U.S. squad battles injuries en route to Shield


By Buzz McClain, Special to Universal Sports

With three Eagles out of the lineup because of injuries, USA head coach Al Caravelli called up Taylor Mokate to fill out the roster for the Shield final on Sunday afternoon against Japan. The Yanks won the hardware, 19-12.

Mokate, who made his entrance near the end of the game when it was still in doubt, would seem to be fresh legs for the squad, right?

Actually, Mokate spent the previous three days playing for Belmont Shore in the Sevens Club Championship Series, which was played on the fields outside of Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. Shore, the defending CCS champions, went through to the finals with Mokate’s help, and the speedster even played a full 20-minute final game in a losing effort to Chicago, 33-14. (Shore won $2,500 prize money in the losing effort.)

That’s a lot of high-level rugby in a very short time. But Mokate is up to the challenge and in time will become one of Caravelli’s young studs who will lead the Eagles as the 2016 Olympics draws closer.

For an example of what Mokate’s future may hold, look no further than this weekend’s USA hero, Zack Test, 22, who put up two tries in the final against Japan and provided consistent defense from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon. Test’s ascendency seems assured.

Miles Craigwell is another youngster’s whose name would seem to be in indelible ink on Caravelli’s list. Craigwell saw plenty of national-team action this weekend in Vegas, fulfilling what must certainly be the shortest blue-sky fantasy of any rugby player — a former NFL prospect, Craigwell picked up a rugby ball for the first time in July of last year.

Seven months later he’s an Eagle, playing in front of 24,000 and an international television audience.

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