offer options to headcoach Mike Tolkin who has tended to field hybrid players that cover both the second-row and back-row more so than specialists. 

Standing 2.04 metres in height and weighing 122Kg Greg Peterson has the physical attributes required to be a specialist second-rower. The 23 year old also has the on-field credentials with him having performed well for the USA last month during the USA's end of year European tour which included Peterson for the first time. 

Peterson was on the bench for the USA's match against Romania in Bucharest and made an appearance as a replacement. He then started against both Tonga and Fiji in the internationals played in Vannes and Gloucester. His partner in the starting second-row was John Cullen who was also debuting that month at test level. 

The pair of Peterson and Cullen were involved due to the non-involvement of Aviva Premiership players due to the date of the USA v New Zealand test match in Chicago. In order to secure players USA Rugby established an agreement with Premier rugby to return all players to their clubs after the fixture and therefore miss out on facing Romania, Tonga and Fiji. The USA thus lost Hayden Smith and Samu Manoa who had started against the All Blacks. 

The opportunity was taken with two hands by both Peterson and Cullen and in the case of the former a professional contract has eventuated. Peterson has previous experience as a professional. He was involved with the Waratahs Super Rugby side in 2012 and he captained the North Harbour Rays in the 2014 Australian National Rugby Championship. 

His involvement in Australia is due to his nationality. Peterson is Australian born and raised but has American parents. He qualifies to play for the USA despite having played at the Junior World Championship for the USA in 2011. Although playing for France or Wales at under 20 level captures a player's nationality it does not playing for Australia at the same level. As such Peterson was able to be capped by the USA. 

Tolkin had five second-rowers in his November squad but lost two after the opening match. Of them Smith is a specialist second-rower while Manoa plays in both the second-row and back-row for both club and country. The needs of his country appear to have Manoa set to be used predominantly as a back-rower while the same is true of Scott LaValla but both Lou Stanfill and John Cullen are likely to be viewed as second-rowers when selecting the World Cup squad.  

Also involved in November 2014 as a second-rower was Tai Tuisamoa while Todd Clever, John Quill, Kyle Sumsion, Matt Trouville, Danny Barrett and Cam Dolan were back-rowers. The depth in the two positions is therefore notably larger than had been the case heading into previous Rugby World Cups. Peterson's move to Leicester will all but certainly aid his chances of involvement.

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