CAPE TOWN, RSA. – Following their silver medal victory to open an Olympic qualifying year, the Men’s Eagles Sevens prepare for the second stop of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2019 at HSBC Cape Town Sevens. The USA will open in Pool B ranked second in the current standings.
This Series Last Stop (Dubai Sevens 2018)
The ever-impressive Eagles Sevens opened pool play of Dubai Sevens 2018 with outstanding performances against Spain and Wales. Having already clinched a place in the coveted knockout rounds, the USA men fell to New Zealand in their final game of Pool C which forced a meeting with Olympic Champion Fiji in the Cup Quarterfinals.
It was a statement win over the Rio Gold Medalist that set fans at The Sevens Stadium wild as the United States soared to a 24-14 victory. Then, when all could have been lost, a heroic try on the final play by Danny Barrett lifted the squad to a 22-17 result over Australia where the stage was set for a rematch with the All Blacks Sevens in the Cup Final.
Hungry for the Gold medal, the Eagles Sevens held New Zealand without a score for the first five minutes of play but were ultimately overcome by a 5-21 All Blacks Sevens win.
Though the tournament hadn’t concluded the way they’d hoped, the USA still achieved their highest ever finish in Dubai and a medal to open the World Series 2019 with a second-place ranking.
Who to Watch
Head Coach Mike Friday makes no changes to the match-day 13 from last week’s competition at Dubai Sevens 2018.
Eagles Sevens’ Danny Barrett is always top amongst any “must-watch” list with a commanding presence that breeds physicality into every USA attack. The athlete played a vital role in helping the United States advance to the medal rounds with his aforementioned try against Australia. Sevens fans will be thrilled to see the same combination of speed and power well on display in Cape Town.
Notoriety is also prevalent in Barrett’s playmaking counterpart Folau Niua. Niua’s quick tap and offload to Barrett was a crucial factor in the match-winning try and also accompanied a trio of scores that Niua brought in himself. Carrying 15 points from the last tournament, Niua will be another attention grabber this weekend.
And, speaking of attention, Matai Leuta and Stephen Tomasin both emerged notably in Dubai. Leuta capped off a collection of powerful runs by crossing the tryline twice while Tomasin — who also scored twice — surpassed his World Series career 50 try mark.
Headlining Pool B alongside eighth-place Argentina, 12th place Spain and 14th place Japan, the United States will need to be weary of three ambitious teams who still have everything to play for early in the season. Where the USA climbed from 15th place to 6th place following their season opener in 2017, Argentina, Spain and Japan will be every bit as anxious to rise the same.
The Eagles Sevens first face Japan at 5:05 AM ET followed by Spain at 8:26 AM ET and then Argentina at 12:12 PM ET. All matches will be LIVE on ESPN+.
Hear it from Head Coach Mike Friday
On competition in pool play…
“This group is a big challenge second week as both Japan and Spain continued to improve with every game they play and were within a score of winning games against the traditional rugby super powers. We will need to be on point with our effort and accuracy and try to control possession in both of these games. The last game of the group will come against the hugely physical Argentina team where we are still to ‘right the wrong’ from that last game at Rugby World Cup Sevens as it still hurts every one of us.”
On challenges throughout the week…
“This is the second week where we have had to limit what we do as a squad on the pitch. The initial 17 hour travel and three meal change over to Dubai is huge for us; and to then play the two days physically drains everything out of the boys. So, to fly another 11 hours one day later has carried significant impact on our energy levels and bodies through the week.
“Due to that, we waited to finalize the squad and concentrated fully on trying to be ready without dwelling on last weekend where we are hugely disappointed to have lost the Gold medal. We are determined as a group to continue moving forward and trying to force the USA into the Top 4 in the world. This weekend gives us another opportunity to do that and the spirit of the squad is one of collective determination in what will be a very challenging and highly competitive tournament.”
To Sum it Up
The United States men opened their season with the best result they have ever achieved at Dubai Sevens: a silver medal. Though the pride of silver did not deplete the sting of losing Gold, the Eagles Sevens are faced with another opportunity to build on their second-place standing in the World Series. A Top 4 finish is eyed by all 16 teams on the circuit, but with a steadfast lead and the depth of many players increasing, everything still lies ahead.
Men’s Eagles Sevens Starting Roster
All players are part of the Men’s Sevens residency program.
1. Carlin Isles
2. Ben Pinkelman
3. Danny Barrett
4. Matai Leuta
5. Brett Thompson
6. Kevon Williams
7. Folau Niua
8. Maceo Brown
9. Stephen Tomasin
10. Madison Hughes (C)
11. Perry Baker
12. Martin Iosefo
13. Marcus Tupuola*
*Could make first HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series appearance.
Men’s Eagles Sevens Staff
Head Coach | Mike Friday
Assistant Coach | Anthony “Rocky” Roques
Strength & Conditioning Coach | Matt Long
Athletic Trainer | Brian Green
Team Manager | Scott Novack
HSBC Cape Town Sevens Schedule
Pool B | Broadcast LIVE on ESPN+
vs. Japan | Sat, Dec. 8 – 5:05 AM ET
vs. Spain | Sat, Dec. 8 – 8:26 AM ET
vs. Argentina | Sat, Dec. 8 – 12:12 PM ET
*Knockout rounds begin Sun, Dec. 9 at 3:58 AM ET. Updated matchups will be available by following @USARugby on Twitter.
Top 5 Placings for USA
(following Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens 2018)
|HSBC World Series Standing 2019||2nd (19 points)|
|Most Tries Scored by a Player||Perry Baker, 5th (6 tries)|
|Most Conversions Scored by a Player||Madison Hughes, 4th (9 conversions)|
|Most Tries Scored by a Team||5th (20 tries)|