(Berkeley, California) 9 February 2000 -- The Inter-Territorial Tournament's contribution to the 2000 National Team player pool was announced today but, with only 14 players nominated by the selection panel, the Eagles may well struggle for depth in the 2000 season.
"December's Inter-Territorial Tournament saw some close, entertaining matches," said ITT selection panel chair Ray Cornbill. "But the results were disappointing from a selector's point of view. Unfortunately, we felt that few players performed at 'Eagle standard.'"
Several other athletes with development potential were identified, added Cornbill, but only 14 were considered possibly ready for international rugby. Of that group six have played for the Eagles previously, so the list of up-and-coming players numbers only eight athletes.
The selection panel at December's all-star championship in Tampa, Florida, comprised Cornbill, former National Team coaches George Betzler, Clarence Culpepper and Al Little, along with former National Team players Tom Billups, Willie Jefferson, and Lin Walton.
Eagle flanker Tasi Mo'unga, who led the Pacific Coast to ITT victory and took the tournament's MVP award, provided a good yardstick for international athletes, noted Cornbill. "Tasi dominated the matches in which he played," said the selector. "Athletes aspiring to wear the Eagles jersey should ask themselves if they can do the same."
Many others members of the Eagles 1999 Pacific Rim and World Cup squads were absent from Florida, for reasons including playing commitments overseas, injury from the long 1999 campaign, inability to take more time from work, or retirement from rugby. Current National Team players will be named to the 2000 pool at a later date, after new head coach Duncan Hall has had time to plan this year's campaign and assess talent.
The National Team coaches will, as usual, take into account strong performances in the spring season, meaning that athletes can still play their way into the 2000 pool. At the same time, a dip in form or fitness could see named players dropped.
In 1999, the National Team named a 57-man pool with the majority selected on the basis of all-star play. Of these, 31 players earned caps with another 17 invited to training camps and development competitions.
The lack of squad depth will likely be a serious issue for coach Hall, whose team will play at least 8 test matches in 2000.
ITT Selections to the 2000 National Team Player Pool
|Prop:||John McBride (West)|
|Lock:||Bret Maynard (West), Cliff Vogl (Southern California)|
|No. 8:||Tasi Mo'unga (Pacific Coast), John Burke (Midwest)|
|Scrumhalf:||Gregory Tarpey (Southern California)|
|Flyhalf:||Chris Morrow (West), Grant Wells (Pacific Coast)|
|Center:||Phillip Elof (Midwest)|
|Wing:||Chip Curtis (Combined Services), Bob Lockrem (West), Daniel Fernandez (West)|
|Fullback:||Lance Houia (South), Andrew Wind (Southern California)|