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Important Jobs to Do for USA Teams at Perth Sevens

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Important Jobs to Do for USA Teams at Perth Sevens

USA captains Kevon Williams and Naya Tapper. Photo Mike Lee KLC fotos for World Rugby.

The Perth stop for the SVNS World Series will kick off on Australia day on the shores of the Indian Ocean and the USA teams will have their work cut out for them.

Both teams are lower in the SVNS standings than they'd like to be, but the message from both programs has partly been about easing into the season and (hopefully) peaking at the Olympics. Still, this stand-alone tournament, (sis of the eight SVNS tournaments are paired in three two-week segments, while Perth and Hong Kong are one-offs) provides a bit of a turning points.

Tickets on Sale for LAX SVNS March 1-3. Get a full three-day pass here>>

Eagle Women

After finishing 3rd in the 2022-23 season and garnering an automatic bid to the 2024 Olympics, the USA took a disappointing 7th in Dubai before fixing that a bit with a 4th-place finish in Cape Town. The Eagles swept their pool play in Cape Town (Canada, South Africa, and Great Britain) only to slip badly against Australia (33-5) and lose a game that was within their grasp against New Zealand (19-7).

And that's been the goal for them for some time now—beating the teams they should beat is one thing, but putting in consistent performances against the top dogs—Australia, New Zealand, and France—is another thing entirely. When GRR spoke with USA player Spiff Sedrick she talked a bit about playing to win as opposed to playing not-to-lose; about not worrying about mistakes and instead taking the game by the throat.

To be fair, Australia has looked excellent so far this season, and yes they are fast and fit and athletic, but they play with confidence, and that's a big part of the equation. Hear more in our interview with the player below.

This is a different roster for the USA compared to the first two tournaments, with Sarah Levy, Summer Harris-Jones, Steph Rovetti, and Kristi Kirshe all join the squad. Head Coach Emilie Bydwell is getting a closer look at what Levy and Harris-Jones can do as outside finishers, while Rovetti and Kirshe are back from injury (good thing too as Lauren Doyle is hurt). Cheta Emba isn't with the squad, which thus sacrifices some size and power, but Rovetti and Kirshe have this habit of scoring crucial tries that change the momentum of games.

The USA plays Ireland at 12:32AM Eastern Time later tonight (officially the early morning of Jan 26). They follow that with 4:33AM against Japan, and 10:06PM Jan 26 against New Zealand. That opening game against Ireland will be quite telling because the Irish team can be a bit of a speed bump for the Eagles. They need to put that game to bed, beat Japan, and then see if they can be perfect against New Zealand.

All pool games will be on RugbyPass>>

Eagle Men

The USA men's team didn't qualify automatically for the Olympics and so had to spend time preparing for the RAN Qualifier (which they won). As a result, Head Coach Mike Friday rested a bunch of experienced players in the opening two tournaments. That's not to say that lineup wasn't capable of doing well, but they were not consistent ... not consistent game-to-game and not consistent within games. As a result they took 8th into Dubai and 11th in Cape Town.

Two one-try losses to Great Britain, both games they could have won, told the tale there. So now ranked 10th in the World Series the Eagles really need to bring the results and they have a much more experienced lineup in which to accomplish that.

Tickets on Sale for LAX SVNS March 1-3. Get a full three-day pass here>>

"We are finally able to pick from a full-strength squad with the returning experienced players following the enforced extended break we placed on them the last quarter of 2023," Friday told GRR. "Our expectations are high and we knew that Dubai/Cape Town was a tricky assignment. We are, as a result of those performances, not where we want or need to be currently in the standings."

But, Friday reminds us, that the SVNS World Series ends with an eight-team tournament in Madrid, so it's mostly about being in that top eight. Then you are in with a theoretically equal chance to win the Series.

"So it is about getting ourselves in to the Top 8 Championship come Madrid in May, to fight for the World Series, and peaking for The Olympics as a squad," said Friday. 

In Perth the Eagles play hosts Australia at 3:14AM (ET) the morning of Jan 26, then Ireland at 7:50AM followed by Great Britain at 12:48AM late night of the 26th (or, if you prefer, early, early morning of the 27th).

All pool games will be on RugbyPass>>

Ireland is a team the USA keeps seeming to take lightly—and by that we mean there are little plays such as a softly-defended ruck, an assumption that a breakaway will produce a try, a scrum where there isn't any opposition expected, where the Irish are putting everything into it, get a turnover, and score.

So you have to be putting in effort and effort of thought against Ireland for the full 14-plus minutes. 

"There are no easy pools or games in Men’s World Series as a 12-team format," said Friday. "Any team can beat any team and every game has the feel and pressure of a quarterfinal, so if we are honest the pool draws are irrelevant to us and we are focusing on how we want to play. We are hugely respectful of all the teams in the Men’s competition but the group is energized, excited to get out there, and represent. We are confident as a group that if we play our attacking game with the speed across the team and physicality we possess we are a match for anyone. The challenge for us as a group is to control our possession, minimize unforced errors, and play with speed and cohesion to win the moments. We have the potential and experience to go deep in this tournament and that is the expectation we have put on ourselves."