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7s Eagles Fully Engaged as Squad Announcement Looms

National Teams

7s Eagles Fully Engaged as Squad Announcement Looms

Zack Test makes a pass during the USA 7s in Las Vegas earlier this season. David Barpal photo.

The USA Men's 7s team for Rio will be announced officially on Sunday, and it's been a tough road to pick that group of 12 players.

For many fans, there are likely to be some no-brainer - Perry Baker was on the World Series Dream Team; Madison Hughes is the captain; Danny Barrett is a special breed of monster the USA needs.

But there are also some very tough decisions to make, as Head Coach Mike Friday told the RuggaMatrix America podcast in June (listen here). Does he go with the Carlin Isles - Perry Baker duo? Or is one speedster enough? Does he pick Maka Unufe or Martin Iosefo as his center, or maybe can both players make it? What about New England Patriot Nate Ebner or Saracens league/Europe winner Chris Wyles? Friday said he felt no outside pressure to pick them, but maybe they performed so well they exerted pressure on their own!

Folau Niua seems a lock, but is Nate Augspurger? Ben Pinkelman and Garrett Bender played well this season as forwards, but is Andrew Durutalo back for one more chance? Zack Test holds so many USA records, but it's what you can do next month that counts.

While he is making the final call, Friday also has to worry about how those he didn't pick fit in. He will travel to Florida at the end of July with a group of 16 or 17 to train and scrimmage with the New Zealand team. Some of those players won't be going on to Rio.

"What is very difficult for the squad is that even if they do not make the Rio 12-man squad, all players have to remain fully focused and selfless for the cause and put their personal disappointment to one side," Friday told Goff Rugby report. "They have to be ready in the event of injury to step in at any point up to the 5th of August if they are not a traveling reserve, and also  fully engaged if a traveling reserve, to step in if required during the tournament."

That's a tough job, but it has to be done. You need reserves on-site because of the travel distances involved and the need to have players ready to slide right in without any difficulty. The traveling reserves, by the way, may not be named on Sunday.

"The character and commitment of the squadmembers who don't make the 12 will play a large part in defining the success of the Rio 12-man squad," said Friday. "We certainly see this as a 25-man squad effort, and whilst the chosen 12 will shoulder the accountability of the squad the responsibility lies with the entire 25-man squad."

Friday said the entire pre-Rio assembly has been highly competitive.

 "They are feeding off one another and pushing one another, which is great to see, as well as supporting one another at the tough or dark times which they have all experienced over this last four weeks," said the Eagle coach. "The boys are upholding their end of the bargain of causing me selection headaches and that is a good thing!"

This week the players have been engaged in a series of scrimmages to finish off the assembly before the final Olympic team announcement this weekend.