Hosting the Rugby World Cup 7s (RWC7s) for the first time ever, puts more pressure on them, but the US Eagles men’s and women’s sides are certainly ‘up for the challenge’.
Under the coaching of Mike Friday, the men’s Eagles are ranked fifth, taking gold at the US Sevens leg of the World Series, the last time they were home. The Richie Walker-coached women’s side are looking formidable, placing highly in their sevens series; often rolling bigger teams, like New Zealand at the Dubai 7s.
The three day tournament is happening today through July 22 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA. 16 women’s and 24 men’s sides will compete across the three-days, all chasing the ultimate prize; both held currently by New Zealand.
NBC Sports Network will televise the event, in one of the biggest gatherings for rugby sevens.
Men have every chance of claiming Gold in San Francisco
The men’s Eagles are captained by Madison Hughes. Perry Baker (see main photo), alongside 2017 World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Carlin Isles, are both making a return for the tournament. Matai Leuta and Maka Unufe are both fully healed from their injuries, making their way back into the lineup just in time for the tournament.
Hughes told media how important this tournament is for the US Eagles, and their goals and objectives.
— USA Rugby (@USARugby) July 19, 2018
Head Coach Mike told USA Rugby last Friday, “It [RWC7s] has bought the best out of those chosen and we have a good balance of pace, power and physicality to add to the positional flexibility in the squad. If we are fizzing, confident and on point come match day, we will be contenders in this unforgiving format.”
“I am really pleased with the starting 12. All the boys went all out to push one another in this build up and the camaraderie and competitive edge was first class,”
See the full men’s squad list here. The men play the winner of Match 8 today, 21:37 (PST)
Hometown advantage for US Eagles Women
The women’s US Eagles, while full of promise and healthy enthusiasm, had some unfortunate news this week. Alev Kelter will miss RWC7s due to an injury sustained during the 2017/18 season. Kelsi Stockhart was to have taken her place, yet she also fell to injury. So Kelli Griff was brought in before the tournament cut-off, and has been activated in her place.
Griff will join a group who are ‘bubbling over’ with anticipation of playing with home advantage. Playing in Las Vegas for many of the previous Sevens Series, this world championship will be a huge leap for the women’s game. They begin the weekend on Friday, and feature prominently in promotion and US Rugby marketing.
The group have evolved into a competitive unit, led by Nicole Heavirland and seeded fifth at the tournament. The group includes the powerful Naya Tapper, the elusive Kris Thomas, Lauren Doyle and newcomer, Ilona Maher.
With hometown support, the US Eagles women’s team can enjoy the applause. What they do need to remain focused on though, is the opposition facing them – not the next game, or ultimate goal. With a balance of expectation and realism, they can represent their nation proudly this weekend.
— Emilie Bydwell (@EmilieBydwell) July 20, 2018
Note: the US Eagles women have kicked off their campaign, with a convincing win over the emerging Chinese women’s team. Team USA won 38-7, to secure a place in the RWC7s quarter-finals.
Rugby is looking to make a bigger dent in the US sports market. Josh Bradham looks closely at the coverage of the event in the states. The NY Times ran a feature on the situation that rugby finds itself in currently, and success by the two US Eagles teams would build support for Sevens – and bring benefit to the game as a whole.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images