USA Men’s Sevens Preview | HSBC London Sevens 2019
Eagles Sevens enter Round nine of ten in their Olympic qualifying season ranked first, with competition taking place May 25-26 in London, England.
LONDON, ENG. – Nearing the end of their most successful season of all time, the Men’s Eagles Sevens will compete in the ninth tournament of the ten round HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in London, May 25-26, LIVE on ESPN Networks. With only two stops remaining, the next two legs are crucial for Olympic qualification.
THIS SEASON, LAST STOP: FOURTH PLACE IN SINGAPORE
The Men’s Eagles Sevens opened their last tournament in Singapore with a full sweep of Pool Play that included wins over Wales, Kenya and England to make the Cup Quarterfinals.
After Martin Iosefo had to be withdrawn from the 12-player squad due to injury, the USA were forced to rally in their first game against Wales amidst numerous penalties. But despite each setback, the group combined to win 31-12. The U.S. were still riddled with troublesome turnovers in Match Two but still managed to hold off the Kenyans and churn out a tight 17-14 win. Then, in their final game against England, the United States kept their penalty count low to dominate possession and complete a full sweep with a 22-7 victory.
Into the Cup Quarterfinals, Argentina came out firing to score two opening tries on the first three possessions, putting the U.S. in a compromising position. The squad managed to get back on the front foot, however, employing a solid defensive front in the second half to preserve their two tries and win at 12-10.
Facing South Africa in the Semifinals, the Blitzboks were too sharp to control and the Eagles Sevens were stripped of a Cup Final berth at 12-24. The Bronze Final featured a rematch between the U.S. and England where the English prevailed 7-28 despite a respectable fight by the USA until the final seconds.
Though it wasn’t the medal-winning performance they’d hoped for, the United States still hold the No. 1 ranking and are the only team who have finished in the Top 4 at every tournament this season. Much will be at stake next weekend as the stage is set for teams to confirm their Olympic qualification in London.
Head Coach Mike Friday has named his 12-player roster with two traveling reserves for London, where the squad is back at full strength as Perry Baker, Danny Barrett and Martin Iosefo all return from injury.
Despite competing without key players for much of the year, remaining players have continued to step up and achieve historic results through the season.
Matai Leuta was one considerable force in Singapore as his numerous runs created space and field position for other USA players to score in crucial moments. Ben Pinkelman is another such athlete who served as a workhorse on the pitch making tackles, drawing in defenses and supporting players at great length on the pitch.
London Sevens will also see a new benchmark for speedster and 2019 Top Try Scorer Carlin Isles who will earn his 50th cap with the Eagles Sevens. Isles is an undoubted threat on the wing who leads the Series table in tries scored and still sits in the Top 5 for overall points scored.
The remaining 12 will include Brett Thompson, Kevon Williams, Folau Niua, Marcus Tupuola, Stephen Tomasin and Captain Madison Hughes. Joe Schroeder and Maceo Brown will support the group as injury reserves.
Drawn in Pool D, the Men’s Eagles Sevens will open HSBC London Sevens against Spain, followed by Wales and Australia for a chance to make the Cup Quarterfinals.
Spain currently sit in 11th place and last faced the USA in Hong Kong where the Eagles Sevens came away with a 36-7 win, also in pool play. Wales are currently 14th in the standings and have been well-known to put up a measurable fight against the U.S. all season.
The final battle of pool play will bring 7th place Australia who have only faced the United States once this season in Dubai. Back then the Eagles Sevens defeated the Australians 22-17 on a heroic try by Danny Barrett to make their first Cup Final of the season.
With only two tournaments remaining, making the Cup Quarterfinals could be crucial to earning qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The top 4 teams at the end of the season will earn automatic qualification with the United States currently 38 points ahead of fifth-place England.
HEAR IT FROM HEAD COACH MIKE FRIDAY
On having the squad back at full strength…
“It’s great to have the opportunity to pick from a fully fit squad for the first time this season with the exception of Maka Unufe. This gives us great confidence as a group as if we illustrate the same work ethic, desire and resilience with the squad we have landing in London. Our attacking game has the capability to excel if we are both accurate and hungry.”
On the importance of London both for Olympic qualification and retaining No. 1 in the World Series…
“London is the first stop of this two leg tour and gives us the opportunity to achieve Olympic qualification which has been the focus every time we take the field as a group. We go up against opposition who are fighting for their survival and will need to be up to each and every challenge on Day One to give us a ticket to the big dance on Day Two”
We are under no illusion of the task that lies ahead. We are excited about that opportunity and challenge, and we are determined to leave London in the same position on the table as when we arrived.”
TO SUM IT UP
The Men’s Eagles Sevens have had a season like never before but the final results of a long road are just about to bring fruition. HSBC London Sevens will provide not only an opportunity for the United States to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games but also a chance to retain their No. 1 position and put a historic season in the record books.
The Eagles Sevens have never won the full HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and in 2015 had to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games in a regional qualification tournament after missing out in the main season. Though much is at stake in London next weekend, even more lies ahead after the season as a program looks to the culmination of years spent building depth, developing players and turning the United States into a powerhouse for rugby sevens.
Author: Aalina Tabani.