With the European and Japanese club seasons halfway finished, it’s time to hand out mid-term grades for the Americans playing overseas.
Chris Wyles (Saracens): A- With Chris Ashton’s arrival at Sarries in the summer, and with the stable of talent in the backs that Saracens possess, it seemed that this might be a down year for Wyles. Happily, it’s been quite the contrary and Wyles has once again excelled for the Saracens. He is consistently named to the starting lineup and he isn’t afraid to do the dirty work. You can’t ask for much more (except for a couple of tries).
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Samu Manoa (Northampton): A Apparently Samu Manoa hasn’t heard of a sophomore slump. It could have easily been a more difficult year for Manoa has other teams keyed in on him after destroying them last year. That never happened and instead, Manoa has become even better. He is one of the best locks in the Premiership and is a key piece for Northampton.
Paul Emerick (London Wasps): NA The only action Emerick has seen this year is with the London Wasps A team. He played well in those matches and with a deep Wasps team at centre minutes were always hard to come by. Picking up an ankle injury with the Eagles also hasn’t helped his playing time.
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Taku Ngwenya (Biarritz): B Ngwenya’s try production has been down this season, only picking up three in 13 league matches and another in the Heineken Cup, but the fact that he has started 15 of a possible 17 matches is a testament to how important he is to his team. He is no longer a one dimensional player. He is better on defense and adds a lot to his team when he is on the field. His grade can improve with some more tries in the next half of the year.
Scott LaValla (Stade Francais): A- After an impressive debut campaign with Stade Francais, LaValla has only gotten better. Stade is a deep team, particularly in the back-row. However, that hasn’t stopped LaValla from starting and becoming a key part of the team. He is a monster on defense and contributes when he needs to on offense.
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Callum Black (Ulster) B+ At the end of last year there were suggestions that Black may have been on his way out of Ulster after not playing much. Any of those suggestions have been put to rest this year as Black has proven himself to be a solid contributor off the bench. The only thing that could be better is a few more starts.
Tommy Seymour (Glasgow) C: You could argue that giving someone who has scored five tries on the season a C is a bit harsh, but the reality is that even with those tries to his name Seymour has failed to become a key part of the Glasgow team and is increasingly finding himself on the outside of the lineup. He recently signed a contract extension so the team rates him, but he needs to become m ore consistent.
Hanno Dirksen (Ospreys): A- Dirksen was having a great year with the Ospreys before picking up a knee injury that will keep him out of the team for the next six months. He scored when he needed to and played every single minute of every match in the league and Heineken Cup.
Dave Ryan (Zebre): C- Despite being on what is possibly the worst first division club in Europe, Ryan has failed to consistently break into the lineup and only has a total of 303 minutes on the year. He will need to do better in the second half of the season to prove he’s worth the investment to Zebre.
Todd Clever (NTT Shining Arcs): B After enduring a slow start to the season, Clever has now found himself in the starting lineup week after week as the Shining Arcs try to move up in the table. He has been a leader on the team and is a key part of their team. He could step up a little more to help the team.
Anthony Estrella (Toshiba): C The former Cal player says some minutes early on in the season but has been out of the lineup ever since.
Inaki Basuari (Tarbes): B Basauri has proven once again that he can step into any team and contribute. In his first year with Tarbes he has been a solid contributor on a team that is consistently improving. A few more consistent starts would be nice.
Roland Suniula (Auch): B- Injuries have taken their toll on Sunuila’s season, but when he has been healthy he has played well for Auch. He needs to be more consistent and possibly score a try or two, but all in all it’s been a good first season.
Seta Tuilevuka (Beziers): C Like Suniula, injuries have hampered Tuilevuka’s season. He needs to get healthy and back consistently in the starting lineup.
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