PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – Chris Wyles’ debut for the Aviva Premiership’s Saracens Rugby Football Club came when the fullback was 24 and had already played in the IRB Rugby World Cup 2007. Eighteen-year-old Titi Lamositele could soon join his Eagles teammate in London should he earn a starting spot in either of the Eagles’ matches against Georgia and Russia this month, which would be his first.
Lamositele played in both Rugby World Cup 2015 Qualifiers against Canada earlier this year in Charleston and Toronto, but a starting cap is needed to attain the visa required to sign with the club.
The Washington-born prop was a high school football star before getting into rugby. Though his family is Samoan and each of his brothers and sisters played the game, Lamositele did not pick up the rugby ball until watching his high school team play.
“I didn’t really want to play,” he said. “I was really into football. But I went to one of my best friend’s rugby games and the coach said, ‘Hey, we have a place for you if you want to play.’ I just tried it and after that it just stuck with me.”
Chuckanut Bay Rugby Club has spawned three current Eagles in Lamositele, Shawn Pittman and Nick Wallace. It was there Lamositele was spotted by USA Rugby Boys High School All-Americans Head Coach Salty Thompson, who helped the youngest-capped Eagle reach the national stage.
“He’s a good guy,” Lamositele said of the HSAA head coach. “He wants good guys, good character in his team. He’s intense at times, too. He’s always onto us about fitness and stuff. He’s really fit. He always beats us in conditioning. I really like him, though – he’s one of my favorite coaches.”
Eagles Head Coach Mike Tolkin called on Lamositele for the Atlanta Camp at Life University in April, but it was not until August when he would get his chance to prove his place in the national setup.
Lamositele was substituted in the second half of both matches of the Rugby World Cup 2015 Qualifiers and earned a roster spot with the Eagles Select XV for the 2013 IRB Americas Rugby Championship in Canada. He started the Select’s first match of the ARC, a 9-27 loss to Argentina – the eventual tournament champions.
The Selects defeated Canada and Uruguay in the final two matches of the ARC and finished second, a much better result than the 0-3 record of the 2012 ARC team.
Twenty-three-year-old Cameron Dolan and 25-year-old Toby L’Estrange each captained the Selects against Argentina and Canada, respectively. The younger roster was also captained by Phil Thiel in the final match against Uruguay.
“[Dolan and L’Estrange] knew what it was all about because they’ve been around the older guys,” Lamositele said. “They knew what was going to happen. There were veterans there, too; guys who’ve played in World Cups. I just followed them because I didn’t want to make any mistakes. So I stayed back, watched how it goes and stepped in.
“Being in camp with guys like Samu [Manoa] and Todd [Clever], you learn to take the practice seriously 100% of the time.”
Lamositele is one of 33 players in assembly for the November Tour, though some players will not be available for all three matches. Lamositele will be available, however, including the match against Russia at Allianz Park, home of Saracens.
“I’m excited,” Lamositele said of playing on the pitch of his potential future club. “I’m a little bit nervous, too. But it’s good nerves.”
Before then, Lamositele will hope to earn a spot with the first 15 to show Saracens why he deserves to be signed.
“We thought he was solid [at the ARC],” Tolkin said. “He has to earn his spot, but I think he has earned it. He’s played and trained well enough to play with the boys.”
“I want to show Saracens I’m not just getting a cap,” Lamositele said. “It’s a big deal, getting a starting cap. I want to deserve this.
“You’re not out there in practice to be a backup. You’re always playing for a starting spot. Being a young guy, you really want to go out there and be one of the guys. You have to make a step for yourself.”
Lamositele and the Eagles begin the November Tour Saturday, Nov. 9, against the New Zealand Maori All Blacks in Philadelphia. The Maori All Blacks defeated Canada 40-15 Sunday, Nov. 3, but the Eagles are looking for the win.
“You can’t go into a game [expecting to lose],” Lamositele said. “You’re an athlete. Expect to win; put in the hard work. I haven’t trained this whole week expecting to lose.”
Kickoff for the match at PPL Park is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. ET. Watch the sold-out match live on FOX Soccer Plus and on delay Sunday, Nov. 10, on FOX Sports 1 at noon ET.