Goff Rugby Twitter     Goff Rugby Facebook

USA Men's 7s Set For Intrasquad Clashes

irish rugby tours

USA Men's 7s Set For Intrasquad Clashes

Kevon Williams continues to put his stamp on the USA squad. David Barpal photo.

CHULA VISTA, Calif. — The USA Men’s Sevens training groups will culminate their 2020 residency with a series of intrasquad scrimmages called the Golden Eagles Showdown Series. 

The scrimmages will take place December 4-5 and 11-12, KO at 12 PM and 3 PM PT daily, with a FREE live stream on USA Rugby’s Facebook Page. The USA Women’s Sevens will play a similar Stars vs Stripes exhibition game on December 4, KO 12:30 PM PT, as a conclusion to their residency. 

The men's teams picked their own names, building on the ongoing self-nickname for the players—the Dawgs— and so the teams were named with dog themes in mind as the Rampaging Ridgebacks and the Schnuggle of Schnauzers. 

Fan suggestions helped make the picks. Players who were unavailable for training will serve as General Managers and Chief Advisors for both sides, ensuring all athletes play a role as preseason comes to an end. 

“It has not been a straightforward process to get to this point but we have worked closely with the USOPC’s Chief Medical Officer to ensure player safety is at the forefront and all protocols are followed," said USA Head Coach Mike Friday.

"We recognize that the landscape for each city is changing daily and we will continue to liaise with the USOPC and city officials to understand when and how that impacts our Elite Sport status."

While dealing with bureaucracies, the team has also had to keep working on its game while having no opposition. That hasn't been easy.

“The boys have worked hard through this 11-week preseason and we recognize the importance of sharing our work with the rugby community who have missed seeing their pack play most of the year. We are excited and proud to stream what is essentially our final training sessions as this will increase the intensity of our preparation and is something we all need for our mental well-being. Our boys are born competitors who live for representing the USA Rugby community in a manner they are proud of.” 

COVID-19 Safety Procedures

USA Men’s Sevens program reassembled in September following rigorous entry testing and quarantine process in accordance with local mandates and stringent protocols from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. 

Programs utilize a robust contact tracing system to identify and minimize any exposure to the virus. All scrimmages are a part of a residency training program that falls within the Elite Athlete Training Center’s professional sport exemption. 

Protocols included: 

  • COVID-19 testing before and after a mandatory 3-day quarantine 
  • Antibody and echo cardiac testing 
  • Periodic testing and mandatory ‘Bubble’ re-entry in the event of travel or uncontrolled community exposure
  • Daily symptom and temperature checks as mandated by the USOPC and Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center 
  • Additional internal daily wellness checks 
  • Assigned training groups implemented to reduce unnecessary close contact and limit transmission risk
  • Maintain more than 6 ft distance from all staff 
  • Signed Training Agreement adhering to all safety rules 
     

The Teams

The teams themselves are a mix of experienced and inexperienced players. The Ridgebacks are captained by Cody Melphy, who has been given leadership roles before, and Kevon Williams is the vice captain, a signal that Friday continues to have big plans for the former New Mexico Highlands All American. Stephen Tomasin, Ben Pinkelman, and Perry Baker are all well-known names on that squad, but so is Maka Unufe, and Marcus Tupuola. Really the only true new player is Malacchi Esdale, who started playing rugby for the Naples Bears in Florida. He went on to suit up for Central Florida and was tapped by the USA Falcons last year. About a year ago he signed with the Houston Sabercats.

At 6-2, 210 he is a wing with size, and that's basically this team, which has a ton of pace, but strength, too.

Regular USA captain Madison Hughes is on the Schnauzers team, but he won't be the skipper, as Faitala Talapusi gets that honor. Brett Thompson, once again back healthy and in the mix, is the vice captain. This is a less experienced group compared to the Ridgebacks, with Talapusi only having played in three World Series tournaments. Still, that's more than Jake Lachina, Christian Dyer, Harley Wheeler, or Gavan D'Amore-Morrison. But all of those players have demonstrated leadership, and the ability to handle playing at a higher level. Lachina is in the World Class Athletes Program and is a graduate of West Point, where he was a Scholz Award finalist. Dyer had serious Scholz interest at Cal, and captained the Golden Bears. He is back from injury and had tons of potential. D'Amore-Morrison was a massive part of AIC before moving on with Old Blue in New York. He's been a champion player at just about every level.

And Wheeler won the Scholz Award in 2019 while with Life University. He played in the Pan-Am games and is a wild card in the most positive interpretation of that term. But the pillars upon which this team is build would be Danny Barrett, the beast up front, Martin Iosefo, the mustang in the middle, and Hughes, the terrier at the fringes.

Carlin Isles, who tragically lost his brother in a shooting, is not involved, understandably.

 

RAMPAGING RIDGEBACKS    
General Manager: Ben Broselle    
Chief Advisor: Pat Blair    
     
PLAYER POSITION HSBC TOURNAMENTS
1. Joe Schroeder Forward 12
2. Anthony Welmers Forward 5
3. Ben Pinkelman Forward 37
4. Stephen Tomasin Utility 37
5. Malon Al-Jiboori Forward 10
6. Kevon Williams (VC) Halfback/Wing 27
7. Cody Melphy (C) Haflback 6
8. Maka Unufe Halfback / Center 43
9. Malacchi Esdale Center / Wing uncapped
10. Marcus Tupuola Center / Wing 8
11. Perry Baker Wing 47
     
SCHNUGGLE OF SCHNAUZERS    
General Manager: Naima Fuala’au    
Chief Advisor: Folau Niua    
     
PLAYER POSITION HSBC TOURNAMENTS
1. Danny Barrett Forward 54
2. Brett Thompson (VC) Forward 32
3. Matai Leuta Forward 40
4. Harley Wheeler Utility 1
5. Gavan D'Amore Forward uncapped
6. Christian Dyer Utility uncapped
7. Madison Hughes Halfback 52
8. Faitala Talapusi (C) Halfback 3
9. Martin Iosefo Center 46
10. Maceo Brown Utility 14
11. Jacob Lachina Utility uncapped