September 29, 2016
Eagles 7s Add Rugby Endorphin Seekers to Compete at High Performance Camp
Logo: USA Rugby
The Olympic Summer Games at Rio ended the second week of August and while a core group from that team return, others are playing rugby 15s, nursing injuries, returning to professional football. This requires the addition of other rugby endorphin seekers that want the challenge of shining at the first Men’s Eagles Sevens High Performance Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California.
Mike Friday, Head Eagles Sevens Coach and his sidekick Chris Brown, and the other coaches who compliment this program, will carefully put the athletes through their paces in preparation for the 2016-17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and begins December 2-3, 2016 in Dubai.
Seven Olympians have accepted residency spots in Chula Vista, while several additions will announced later in October. The Olympians include Perry Baker, Danny Barrett, Madison Hughes, Martin Iosefo, Carlin Isles, Folau Niua and Maka Unufe.
Joining the Olympians are Spike Davis and Alex Elkins, who were standout players for the PRO Rugby Ohio Aviators. Will Holder, Matai Leuta, Brett Thompson and Stephen Tomassin were part of the Olympic Training Squad.
Where are some of the other Olympians? Nate Ebner is back with the New England Patriots, while Ben Pinkleman is expected to have his shoulder repaired.
Others like Andrew Durutalo will be playing 15s. Durutalo was with the Super Rugby Sunwolves. Chris Wyles is back with the Aviva Premiership Saracens in London. For others, the World Rugby Pacific Rugby Challenge awaits in Montevideo, Uruguay on Oct. 8, 12, and 16th. The USA Selects XV will be playing the Fiji Warriors, Canada A and Uruguay A. The Eagles Xv then play on November 4th against the Maori All Blacks in Chicago, Romania in Bucharest Nov. 12th and Tonga in the Basque community of San Sebastian, Spain. Will we see Garrett Bender, Zack Test, Nate Augspurger, Shalom Suniula and Pat Blair? Also, Thretton Palamo, who was part of the Olympic Training Camp squad, is playing for Bristol in the Aviva Premiership.
Mike Friday commented about the needs of the Eagles 7s squad saying “We have to grow the depth in the squad. Whilst we want to maintain momentum in the Sevens Series, we have a number of pressures on the squad, which means we have to develop and nurture more players that are capable of complementing and adding strength to the squad as we build towards 2018 and 2020.”
During the two years that Mike Friday has been at the helm, the Eagles have finished the World Rugby Sevens Series in sixth place. While the goal is certainly to improve on that performance, the team needs an infusion of new athletes if the program is to have continued success.
Friday added, “We are currently recognized as one of the top sevens teams in the world and we need to keep moving forward as a program and group, and these newer players are going to have to learn quick and rise to the challenge. The more experienced players are going to have to lead by example and educate and mentor the new players so that they are up to speed on what is expected and needed if we want to continue moving USA Rugby’s sevens forward.”
“This is not an easy task and is going to have bumps in the road, but that is the challenge that we have if we want to continue to bring rugby to the forefront in the USA and compete with the traditional powers of rugby.”
The USA Club 7s and the Rugbytown 7s provided a stage for other athletes to showcase their talents. Don Pati led Rugby Utah to the National Championship at the USA Club 7s and was selected as the Most Valuable Player. He also shined at the Rugbytown 7s. He has been part of previous camps, as well as having played for the USA Falcons.
Spike Davis and Alex Elkins were a punishing force for the Ohio Aviators on the wing. Davis was the PRO Rugby leading try scorer and Alex Elkins also complemented him in being a scoring threat as well.
There are several younger promising athletes in recent Davenport University graduate Anthony Welmers, who is joined by current Davenport player, Brady Gent. Jihad Khabir of American International College, and Gabriel Ruflin of University of Utah also have shown promise.
USA Rugby priorities are also directed toward qualifying for the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Tokyo. The Eagles XVs start that process in Chicago against the Maori All Blacks and then against Romania and Tonga. Qualifications begin in 2017, so the XVs program will have access to players that will lead to qualifying.
Friday elaborated on this goal saying “There are a number of the existing squad that have aspirations to play XVs for the Eagles in what is an important year for World Cup qualification. We will have to manage the players and their loads to ensure that they can service and achieve their goals in both XVs and sevens. With qualification in mind this will provide opportunities for hungry and talented rugby players in both arenas this coming year.”
“We have identified a group and this first camp provides us and them an opportunity to see where they are at and what they can deliver amongst the residency group, who understand what it takes to be successful on the Sevens Series and how brutal and unforgiving international sevens can be.”
The Eagles will hold two additional camps prior to Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens, which kicks off in the United Arab Emirates Dec. 2. The Eagles Sevens will be in Pool B along with Bronze Medalist South Africa, 2016 HSBC London Sevens Cup winner Scotland, and Rugby Africa Sevens champion Uganda.
Men’s Eagles Sevens High Performance Camp – Sept. 26 – Oct. 1
Zach Bonte – Life West
Nick Boyer – Unattached
Spike Davis – Ohio Aviators (PRO)
Walt Elder – Kansas City Blues Rugby Club
Alex Elkins – Ohio Aviators (PRO)
Brady Gent – Davenport University (D1A)
Alec Gletzer – Olympic Club
Jihad Khabir – American International University
Don Pati – Park City Haggis Rugby Football Club
Gabriel Ruflin – University of Utah (D1A)
Bailey Stringer – Arizona State University
Chris Turori – Unattached
Anthony Welmers – Grand Rapids Gazelles RFC
Kevon Williams – Unattached
Men’s Eagles Sevens | 2016-17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Schedule
Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens – Dec. 2-3
HSBC Cape Town Sevens – Dec. 10-11
HSBC Wellington Sevens – Jan. 28-29
HSBC Sydney 7s – Feb. 6-7
HSBC USA Sevens – March 3-5
HSBC Canada Sevens – March 11-12
Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens – April 7-9
HSBC Singapore Sevens – April 15-16
HSBC Paris 7s – May 13-14
HSBC London Sevens – May 20-21