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Hughes Leads Eagles 7s to Gold Coast

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Hughes Leads Eagles 7s to Gold Coast

CHULA VISTA, Calif. – USA Men's 7s Head Coach Mike Friday has named his squad to play in the opening tournament of the 2014-15 IRB HSBC Sevens World Series in Australia.

The selections follow a five-day assembly of players in residence plus several from outside Chula Vista. As Friday promised, outside players got the same chance to make the team as contracted players, and several from outside the Olympic Training Center made the squad. Chief among these is the new team captain, Dartmouth College senior Madison Hughes. The diminutive, speedy Hughes has been a standout as a player and a leader for the HS All Americans, USA U20s, Dartmouth, and College All Americans, helping the U20s to a Junior World Trophy win in 2012, and Dartmouth to a CRC title in 2012.

Also making the squad despite training outside of Chula Vista are Serevi/Seattle Saracens players Pat Blair and Peter Tiberio (although both had previously been in residence), and Danny Barrett, back after a trial at Gloucester.

“There have been some tough decisions in putting this 12 together and I have to hand it to those boys that have gained selection for the hard work they have put in over that last few months,” Friday said. “Whilst non-selections are disappointing to the boys that have missed out, it will fuel their fire to push on and compete for the next tour as competition makes for a healthy squad and an honest, hard-working environment.”

Previous captain Nic Edwards is back, as is all-time top try-scorer Zach Test. Power-running Andrew Durutalo returns, as does Carlin Isles, the super-fast wing who may well have found a supporter in Friday. Maka Unufe is one of several players who used to be under contract, and left for personal reasons, but is back. Perry Baker is, like Unufe, a tall, rangy runner with pace and aerial skills. He makes his debut for the USA after a long apprenticeship, first in Daytona, Fla., and then with Tiger Rugby in Ohio.

Also returning is Folau Niua, who, like Isles, left the team to play for Glasgow last year and then decided to come back. Garrett Bender is a big, powerful forward who has been hard at work securing a place.

As for the choice of captain, Friday just liked how Hughes carries himself.

“Madison is a selfless player who has both the respect of the squad and the ability,” Friday said. “He is not a shouter but understands the game and speaks with authority, calmness, and clarity on what he wants from the boys and has shown the leadership in driving the squad in what we are looking to achieve with the ball and without the ball.”

For the Gold Coast 7s, the Eagles are drawn into Pool D with Argentina, Canada, and England. The Eagles held a 1-0-7 record combined against the three opponents last year, who each claimed a top-10 spot in the 2013-14 Series standings.

With the 2014-15 Series set to determine four participants for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games, the Eagles cannot afford a lackluster start as in previous years. Since the 2010-11 Series, the Eagles have not gained more than six of a possible 20 points from the first circuit stop.

“We fully expect there to be bumps on the journey, but they are the bruises to getting better and it is how we react to these obstacles as we need to be resilient and stay on task and move forward,” Friday said.

The Eagles will kick off their season against border rival Canada Friday, Oct. 10, at 6:12 P.M. ET. Watch Gold Coast Sevens on Universal Sports.

Men's Eagles Sevens | Gold Coast Sevens
1. Garrett Bender
2. Andrew Durutalo
3. Zack Test
4. Nic Edwards
5. Pat Blair
6. Madison Hughes (C)
7. Folau Niua
8. Peter Tiberio
9. Danny Barrett
10. Maka Unufe
11. Carlin Isles
12. Perry Baker

Men's Eagles Sevens | Non-Traveling Reserves
Aladdin Schirmer
Pila Taufa
Mike Te'o

Men's Eagles Sevens | Gold Coast Sevens
v Canada - Friday, October 10 - 6:12 P.M. ET
v England - Friday, October 10 - 8:51 P.M. ET
v Argentina - Saturday, October 11 - 12:07 A.M. ET