Siddall hoping to cement Rugby World Cup 2015 spot

TBLISI, Georgia – In less than a year, Adam Siddall attended his first Men’s Eagles camp, earned his first cap and starting cap in the same match, started against the New Zealand Maori All Blacks, and will lead the Eagles at flyhalf against Georgia Saturday, Nov. 16, in a full test.

Siddall, 25, was originally born in Auckland, New Zealand, and has traveled back and forth across the Pacific Ocean many times in his young life. He spent time in Pasadena, Calif., as a young boy and went back to New Zealand for most of his schooling.

Most of Siddall’s schoolboy years were spent playing rugby, but it took a back seat to tennis before high school.

“As a kid I would practice kicking with my grandpa,” Siddall said. “I played all my life, but kinda focused on tennis predominantly until I was sixteen. Then I wanted to play at high school at the first XV level, which attracts more than 10,000 people to our biggest games. It was a cool experience.

“I switched my focus to rugby and have mainly been focused on that since.”

Siddall moved back to American shores this February, playing club rugby for Old Blue of New York. With five international caps to his name, Siddall is mulling his options for what his future may hold.

“I’m not sure at this point what I want to do in the future, but I’ve enjoyed my time playing in the States this year,” he said. “I’ll see what opportunities arise next season, whether it be overseas or in the States.”

Though he has been utilized at fullback and center with the Eagles – kicking 28 points in five matches – Siddall’s favored position is flyhalf. He was inserted into the Eagles’ IRB Pacific Nations Cup match against Fiji for Toby L’Estrange at flyhalf, though he did not get to wear the no. 10 jersey.

At the IRB Americas Rugby Championship in Canada, the Eagles Select XV finished 2-1, good for second place behind Argentina. Siddall started at center in the final win against Uruguay and fullback in the opening night loss to Argentina.

“We were thinking of him at flyhalf [at camp] but we knew he had the skillset to play multiple positions,” Men’s Eagles Head Coach Mike Tolkin said. “We see his skillset at center and fullback, but we haven’t closed the door on no. 10.

“We think he’s a really good, all-around rugby player.”

Missing Blaine Scully and Chris Wyles in Philadelphia last weekend for the sold-out match against the New Zealand Maori All Blacks, Tolkin started Siddall at fullback. For the match against Georgia, Scully and Wyles are available for the positions of winger and fullback, respectively, leaving Siddall to flyhalf duties.

“I enjoy flyhalf the most, but I’m happy to play anywhere I can and get on the field for the Eagles,” Siddall said. “[Joe] Cowley, [Blaine] Scully and [Chris Wyles] are great players at fullback.”

The ARC followed a tough, two-month stretch for the Eagles, consisting of seven losses in seven matches. The Select XV earned the first win for the program under the leadership of captains Cameron Dolan, Toby L’Estrange and Phil Thiel.

“It was my first win in the Eagles jersey and it felt really good,” Siddall said. “It’s hard losing in any environment, let alone when we put so much effort into it, so getting the two wins at the ARC was great and hopefully something we can build on.”

Some members of Tolkin’s new coaching staff were introduced to the Eagles at the ARC, including backs coach Billy Millard.

“[Billy’s] great; an Aussie,” Siddall said. “He’s a pretty hard-nosed guy off of the field but a nice guy off of it.”

Millard has moved into the role as backs coach seamlessly it seems, as Siddall made numerous forward runs with the ball against the Maori All Blacks and was a perfect four for four in his kicking on a cold night at PPL Park.

In Georgia, however, Siddall will get a chance to show what he can do at flyhalf, as L’Estrange did not travel with the team due to an injury picked up in Philadelphia. Tolkin said Siddall has made “good inroads” since returning from his own injury during the summer.

At just 25, Siddall is in contention for the Rugby World Cup 2015 – but first he must help the Eagles qualify.

“That’ll be my next year’s focus, going for the World Cup,” he said,” and playing the best rugby I can between now and then to hopefully cement my place in the team.”

Following the November Tour, which ends Saturday, Nov. 23, with a match against Russia at Allianz Park in London, the Eagles will travel to Uruguay March 22 for the first leg of the Americas Qualifier playoff. Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University will host the return leg Saturday, March 29.

With an aggregate win, the Eagles will qualify as Americas 2 and be placed in Pool B with South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and the Asias 1 qualifier. The Eagles would have to participate in the Repechage process if they lose.

Siddall was around the Eagles during the Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand, albeit not on the field. He watched Eagles such as Todd Clever, Mike MacDonald and James Paterson as they exited the tournament in the pool stage with one win.

“Obviously I watched them at the last World Cup and had a good idea who their good players were before I got in the setup,” Siddall said.

With Siddall’s promotion to the national team coming in less than eight months, it is hard to imagine where he could be in two years’ time; perhaps a Rugby World Cup-winner.

Follow Adam Siddall on Twitter (@adam_siddall) and Instagram, and look for him in the no. 10 jersey Saturday against Georgia. Watch the match live here at 5:00 A.M. ET.