Pro Rugby’s leading try scorer Spike Davis, is absent again from the US Eagles’ roster heading into the fall international tour. Is this a long-term mistake?
The debut season of the American Pro Rugby competition was more successful than expected, and will be expanding next season. Aaron “Spike” Davis came on to the pitch for the Ohio Aviators and made an amazing debut. During the 12 game season, Davis amassed 14 tries leading the competition. Although relatively new to the sport, he has made an amazing transition.
After trying-out for the US Sevens team, Davis did not make the Olympic squad, but again impressed many commentators. Like many others; Ardie Savea for New Zealand, his time in the shortened-form of the game will add to his game.
— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) June 12, 2016
Davis spent his off-season improving his skills down under in New Zealand with the Tasman Makos, in the Mitre 10 Cup. His development as a player though has yet to impress head coach John Mitchell. The Eagles‘ roster for the fall internationals were released and alarmingly, Spike Davis did not make the cut.
Spike Davis is a powerful runner with the skills necessary to break tackles on the outside edge. He is not the complete rugby package yet, but his size and speed make him a nightmare to defend. The United States struggle offensively time and time again. The outside players that they have been utilizing, have not performed well enough for John Mitchell’s goals for the future.
During the Eagles’ match against Russia during the summer internationals, Mike Te’o started as the right wing. Mike Te’o is an amazing player who will have a long and prosperous career. His skill set is more suited to fullback or even center position. He has great power and ability to break tackles, and necessarily is wasted on the edges of the field.
Start of the Eagles’ fall tour weakened by club rugby not releasing key-USA players
The first match against the Maori All Blacks would be the perfect opportunity to test Davis’ skills on an international level. The Eagles’ squad is already lean, due to the early date of the game. Seven members of the USA squad will not be available for the first game in Chicago, due to the match starting before the ‘official’ International test window’. As with Wales, this reduction in player ranks leaves the US very vulnerable at the start the test season.
As a result, the scrum will lack the push without Samu Manoa, Langilangi Haupeakui (pictured) and Titi Lamositele. The struggle that the Eagles’ experienced during the summer internationals will continue without the best possible players in those positions. Several International sides experience this, with many Tier Two nations [which US Rugby are] not permitted to always begin with their full compliment–this is where Davis should have benefited.
In the eyes of John Mitchell, Spike Davis may not have earned the right to wear the Eagles uniform. The development of Davis for the future will be absolutely essential to the side no doubt, it is such a shame Mitchell has little confidence at this point. The player has the natural ability of a tremendous winger, and appears to have a very bright future ahead of him.
Fall tour holds many positives
This weekends Eagles match would have been the ideal scenario for development of Davis. The fall tour for the USA does hold many positives, with matches against Romania and Tonga. Those matches could bring long term benefits; with Davis one of the beneficiaries if Mitchell and his coaching panel invested in the player.
But the opener against the hugely respected Maori All Blacks could well be a difficult encounter for a side stripped of talent. Missing many leading players, some might call them a ‘Swiss cheese’ squad–but rest assured, any side wearing the US colours will fight for all they have.
USA v MAORI ALL BLACKS
Friday, November 4. Toyota Park, Chicago
“Main photo credit”