April 4, 2017
USA Men’s Eagles Sevens & Hong Kong Pool D Preview
USA Men’s Eagles Sevens Head Coach Mike Friday has made two changes for 13-man travel squad for the seventh and eighth legs of the 2016-17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, the Hong Kong and Singapore Sevens, respectively. Mike Te’o and Anthony Welmers replace Pat Blair and Walt Elder these legs.
The Eagles Sevens team had consecutive Bronze medal matches at the USA Sevens and the Canada Sevens in finishing third and fourth, respectively. This moved the Eagles into sole possession of firth place in the Series standings.
The USA is in Pool D in the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, where they will face Argentina, Russia, and Scotland. Pool play will commence at Hong Kong Stadium Friday, April 7, with all matches available to viewers in the United States via World Rugby’s Sevens Series live stream.
Mike Te’o has emerged as a utility Eagles XVs player, having played fullback, wing and scrumhalf, while scoring seven tries in eleven international tests.Te’o also played for the San Diego Breakers last year in the professional USA rugby league. He has not played for the Eagles Sevens since the 2013-14 season, but should be ready to perform when called upon.
Mike Friday indicated that “Mikey Te’o has worked extremely hard on his game these last 12 to 18 months – both at XVs and sevens – and is maturing well as a player who has real x-factor and is learning when and when not to take risks, and be more calculated on when those are or are not needed. He has also worked to improve his defensive game and his one-on-one tackling. We are excited to see Mikey complement the squad.”
Anthony Welmers toured with the Falcons to South America in 2016 and 2017 and joined Olympian Nate Ebner at Howard Hinton Sevens ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games. Welmers, a U.S. Army sergeant, was selected as the 13th man in Friday’s Eagles for the opening rounds of the current season, and made his official debut at HSBC Cape Town Sevens.
Friday added that “Welmers has done well since his debut in Cape Town and has been working very hard in camp to earn another opportunity. As a result, he has forced his way into the 12, and he is a capable attacker and an aerial threat, which will give the squad another option to go to.”
Danny Barrett has been on a tear this season, making the Dream team for the HSBC Sydney 7s and the USA Sevens. Perry Baker has continued his prolific scoring, leading the Canada Sevens in points and adding his 100th career try in the process. He represented the Eagles on the Dream Team in Vancouver.
Folau Niua leadership has been invaluable for the Eagles Sevens. How he performs is a good indication how the Eagles Sevens will perform that match. At the Hong Kong Sevens, he will appear in his 47th tournament, a current team high. Zack Test holds the record with 62 appearances.
Andrew Durutalo and Stephen Tomasin have often started in the forwards. Durutalo has contributed to the Eagles turning over the ball at the breakdowns about twenty per cent of the time. Tomasin has been a try scorer and has also contributed through his boot when Madison Hughes isn’t kicking at goal. Meanwhile, Hughes is the Eagles leading point scorer and one of the top of the Series circuit.
The combination of Martin Iosefo and Maka Unufe has performed well. Iosefo consistently draws defenders and creates scoring opportunities. Unufe has come on strong during the second half of matches to add quick tries. Argentina will certainly be aware of this possibility when he faces them again in this series.
Ben Pinkelman was a member of Team USA at the Olympics and then needed the Fall to recover from an injury. Since his return, his playing time has increased and he is a force while on defense or in attack.
Malon Al-Jiboori was the 13th man at both the USA Sevens and the Canada Sevens. At the USA Sevens he had playing time with the Falcons, while at Hong Kong, he will play with the Samurai side in the Hong Kong 10s tournamnet and be ready if needed as an injury replacement for the Eagles Sevens.
The USA has finished sixth the last two years at the Hong Kong Sevens, but hope to add a third consecutive series appearance in the Cup semi-finals and a chance to contend for the title.
Men’s Eagles Sevens: Cathay Pacific/HBSC Hong Kong Sevens & HSBC Singapore Sevens USA squad: 1 Anthony Welmers 2 Ben Pinkelman 3 Danny Barrett 4 Matai Leuta 5 Mike Te’o 6 Andrew Durutalo 7 Folau Niua 8 Maka Unufe 9 Stephen Tomasin 10 Madison Hughes (captain)11 Perry Baker 12 Martin Iosefo 13 Malon Al-Jiboori
Men’s Eagles Sevens – Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens
v. Russia – Friday, April 7 @ 7:08 a.m. ET
v. Scotland – Saturday, April 8 @ 12:26 a.m. ET
v. Argentina – Saturday, April 8 @ 4:42 a.m. ET
Argentina coach Santiago Gómez Cora has made three changes for Hong Kong and Singapore. Luis González and Bautista Delguy are on U20 tour to New Zealand in preparation for the World Rugby U20 Championship in Georgia, while Joaquín Riera is rested. In their places are Santiago Álvarez, Lautaro Bazán Vélez and Germán Schulz, who played with Argentina XV in the 2017 Americas Rugby Championship.
Santiago Álvarez, Germán Schulz, captain Gastón Revol and Javier Rojas are experienced players and compliment the younger players.
Matías Osadczuk is having a breakout season and is fourth in tries with 23. After Singapore, he will join Los Pumitas for the final preparation ahead of their trip to Georgia.
Argentina is currently in seventh place in the Series standings with 57 points and have given the USA all they could handle at the last two legs of the series. Argentina has also proved themselves a difficult opponent and beat New Zealand in Las Vegas and Fiji in Vancouver.
They will hope to improve upon their most recent Cup Quarterfinals appearances.
Scotland started off the HSBC World Sevens Series strong and disappointed in the last three legs. They are in eighth place in the Series standings with 53 points.
Still Scotland is a difficult opponent and if they can get by either the USA or Argentina, could find themselves back in the Cup round.
James Fleming and Mark Robinson have over 90 tries each, while Jamie Farndale and Dougie Fife also are threats.
Scott Russell, the captain, is injured so Hugh Blake and Scott Wight were named co-captains by head coach Calum MacRae.
Three players will make their debut at the Hong Kong Sevens. Grayson Hart, a scrumhalf, has three caps for Scotland and plays for the Glasgow Warriors. He previously played for Edinburgh and for Super Rugby teams in Australia and New Zealand. Blair Kinghorn plays for Edinburgh and has been a Scotland U18 & U20 player. Darcy Graham rounds out the debutants and played for the Scotland U20 team as a back.
Both Robert Beattie with three caps and Ally Miller with two Sevens caps, provide an infusion of youth to the team.
Should an injury occur, Robbie Nairn with two caps will be available. He plays for the Harlequins.
Scotland (Vancouver) 1. Grayson Hart 2. Dougie Fife 3. Ally Miller 4. Darcy Graham 5. Blair Graham 6. Mark Robertson 7. Jamie Farndale 8. Joseva Nayacavou 9. Hugh Blake 10. Scott Wight 11. James Fleming 12. Robert Beattie 13. Robbie Nairn
German Davydov, Vladislav Lazarenko, and Vladislav Sozonov are proven try scorers with 27, 26 and 23 entering the Canada Sevens. Look for Dmitry Sukhin to add points through his kicking game.