Trinity College Dublin, Book of Kells,Trinity College Dublin Rugby, Irish Rugby, Tony Smeeth
Trinity College director of rugby Tony Smeeth explains why US Eagles are set to spread their wings
Les Kiss this week credited the leap in American rugby as an attacking entity to the influence of Trinity College director of rugby Tony Smeeth.
Well known in Leinster schools and club circles, he also coached both versions of Blackrock, last summer the Englishman renewed a 20 year on/off working relationship with Eddie O’Sullivan’s successor as America’s head coach, Mike Tolkin.
“Without a doubt, style wise, we’ve changed since the world cup,” Smeeth at the US training camp in Denver, Colorado.
“From talking to the players, under Eddie they played a restrictive game plan because obviously the thinking was they would get more success through that.
“I think we scored the least amount of tries at the last world cup.
“We looked at the profile of the team, the back three is made up of Heineken Cup players [Chris Wyles of Saracens, the sensational Biarritz winger Takudzwa Ngwenya although Wasps’ Paul Emerick just had an operation on his Achilles tendon] and some very good backrowers, like Todd Clever who has played Super 15, so it didn’t make sense to play a restrictive type game.”
Tolkin released a squad yesterday that confirmed the imminent return of Wyles and Ngwenya along with Biarritz lock Scott LaValla and Northampton forwards Samu Manoa and Chris Bills.
Big, powerful men who have the common trait of being on the end of Leinster or Munster hidings in recent times.
For them, this must be a revenge mission.
Ngwenya and Manoa are playing for the Barbarians against the British and Irish Lions in Hong Kong tomorrow.
There is also a strong Irish contingent in Tolkin’s squad with Dolphin flanker John Quill and Young Munster number eight Liam Óg Murphy fighting to be the backrow cover against in Houston tomorrow week.
Former Connacht scrumhalf Robbie Shaw will provide cover behind Mike Petri as he did behind Tomás O’Leary at the 2004 under-21 world cup in Scotland when Ireland lost to New Zealand in the final.
The problem, Smeeth knows, is the number of amateur players filling the gaps in America’s test side.
“Domestic rugby here is not the strongest. Johnny Quill went back to Dolphin last season to get a greater quality of rugby. You see, that’s the issue. AIL division one would be way better than anything here.
“We have players playing at wildly contrasting levels, like AIL division three with Trinity, and then LaValla, Clever, Wyles, Ngwenya and Manoa playing at the top level.”
Yesterday’s news that Ulster’s 20 year old centre Stuart Olding’s ankle got through a fitness test, meaning James Downey will not tour, was seen by Smeeth as bad news for the USA.
“Olding is class. Trinity lost to Belfast Harlequins this season because of him. He cut us apart.
“I think he is the great white hope at inside centre and may even pass out Luke Marshall but he is a good enough footballer to play right across this area, be it at outhalf or outside centre. He’s a runner.”
Smeeth is also interested in seeing who Less Kiss will pick at outhalf having said that Paddy Jackson and Ian Madigan will both get game time in their primary position over the two tests (Canada follows on June 15th).
“I coached Ian Madigan in school so it will be interesting to coach against him, a fine player, and whether they play him at out-half or 12 beside Paddy.”
Before nestling in for a morning watching recent Ireland games on his lap top, he paused to serenade the incoming Irish coaching team.
“To me, Joe Schmidt and Les Kiss is the dream ticket. How Les is not doing the Lions defence is a mystery to me. He is the best defence coach out there. I know the fact he was doing attack with Ireland probably hurt his Lions chance.
“If they get the right forwards coach that is some ticket. I can’t think of anywhere in the world that would be better.”
Meanwhile, Mike Ross also trained fully yesterday and will definitely depart with the squad tomorrow while both camps have confirmed their teams will be announced next Thursday.
Finally, as a means to coping with the 25 degree heat for the 7.30pm kick off in Houston, and 85 percent humidity, the Irish squad have been training with plastic underneath their gear.
US Eagles squad v Ireland: Chris Biller, Todd Clever (capt), Peter Dahl, Cameron Dolan, Brian Doyle, Zach Fenoglio, Eric Fry, Graham Harriman, Will Holder, Luke Hume, Seamus Kelly, Scott Lavalla, Toby L’Estrange, Samu Manoa, Liam Og Murphy, Takudzwa Ngwenya, James Paterson, Mike Petri, Shawn Pittman, John Quill, Blaine Scully, Robbie Shaw, Adam Siddall, Louis Stanfill, Andrew Suniula, Phil Thiel, Nick Wallace, Chris Wyles.