July 18, 2016
USA Rugby Names 2016 U.S. Olympic Men’s Rugby Team
Article based on USA Rugby Press Release: Nick Sero – July 18, 2016
It has been a little over a year since the USA Women’s and Men’s Rugby Sevens teams qualified for the Olympic Games in Rio. Today the USA Rugby has announced the 12 athletes and eight staff members who will represent Team USA in the first Rugby Sevens competition at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Rugby was played at the Olympics in Paris in 1924 and the USA is the defending Gold Medalist in the rugby 15-a- side version of the game. The Olympics in Rio will be the first time that rugby sevens has been played.
Head Coach of the Men’s Eagles Sevens team said “It’s a huge honor to represent your country at any time in your life, but to be given the responsibility at the Olympic Games – the biggest sporting event on the planet – makes it even more special. The fact that we will be part of Team USA and that as a result we will be exposing the USA sporting public to another team sport they can engage with and enjoy watching, as well as passionately support their country, is immense.”
“The boys fully appreciate the accountability that comes with that responsibility and are looking forward with confidence to those challenges. While we are not the pre-tournament favorites like Fiji who have to play with that expectation, we are a team who are hugely respected and feared by all other countries as genuine contenders. We know that on any given Sunday we have the power, pace and physicality to match and beat anyone. The boys recognize the magnitude of the task but are confident that we can be medal contenders if we play to our ability. We will represent the people of the USA in a way that they expect and deserve, exhibiting the characteristics that will make them proud.”
Friday talked about the composition of the team in saying that “the squad itself represents the country on so many levels and is cosmopolitan in makeup, which is a true reflection of the country. The team is balanced in terms of physicality, power, X-factor and out-and-out pace. We possess great aerial presence and kickers who are able to exploit these skills. As along with the contact area, we see this as a huge area in the game.”
“The squad has some big temperament players within it, and is underpinned by a strong work ethic and relentless approach to stay in any arm wrestle. This is the grit we need to exhibit along with our athletic ability.”
Team USA will continue to train at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista before heading to Florida for a week. These training sessions will include scrimmages against New Zealand. As part of these scrimmages, Team USA will determine their three traveling reserves within the group of Nate Augspurger, Will Holder, Martin Iosefo, Thretton Palamo and Shalom Suniula.
While Mike Friday pushes his players to excel, he recognizes the impact of team members that were not selected to the Olympic team. The Eagles Sevens are a team beyond the twelve players that are selected for any squad. This was reinforced in saying that “I want to thank the current training squad for their ongoing support and selfless approach to driving the squad mission forward. Their team ethic and commitment to their brotherhood is exactly why they are a special group of boys to work with, and why I am proud of every one of them. That is the true reflection of this squad and environment, and illustrates that they play for each other, not with each other.”
USA Rugby High Performance Director Alex Magleby echoed Friday’s sentiment on team mentality, saying “the Rio build up has been by far the most competitive camp we have ever had, thanks to the efforts of Mike, Assistant Coaches Chris Brown, Phil Greening and the rest of the staff for creating such a challenging but nonetheless supportive environment. The boys really pushed themselves and each other so that the team is above all else. Their work-ethic and support of each other through this process has been so impressive, especially given the enormity of the opportunity ahead.”
Following the week of training in Florida, the men will travel directly to Brazil Aug. 1. Friday’s side will begin play at the XXXI Olympic Games Aug. 9-12 at Deodoro Stadium.
At this time the NBC broadcast schedule for these matches is unknown, but will be announced later.
- A: Fiji, USA, Argentina, Brazil
- B: South Africa, Australia, France, Spain
- C: New Zealand, Great Britain , Kenya, Japan
Full Match Schedule: Men’s Rugby Sevens Summer Olympic Schedule
- Argentina – August 9 Noon ET
- Brazil – August 9 5pm ET
- Fiji- August 10 at 12:30pm ET
- Quarterfinal – August 10 4pm or 5pm ET
- Semi-Finals August 11 – 1:30pm & 2pm ET
- Bronze – August 11 at 5:30pm ET
- Gold – August 11 at 6pm ET
Meet the Athletes
Team USA will be captained by Madison Hughes, the United States’ all-time leading scorer on the Sevens Series. Hughes also finished as the top-scorer in the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
In addition to Hughes, Zack Test, Folau Niua, Danny Barrett, Garrett Bender and Maka Unufe are all regulars on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series circuit. Carlin Isles and Perry Baker have appeared on numerous highlight videos showcasing their speed and tenacity. Baker finished second in tries scored and in the top five for all scorers in this year’s circuit.
Ben Pinkleman, although the youngest member of the squad, has played in 36 career matches and is battle tested.
He is joined by two athletes that did not participate in this year’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series circuit, but who are excellent sevens players. Andrew Durutalo played with the Super Rugby Sunwolves team this year, but is known as the “King of the Breakdown.” Chris Wyles plays for the Saracens in the English Premiership, but also was part of the squad that qualified for the Olympics during the NACRA Sevens Championship last year. Prior to that, when he played sevens on the circuit, he was the leading try scorer and points scorer for the USA.
The last member of the team, Nate Ebner joined the team a few months ago after receiving the New England Patriot’s support in trying to be selected for the Olympic team. Ebner was the youngest-ever player to represent the Men’s Sevens at age 17 and continued his rugby career at Ohio State University before joining the football team and subsequently being drafted into the NFL.
Congratulations to the athletes that will represent the USA at the Rio Olympics. While their is disappointment for a number of athletes that have worn the Men’s Eagles Sevens jersey but were not selected as part of the Olympic team, the team’s success would not have been possible without your contributions.
USA Squad: Perry Baker, Danny Barrett, Garrett Bender, Andrew Durutalo, Nate Ebner, Madison Hughes, Carlin Isles, Folau Niua, Ben Pinkelman, Zack Test, Maka Unufe, Chris Wyles
Staff: Mike Friday, Head Coach; Chris Brown, Assistant Coach; Phil Greening, Assistant Coach; Brian Green, Physio; Paul Goulding, Video Analyst; Sarah Sall, Massage Therapist;
Dr. Eric Test, Team Doctor; Nick Tricarico, Manager
Training Squad: Nate Augspurger, Pat Blair, Nic Edwards, Will Holder, Martin Iosefo, Matai Leuta, Thretton Palamo, ConRoy Smith, Joey Sok, Shalom Suniula, Kevin Swiryn, Brett Thompson, Peter Tiberio, Stephen Tomassin