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Quick Turnaround: USA Men Look to Rugby World Cup 7s

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Quick Turnaround: USA Men Look to Rugby World Cup 7s

Stephen Tomasin is captain for the RWC 7s in Cape Town. David Barpal photo.

Only a week after the 2021-22 Sevens World Series wrapped up the Rugby World Cup 7s is set for Cape Town this coming Friday.

The USA men's team comes into the tournament quite banged up. Joe Schroeder and Folau Niua picked up injuries at the LA Sevens that ruled them out. Kevon Williams was already injured. That takes away significant playmaking ability, try-scoring ability and leadership, and massive work rate in the forwards.

The only good injury news is that Stephen Tomasin is back from a leg injury he suffered near the end of the LA Sevens tournament, and Lucas Lacamp, who also picked up a knock in LA, is available. 

Seven players with fewer than 10 World Series events under their belts will be in Cape Town for the USA.

In fact, when you total up the number of tournaments the entire traveling squad of 13 has accumulated (239), 60% come from three players: Perry Baker, Tomasin, and Maka Unufe. Those three are the only three to have played in the Rugby World Cup 7s before.

“Reflecting on LA, it was again a weekend of ups and downs where as a young squad we showed what we are capable of, but lacked the consistency to take advantage of those critical moments," said USA Head Coach Mike Friday. "Our best performance was the opening game against South Africa where we were clinical, physical and played with the speed and accuracy required to be successful. We produced that type of play in every other game, but failed to do so consistently allowing teams back into games or to get ahead. This was clearly the reality of the quarterfinal against Fiji where after an unfortunate missed ‘knock on’, that led to Fiji going 7-0, we found ourselves 14-0 from the restart."

Several calls went against the USA, including a knock-on called against the USA where the player was reaching behind him and the ball clearly went backward. But the most egregious was that non-call Friday referred to, when a clear Fijian knock-on at the base of the ruck was ignored by both referee and AR as Fiji scored their opening try. (The Fijians then scored right off the restart and once could argue that was a 14-point bad call.)

And perhaps the make it all the more galling was that the Eagles came back from 21-0 down to make it 21-12.

"We showed great character and application to get back in the game 21-12 and were pressing hard with all the momentum meters from the line, but made the error that relieved pressure and momentum was lost," added Friday. "These are the moments we have to persevere as a group and work to win because the energy, effort and desire is evident and we certainly possess the ability to own these moments. At this stage, it’s about turning that youthful potential into controlled action and results."

OK, so looking ahead to the World Cup. This is, as it was in 2018, a knockout tournament. Yes there are consolation brackets, but simply put, you lose a game and you can't win the tournament.

There will be a first round of 16 teams that need to play into the rest of the tournament. 
Ireland vs Portugal
Canada vs Zimbabwe
Samoa vs Uganda
Scotland vs Jamaica
Kenya vs Tonga
Wales vs Korea
Hong Kong vs Uruguay
Germany vs Chile

The winners of that round play the top eight teams. The USA will face the winner of Samoa and Uganda. That could easily be a slipup game, and it won't be easy for any time the rest of the weekend. They win that game and the Eagles play the winner of Wales vs Korea. Safe to say that will probably be Fiji, so we will see a replay of the controversial quarterfinal in LA. Win that and you're in the semis with a shot at a medal.

"The format of the Rugby World Cup Sevens makes the tournament even more brutal, with basically NCAA March Madness in September," said Friday. "The straight knockout scheme puts a lot of pressure on all teams from the get go and there is no room for error, particularly in sevens where you could be on the end of a call, not within your control, that may determine a result. We are due to meet the winner of Uganda and Samoa in our first game, which will mean we need to start fast and accurately control possession to give us the best chance to progress. It will be a huge challenge for us as a group, but one that we are excited to rise to.”

Certainly this is a USA team going in not at its peak. The players on the squad are quality players, but they haven't had the reps at the World Series level, and so will have to be extra ready now. It's a high-pressure situation, for sure, but also 

Here is the USA Squad:

Player Name Position
Perry Baker Wing/Center
Ben Broselle Forward/Wing
Maceo Brown Utility
Aaron Cummings Forward
Gavan D’Amore Forward
Malacchi Esdale Center/Wing
Naima Fuala'au Halfback
Lucas Lacamp Center/Flyhalf
Cody Melphy Halfback
David Still Forward/Wing
Faitala Talapusi Halfback
Stephen Tomasin (C) Utility
Maka Unufe Center/Flyhalf

The Rugby World Cup 7s kicks off at 2:45AM Eastern Time on Friday, September 9.

The USA Women play at 6:33AM and the USA Men play at 9:39AM.