The USA Men’s Eagles Sevens finished in fifth place at the HSBC Paris Sevens last weekend. In doing so, they increased their fifth place lead over Australia. They have 114 points to Australia’s 101. New Zealand is in fourth with 127 points.
The London Sevens in the tenth and last stop of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. Two years ago, the Eagles 7s won gold in London and they hope that will be the result this weekend.
Mike Friday’s team has made extensive financial and personal sacrifices in representing the USA. This is also true for the Women’s 7s players and the 15s players that represent the USA.
Alan Baldwin published an article in Reuters entitled, Rugby: Olympics can take U.S. from poor relations to superpower.” Mike Friday discussed the sacrifices that USA team members make saying that “Currently our squad live on the poverty line. You wouldn’t have thought an international rugby athlete should be living on the poverty line but that’s where we are at the moment. I’m not talking about earning what they earn in the NFL, I’m talking about being able to take your wife out for a meal or taking your kids for ice cream.”
Both corporate sponsors and increased social media attention to the individual men’s and women’s athletes are needed, if the USA is to maintain the continuity in players, coaches and staff. The USA is already challenging the best teams in the world in sevens, and are within striking distance of consistently being a dominant team and regularly winning titles. The team however, needs a greater financial commitment to tap this potential.
Mike Friday other comments and those of the author, should be read.
2018 World Cup Sevens in San Francisco
The USA is poised to host the 2018 World Cup Sevens in San Francisco July 20-22, 2018. The tournament will feature 24 men’s and 16 women’s teams and be played at AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants.
The top eight from 2013 World Cup Sevens (South Africa, Fiji, New Zealand, Wales, England, Australia, Kenya and France) qualified automatically, while USA, a top World Rugby Sevens team, secured their spot at the tournament as hosts.
These teams represent nine of the fifteen core teams of the World Rugby Sevens Series. The next four core teams highest in the standings after the London Sevens will also qualify. Canada, Argentina and Scotland have qualified in this regard, while Samoa is poised to also join this group.
The eleven other spots will be decided by regional competitions between June of this year and April 2018.
USA Captain Madison Hughes discussed this event indicating “There’s some real excitement around the event already. The Giants stadium there in San Francisco is a really cool venue, one of the cooler venues for baseball in the USA, so to play there will be really special. We’ve watched baseball games there so to be inside that stadium playing sevens will be awesome.”
The USA will be in Pool A along with 2016/2017 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champions, South Africa. The Eagles have had some impressive matches against South Africa during the year and will need to play nearly flawless rugby during the whole match to be in a position to win.
At Paris last weekend, Wales played impressive rugby during the first half, before the Eagles clicked and emerged with a key win. Kenya is the other team in the pool and Mike Friday, Kenya’s former coach, knows them well. They are a talented physical team that can not be taken lightly.
I expect that the USA will advance to the Cup round of play on Sunday and perhaps if all goes well, that they will be on the podium at the conclusion of the London Sevens.
Perry Baker leads the Series in most tries scored with 49, most clean breaks with 62 and is third in total points scored with 245 behind Ethan Davies of Wales (249) and Tom Mitchell of England (248). Madison Hughes is in fourth with 244. Hughes also lead the Series with 345 tackles.
Several Eagles 7s players have made the Dream team. Perry Baker has multiple appearances and Stephen Tomasin, Ben Pinkelman and Danny Barrett, who is nursing an injury, has also been recognized.
The USA has been the Series leader in claiming restarts. Folau Niua’s kicking prowess, and players contending for the ball like Baker, Pinkelman, Iosefo, Unufe and in other series, Barrett, are also key players in this regard.
The Eagles are also very proficient in creating turnovers at the breakdown. Andrew Durutalo is a dominant force in this regard. Andrew just signed this week with the Ealing Trailfinders and will continue his rugby in England next season.
Ben Pinkelman, Stepehn Tomasin and Andrew Durutalo have been Mike Friday’s pick as forwards with Matai Leuta and Alex Schwartz also contributing, as needed.
The backs are all proficient try scorers. Captain Madison Hughes sets the tone and Folau Niua is the playmaker, distributing the ball to Martin Iosefo, who regularly draws in defenders and both attacks and distributes the ball well. Perry Baker rounds out the starters on the wing and a small gap will result in a try. Maka Unufe usually provides a second half change of pace and needs to be watched.
Mike Te’o is a versatile player and can relieve Hughes, and play attacking rugby. Don Pati also is a capable reserve. While it is hoped that the team performs well and no injuries occur, sevens can be a grueling game, so Naima Fuala’au will be available, if needed.
Congratulations to Folau Niua, who is playing in his 50th Series tournament.
Men’s Eagles Sevens: HSBC Paris Sevens – HSBC London Sevens
1. Alex Schwarz 2. Ben Pinkelman 3. Don Pati 4. Matai Leuta 5. Mike Te’o 6. Andrew Durutalo 7. Folau Niua 8. Maka Unufe 9. Stephen Tomasin 10. Madison Hughes (C) 11. Perry Baker 12. Martin Iosefo 13. Naima Fuala’au
Wales: 1 Lloyd Lewis 2 Cory Allen 3 Joe Jenkins 4 Luke Morgan 5 Owen Jenkins 6 Billy McBryde 7 Ethan Davies 8 Lloyd Evans 9 Adam Thomas 10 Sam Cross (cap) 11 James Benjamin 12 Tom Glyn Williams 13 Ben Roach
Kenya: 1 Derrick Mayar Dulo 2 Bush Mwale 3 Frank Wanyama 4 Augustine Lugonzo 5 Billy Odhiambo 6 Darwin Kinyangi 7 Eden Agero 8 Andrew Amonde (C) 9 Nelson Oyoo 10 Sammy Oliech 11 Brian Tanga 12 Dennis Ombachi
South Africa: 1. Chris Dry 2. Philip Snyman (C) 3. Dylan Sage 4. Ryan Oosthuizen 5. Werner Kok 6. Siviwe Soyizwapi 7. Branco du Preez 8. Sandile Ngcobo 9. Dewald Human 10. Cecil Afrika 11. Rosko Specman 12. Ruhan Nel 13. Marco Labuschagne