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Friday Looks to Pool of Death in LA and Further

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Friday Looks to Pool of Death in LA and Further

A new-look USA team is still finding its feet. Martin Seras Lima photo.

If Mike Friday wanted a stern test to prepare his USA Men's 7s team for the RWC 7s, he will get it in Los Angeles.

The LA 7s schedule is set and the USA starts the entire tournament against World Series leaders (albeit somewhat slumping leaders) South Africa. Eh, so what, no problem.

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Then they get to play New Zealand, which is, of course, a pushover, and then cap off the first day against Canada. Now Canada is having a rough season, but the formula for any Canadian team to turn around the momentum is to beat the Americans.

"Let's just say this is probably the toughest group of death we have been involved in," USA Head Coach Mike Friday told GRR. "We have had some horrible groups this last season. But we will be up for the challenge and we have the ability to beat anyone with the ability with the talent in the squad."

The Squad

Right, the squad. When you have a team that has been together for a long time, as the USA team was (mostly) from 2016 to 2021, when those players move on it's a shock. Losing Danny Barrett, Madison Hughes, Ben Pinkelman, Martin Iosefo, and Matai Leuta has hurt. The idea of losing more is worrying. Friday has often tried to get younger players more time in order to have them ready to fill in. But there's not enough competition time for them to build the right resume, and leadership is part of the equation.

Kevon Williams has proven to be a special player, but the USA now relies on him a bit too much—he has scored over 22% of his team's tries, and only three players, Terry Kennedy of Ireland, Vaa Apelu Maliko of Samoa, and Scotland's Jamie Farndale, have scored a higher percentage. The Series average is in the high teens. Still, what Williams did was put his hand up to play more on a very good USA team, and then emerged as a leader and someone they can rely on. That's tough to do.

Now Friday needs more of that.

"We are certainly in a period of change and transition and paying the price for COVID turning the tap off in USA for rugby for two years just at a time when there is about 80% turnover of the senior players," the coach said. "That's a huge change in what is a very unforgiving Series."

And then Friday looks at what he calls "the inexperience and naivety" of his newer players.

He's try to flatten the performance curve, but right now we're seeing inconsistent showings—they looked brilliant one moment and confused another.

That is one reason why Friday has released some of his players to participate in the PR 7s this summer.

"We are fully supportive and worked closely with PR7s to get the players we needed and wanted to play in the series integrated in," explained Friday. "We were very individually focused on who was made available to be selected and who we kept out with a view of giving everybody opportunities to play, develop, and put their best foot forward alongside the international internal scrimmages we have going on throughout August."

Add to that the U23 team playing at RugbyTown 7s (where Carlin Isles, remember, had his first taste of rugby) and there are competition opporunities.

But that doesn't mean we know what it will all look like August 27 against South Africa.

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