March 29, 2016
Eagles Sevens Squad For Hong Kong & Singapore
Photo: Norma Salinas Photography
Mike Friday has made four changes to the Men’s Eagles Sevens Squad from Vancouver for the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens and HSBC Singapore Sevens, the seventh and eighth legs of the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Both Zack Test and Maka Unufe were nursing injuries from the USA Sevens in Las Vegas and return to the squad. Carlin Isles also rejoins the squad after missing the Vancouver leg with permission to compete at the 2016 USATF Indoor Track & Field Championships. He finished fifth in the 60 meters. Isles would like to become a dual 2016 Olympian at Rio.At Vancouver, the team was also missing Will Holder, who was out with a concussion.
Whoever is selected for the squad is expected to win. There were no excuses in not having four veterans on the squad at Canada. Instead the team finished second in their Pool to New Zealand and then lost in extra time to Series leader Fiji in the Cup Quarterfinals. They reached the Plate Final in the tournament and returned home in fifth place in the Series standings.
Martin Iosefo dominance in the midfield continues grow and his performance was recognized as a member of the Dream team as he scored four tries. Perry Baker had a highlight try among his team leading seven tries.
Ben Pinkelman offensive and defensive prowess found him starting all six matches. He has matched up well with teammates Danny Barrett and Garrett Bender in the front row.
Mike Friday complemented Pinkelman in saying “Ben has equipped himself well and continues to improve the more he plays, and gives us added strength in the forwards. We are just very mindful that we balance his studies and ensure that this is not compromised as he has some important exams coming up that we are all confident and supportive that he passes.” Ben is a student at Colorado State University.
With Zack Test return to the squad and Peter Tiberio returning to the squad in almost a year and a half, there is depth in the front three. Tiberio also can play in the backs and offers versatility to the squad. His performance as captain of the USA Falcons at the Las Vegas Invitational earned a return for Hong Kong & Singapore. The Falcons won the Cup in the Americas Cup Elite Division.
Mike Friday added about Tiberio in saying “‘Tibs’ has been training exceptionally well and continued that form following his impressive showing at the LVI. The added strength that ‘Tibs’ has is his versatility; whilst he can play at nine or 10, he is equally comfortable at center or hooker and has the skill sets to fit in at any of these positions. We are excited to see how he progresses as he is now fully fit and injury-free having been in the residency program these last four months.”
Zack Test has been a mainstay of the Eagles for several years and the Eagles will welcome his return. Both Danny Barrett and Garrett Bender offer a physical presence on both offense and defense that opens gaps for other players. With Carlin Isles return and dynamic duo of speedsters Isles and Perry Baker is reunited and will help with the Eagles offensive assault when competing against other teams.
One also can’t say enough about Madison Hughes outstanding performance in Canada. He is a calming force as the team’s captain. Folau Niua has been a team catalyst as he is distributing the ball and his presence helps Martin Isoefo, and will help Maka Unufe shine. The later two players have both been members of the Dream Team.
Nate Augspurger is also a spark plug for the team when he enters. He thrilled the crowd with a dynamic long run in Vancouver by weaving his way through the opposition and almost scoring. Mike Friday is willing to place any members of his squad against the game’s best teams. Nate has found himself playing a significant role against New Zealand, for example.
Of major interest when announcing the squad is a player whose athletic talents are undeniable in New England Patriot’s Nate Ebner. Although Nate was not named to the squad, he will be traveling to Hong Kong. Nate has only been at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California for two weeks, yet he has caught the attention of Mike Friday. It happens that at Hong Kong there is another tournament being held, the GFI Hong Kong Football Club 10s. Nate will compete with the Samurai International Rugby Football Club’s team, a team that Friday has coached. Nate participation will likely benefit both the Samaurai team and ultimately the Eagles from this highly competitive tournament.
Mike Friday has been instrumental in having players gain valuable international experience. Nate, as well as all the players that are part of the Eagles player pool, harbor a desire to be selected for the USA Men’s Eagles Olympic team. Friday indicated that “Nate has adapted well and has surprised us all with how well he is starting to pick things up. He still has a number of areas which are very much work-in-progress, and part of that learning process he will only get from playing competitive rugby games.
The Hong Kong 10s provides a great opportunity to reintegrate Nate back into the game in a highly-competitive tournament, and playing with the most well-known international invitational team, Samurai International. Nate will be part of a squad with players who have represented their respective countries on the circuit this year.”
The Eagles enter Hong Kong in fifth place in the Series Standings. They will be joined in Pool C along with Argentina (sixth), Australia (fourth), and Portugal (16th). The tournament begins April 8-10 local time, with the United States beginning its pool play against Portugal at 6:54 a.m. ET Friday, April 8. All matches will be streamed live on World Rugby’s website.
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens / HSBC Singapore Sevens
1. Carlin Isles 2. Ben Pinkelman 3. Danny Barrett 4. Garrett Bender 5. Zack Test 6. Peter Tiberio 7. Folau Niua 8. Maka Unufe 9. Nate Augspurger 10. Madison Hughes(C) 11. Perry Baker 12. Martin Iosefo
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens
v. Portugal – Friday, April 8 @ 6:54 a.m. ET
v. Argentina – Saturday, April 9 @ 12:48 a.m. ET
v. Australia – Saturday, April 9 @ 5:10 a.m. ET