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Eagle 7s Men Picked for Dubai

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Eagle 7s Men Picked for Dubai

Perry Baker looks to return to his try-scoring form. David Barpal photo.

CHULA VISTA, Calif.(USA Rugby Release plus additional GRR copy) – Four athletes could make their debut on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series at Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens or HBSC Cape Town Sevens as part of the 13-player travel squad named by USA Men's 7s Head Coach Mike Friday.

Six Rio 2016 Olympians and eight members of the Olympic Training Center Residency program are part of the squad, including 2015-16 Series-leading points-scorer and USA captain Madison Hughes. He, as well as Danny Barrett, Andrew Durutalo, Martin Iosefo, Matai Leuta, Folau Niua, and Stephen Tomasin, were part of the USA 15-a-side November Tour earlier this month.

Perry Baker and Maka Unufe have been training at the OTC full-time throughout the summer with Assistant Coach Chris Brown and staff in Southern California. With Carlin Isles still recovering from an injury, Kevon Williams will assume the second speedster role in Friday’s lineup to start the 2016-17 Series. Williams has not yet worn the U.S. shirt on the Series, nor have fellow selections Alec Gletzer, Don Pati, and Anthony Welmers.

Williams came to national prominence playing for New Mexico Highlands University. The tall, fast, elusive runner was the central player as the Vatos won two straight NACRO 7s titles in 2015 and 2016. Gletzer was a higher school football standout who played for the Santa Barbara Rugby Academy at Santa Barbara City College. He was part of the USA U20 team in 2011, and later transferred to Cal, where he was an All American. Gletzer earned his first cap for the USA 15s team in February, and is a tireless worker who loves the contact and is a useful ball-stealer.

Don Pati was a standout for the Highland program in Utah. He was an All American at Utah, where he scored the winning try in the first CRC 7s tournament in 2010. He has been off-and-on in terms of national team interest, but he's an exciting attacker, solidly built, who can play almost anywhere on a 7s field. Welmers was a Michigan state champion with the Grandville HS team and played five season with Davenport University. A No. 8 in 15s, he's a physical presence who gets around the field. He kind of fills the role filled by Ben Pinkelman last season.

“I expect – as the players expect – to be contenders in every leg, and they are fully aware of the responsibility and accountability that comes with accepting the shirt,” Friday said.

“The squad also gives opportunities for some guys to make their debuts and continue the development of the Eagles Sevens as established contenders on the Series, something we have worked very hard to be over the last two years. These debutantes will need to learn quickly and realize that it is a very harsh environment if they are not ready for the challenge.”

The Eagles have been drawn into Pool B in Dubai with Scotland, Rio 2016 bronze medalist South Africa, and invited nation Uganda. Kickoff for the Men’s Eagles Sevens’ campaign is set for 12:44 a.m. ET the morning of Friday, Dec. 2, with broadcast details for viewers in the United States to be finalized shortly.

Men's Eagles Sevens | Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens / HSBC Cape Town Sevens 
Perry Baker - Played as a high-schooler for the Daytona men's team. Played some arena football and then took a big step forward after training with the Tiger Rugby program in Ohio. Was second in the 2015-16 World Series with 48 tries.

Danny Barrett - A product of the SFGG age-grade program and a standout for Cal from his freshman year on. 

Andrew Durutalo  - Born in the USA of Fijian parents, he has played all over the world. Was first brought into the USA team by Al Caravelli (three coaches ago) and is an excellent ball-stealer.

Alec Gletzer - Los Gatos HS, SBCC, and then Cal. All American for the Golden Bears.

Madison Hughes - HS All Americans while attending HS in the UK. Led the USA U20s to a Junior World Trophy title in 2012. Was CRC MVP in his freshman year. Captained the USA 7s team last year and led the World Series in points scored. Has played for the USA in 7s and 15s in every level.

Martin Iosefo - Played as a high-schooler in Hawaii and then at the University of Montana, where he went to play football. He earned his first 15s cap this year and made the Vancouver 7s Dream Team.

Matai Leuta - Long-legged wing who got his first look at an open tryout a couple of years ago.

Folau Niua - Started playing with the East Palo Alto HS team and went on to play for EPA and SFGG. A physically powerful inside back, his distribution skills are crucial to the team's efforts.

Don Pati - As stated above, helped Highland HS and University of Utah to major championships. Was a USA player at all age grades and in 7s and 15s. Has not been capped at the senior level at 15s, but he's played at the national level everywhere else.

Stephen Tomasin - Started playing for the USA 7s team as a teenager while at San Diego State. He and Pati are both squat, aggressive, skills halfbacks who can play other positions.

Maka Unufe - A standout for the United HS program in Utah, he's been part of the USA 7s program since 2011. Fast, strong, and a strong passer, he can do almost everything o the 7s field.

Anthony Welmers - Grandville HS (Michigan) and Davenport University championship player, he's there to be a physical presence.

Kevon Williams - A start for New Mexico Highlands University, and a 7s All American. He shows that top players can come from small schools.