Friday, 4 April 2014

Will the USA scrum crisis force them to chase overseas options?

Match picThe USA have quite simply the worst scrum of any of the nations likely to appear at the World Cup. It has been a long standing problem that just won't go away, will it force them into looking back into the foreign US eligible options ahead of the 2015 tournament?


As we saw in the recent matches with Uruguay, the scrum is still probably the biggest problem the USA face. Eric Fry and Nick Wallace can be handy in the loose, but struggle at scrum time. Olive Kilifi's solid first 50 in Montevideo was one of the few positives of the games, although he too tired and struggled when the opposition had fresh props. The other prop in the squad Titi Lamositele of Saracens is still only 19, and still has years of development ahead. The only prop outside of the squad Shawn Pittman is a slight improvement on some others mentioned but not great either.

On paper those are pretty weak options, but it's hard to see much else emerging before the World Cup. With the problems the scrum had against Uruguay, there may be a chance that USA Rugby may look again at the US eligible props from around the world.

Ulster's loosehead Callum Black was born in Washington DC and eligible, but keeping himself Irish eligible is key for him retain his contract the province where he gets a fair amount of game time as second choice behind Tom Court.
very temp
The Ryan brothers are both
US eligible tightheads

A player who was named in a USA squad in June 2012 but then turned down the chance to play for them for similar contract reasons is Dave Ryan of Zebre. However unlike Black, Ryan hasn't had a great time in Italy and may lose his place in the squad there anyway, so he may be more open to reconsider with the opportunity of a chance to play in a World Cup on the horizon. There's very little chance he will get to play in a World Cup with either Ireland or Italy.

And whilst Dave Ryan qualified for the USA through his mother, that also means that his brother Tim Ryan who is also a tighthead prop would be eligible. He is currently playing with Coventry in English National League 1, and has experience in the leagues of 5 of the 6 Nations countries.

It's important to emphasise the point that none of these props are great either, especially the Ryan brothers. The fact that Tim Ryan is now on his 5th club in 5 seasons, couldn't get a game at the Newport Gwent Dragons (one of the weakest scrummaging teams in Europe) and is best known for being on the receiving end of this scrum would all indicate that.

The Ryan brothers are dismal in the context of most nations, in fact they may not even be better at all than the current crop, but we're essentially only talking about stop gap options to widen the small pool coach Mike Tolkin has persevered with for the last year, and allow young Lamositele more time to develop instead of being forced to keep coming on when Wallace is carded and his team 5 metres from their line.

It may take far longer and a lot of hard work for the USA to see their scrum issues properly fixed, and it clearly is a big issue on evidence of the Uruguay games so stop gap measures as an attempt of awfulness limitation in the immediate future might be back on the table.

(Video: Uruguay's scrum was their main attacking threat over the two World Cup qualifying matches)

Update (09/04/2014): As was suspected, Dave Ryan has left Zebre. However he has now signed for Ulster, where he will probably be a back up option. That move pretty much wipes out any chance of him playing for the USA, like Callum Black, there is no chance that he could become a non-Irish qualified player and keep his contract with Ulster with his relatively low status of importance in the squad.

10 comments :

  1. Are you absolutely kidding me you obviously know very little about rugby due to the ill informed opinions in this article

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  2. This guy hasn't a notion of what he is talking about, Dave Ryan started the whole of last season as Zebres first choice tighthead. Has been injured all this season and only recently regained fitness, has started the last 3 games for Zebre and will qualify for Italy in August who are one of the top scrumaging nations around,why would he chose to play for USA?they are absolute shite,when you go through there squad the maybe have 3 or 4 decent players. Dunno why this guy felt the need to take a swipe at the Ryan brothers, ignorant fuck!

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  3. Actually it's you who are ignorant Colin, but I will take apart your comment piece by piece anyway.


    Firstly, Zebre have amongst other things an awfully weak scrum. Even Connacht got a penalty try against them recently.


    Secondly, Dave Ryan started 10 from a league season of 22 games, so he didn't "start the whole of last season".


    Thirdly, the option of the USA might appeal as it's his only chance of making a World Cup, no chance in hell of making the Italy RWC squad.


    Fourthly, asking "why would he play for a weaker side" (or "absolute shite" as you put it) is a rather ironic question in regards to a player who plies his trade with Zebre. In fact, Zebre have never won a game with Ryan in the starting lineup.


    Fifthly, the quote said "the Ryan brothers are dismal in the context of most nations". I stand by that completely, no leading rugby nation would consider a players who couldn't make it at Munster (at a time when their scrummaging was at a low ebb with the awful Tony Buckley as first choice) and is part of a struggling scrum for a hapless side that hardly ever wins a game ... apart from the USA who as illustrated above are in dire straits in their scrum and he could be a quick fix of an improvement. As for the other Ryan brother, the fact he couldn't get a game at the notoriously awful scrummaging team the Dragons just says enough.

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  4. Your absolutely wrong there bud john hayes the best tighthead Ireland have ever produced was starting for Munster back then alongside marcus horan with tony Buckley on the bench, I know Tonys career didn't pan out as well as it should have but he still was 2nd choice for Ireland at that stage.

    I notice in your article you never once pointed out that the main reason the scrum got destroyed is your coaching staff making a loosehead prop play at tighthead
    When he has virtually no experiance there.

    Also Zebre May be a weak side but they were only formed last yr and have improved massively since then, playing in the rabo is a lot higher standard than a lot of your current USA internationals are playing. Some of your players are amatuers and a lot of lads are playing in lower leagues.

    I think Dave Ryan has a very good chance of going to rugby World Cup with italy,has scored penalty try against Italian opposition Treviso and his recent dominance over Leinster scrum earned him a lot of praise,at 28 he is only coming into his prime.

    Tim Ryan maybe playing a poor standard of rugby at the moment but so are a lot of your squad think he would be a better option as a natural tighthead

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  5. Hayes was always pretty average and the Irish #3 due to lack of options, at the time Ryan was released he was like 38,000 years old particularly struggling. Tony Buckley was awful, these players were only in the national set up around that time due to lack of options, Archer was also struggling at that time. That Ryan was released during such a low ebb for Munster and Irish tighthead play (Mike Ross has been wonderful in solving the latter), and then could only get demand from a low end Italian club like Lazio the season after doesn't say a lot for him.

    I also didn't note that Fry had "virtually no experience" at tighthead as he does, he's been playing for the USA there for 2 years. The wider point however that he is a converted loose forward who isn't too good a scrummager is exactly what I'm saying, the Ryan brothers wouldn't be considered to be in the team for most nations but they could be of use for the USA who have the worst scrum of any World Cup nation.

    Finally, Zebre didn't get a penalty try against Treviso (I just checked), and although I didn't see the Leinster/Zebre game, Leinster had a very young prop out alongside notable dud Michael Bent, I wouldn't mark that opposition down as one where you show your international class, it's not up against Healy and Ross. There's simply no chance, barring some sort nasty injury crisis, that Ryan gets in above Castro and Cittadini to make the World Cup squad. Nor is he going to make the Ireland squad. USA are the most realistic chance of either Ryan brother playing a RWC.

    The point of the article is saying that the Ryan brothers might offer some options at tighthead. So not sure what your point is on the last paragraph either. Also I'm not American, so you don't need to refer to them as "your squad".

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  6. Id be happy to elaborate if you are going to attack a mans career you should at least have the right facts!, Ryan left munster at a time that the team was notorious for not bleeding the younger guys through by giving them game time. Only since the arrival of Rob Penny has that changed and we have seen progressing and a new youthful Munster Team. Dave ryan wasnt let go due to his inability to play but rather due to injury, the reason he went to an Italian team was not because no other team would have him he was coming from munster and played Ireland underage, The Italian season starts later if you bothered to check the guy had to undergo a serious shoulder operation that made him unable to be match ready in time for other comps.
    And in your response to Colin above Zebre are a newly formed team,fair enough they are bottom of the Rabo but they are improving and the Rabo is miles above the standard of USA rugby and since when do you hear of an Italian side recruiting in europe for one of their strongest positions.

    Ryan would make the Italian team for the world cup as Brunell rates him as a player. Where are you getting your facts from that Zebre have a notoriously week scrum ?? making up more facts again !!?? The fact that Connacht got a penalty try against them dosent prove that Connacht this year have an excellent scrum and the game your talking of ~Dave Ryan came off the Bench solidifyed the scrum immediatley and got a Penalty against Connacht.

    As with your update above (As was suspected, Dave Ryan has left Zebre. However he has now signed for Ulster, where he will probably be a back up option) , you Seem to be able to put two and two together and get 25 ! Dave Left Zebre not because they didnt want him to stay but because he got a good offer from what ive heard, to go home be close to his family and play for a team that stands 3rd in the Rabo ranking.What player do you know that wouldnt take that , and gone are the days Ulster are taking players as a back up option my friend!!! why the hell would they sign him if they thought he was dismal in the scrum. what your saying has no basis its just speculation by you, Its pretty low to write an article attacking these guys.

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  7. "Ryan left munster at a time that the team was notorious for not bleeding the younger guys through by giving them game time" - He clearly wasn't rated that highly when he was fit, certainly not high enough to be in international contention even at a time when Ireland had a serious dearth of tighthead props.

    "Rabo is miles above the standard of USA rugby and since when do you hear of an Italian side recruiting in europe for one of their strongest positions" - Not sure what your point is here, especially since only 1 of the 4 props in the squad plays domestic rugby in the US, and the whole point of the article is that he might have been of use as they are so weak at prop. Zebre recruited their first squad on the cheap and on short notice after Aironi died, hence why recruiting an Italian based player was more convenient at the time, now they no longer want him.

    "Ryan would make the Italian team for the world cup as Brunell rates him as a player." - And where have you heard that? If he rated him so much then he would have likely made a big push to keep him in Italy.

    "Where are you getting your facts from that Zebre have a notoriously week scrum ??" - Watching them play.

    "What player do you know that wouldnt take that , and gone are the days Ulster are taking players as a back up option my friend!!!" - A player who hoped to play in a World Cup or a player who had an offer from a team who valued him highly enough to compete for. Ulster fans seem to think he is a back up, and all teams need back up options and squad fodder.

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  8. Its not just about ability in sport there is also a certain amount of luck involved,when a player is injured and unable to play their not going to call him up to National team , this dosent mean he isnt able to compete at that level.

    (Rabo is miles above the standard of USA rugby and since when do you hear of an Italian side recruiting in europe for one of their strongest positions") my point here is that your article slated these guys as dismal when you hadnt done your research you made claims based on what you guessed rather than the facts.
    Quote from you "The Ryan brothers are dismal in the context of most nations, in fact they may not even be better at all than the current crop, - they are better than the current crop of amateur rugby players you produce in the USA, you play at a far lower level.That is a fact!!

    Brunell made the call for Dave to be introduced to the Zebre after following him the year he played with Lazio.He was introduced to the team as a project player for the National Team.before you go on about game time and him not playing this year that was due to injury not ability. The world cup is not the only basis for making a decision this guy obviously made the decision based on where he would play rugby for the next few years and dont forget this also affects his family life being home is a big pull and also playing with a better team. You have no idea what was offered for him to stay in Italy and Ulster are top 3 team in the Rabo so if he was dismal as you put it why would they take him even as a back up !!

    Quote from you "Zebre recruited their first squad on the cheap and on short notice after Aironi died, hence why recruiting an Italian based player was more convenient at the time, now they no longer want him " - pure speculation again he moved to Ulster he wasnt let go, and why would they take someone who was considered a foreign player and take up there quota on that if he was convenient at the time as you like to put it.


    This was not an informative piece about possible players that could help the USA scrum but a piece slating these guys, which in this sport from people who follow these things a little more open eyed than you wont be left go without others correcting it. you turned what could have been a possibly good informative read into a nasty blog piece. i hope you put more research into your other articles.

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  9. "Its not just about ability in sport there is also a certain amount of luck involved"

    - Agreed about luck, Ryan had great luck in his time coinciding with Irish tighthead problems, he wasn't on the radar, fair enough he had injury, but Ireland were so desperate at one point they had Declan Fitzpatrick called up after long injuries and flew in Michael Bent straight into the squad.

    "Quote from you "The Ryan brothers are dismal in the context of most nations, in fact they may not even be better at all than the current crop, - they are better than the current crop of amateur rugby players you produce in the USA, you play at a far lower level.That is a fact!!"

    - The point I was making is that they weren't that good in the context of international calibre props, but USA are in such a desperate position they may be of use. I stand by that, the Ryan brother would not be in contention for selection in England, Ireland, Wales, France, Georgia, Romania etc. I do not think, had they hypothetically came in, they would be good enough to be able magically help the worst scrum of any nation in a World Cup to achieve even parity with the sides mentioned, Tim Ryan couldn't even get a game at the Dragons. Also as I mentioned before, I am not American so no need to refer to them as "you". Also 2 of the 4 props in the squad against Uruguay are actually professionals in England, both at better teams than certainly Tim Ryan and possibly Zebre as well. Another one is semi pro again now outside the USA. If you are going to criticise for poor research (which I would context), you could at least research yourself, or failing that at the very least read and learn from what I wrote in the last comment.

    "Brunell made the call for Dave to be introduced to the Zebre after following him the year he played with Lazio."

    - Do you have a source for that then?

    "The world cup is not the only basis for making a decision this guy"

    - Obviously, but if Italy had him marked down as a serious contender for their national team they would have probably made more of an effort to keep him against an offer of back up wages at Ulster. Again I wrote he's dismal in the context of international calibre props, Ulster rating him passable enough to be rotational back up squad fodder next season is a different context. And yes, the Ulster fan forums certainly would seem to suggest he's not signed as a first choice starter.

    "pure speculation again he moved to Ulster he wasnt let go, and why would they take someone who was considered a foreign player"

    - He was out of contract and it's likely that Zebre didn't push too hard to keep him, especially considering the lack of games he's got through and the fact their scrum needs a big improvement. The original Zebre squad was makeshift on short notice, convenient project player with 1 year already done already in Italy probably on cheap wages.

    "you turned what could have been a possibly good informative read into a nasty blog piece"



    - Well, just in my opinion, I don't rate the Ryan brothers that highly. Maybe we'll have to agree to disagree. Perhaps Dave Ryan can have a resurgence at Ulster?

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  10. They need to bring back that Suha kid from BYU or Silverman from Santa Barbara. These are guys that played for the All American team for years but never got the chance to play for the Eagles. What's there to lose now? We all know Fry isn't a prop and the others obviously aren't getting the job done.

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