CHULA VISTA, CA – The 2018/2019 HSBC Mens Sevens World Series (WSWS) is finally upon us. This year instead of just previewing each tournament for you, the Rugby Wrap Up fans, we are gonna take it up a notch. We are gonna turnit up to eleven by doing a preview and a review of the entire 7s season.
If not for the 7s Rugby World Cup (7sRWC) to fill in the void of the off-season, it would have felt like forever between the end of the season in Paris and the start in Dubai. Without further ado, lets look at the issues that are going to be of importance throughout the season and not just on a tournament to tournament basis for the @Eagles7s
Health: If my count is right at least 8 different Eagles missed at least one full game to injury last season. That is a lot of injured players and it affects every aspect of play and the team. The biggest injuries were to recently crowned two-time World Player of the Year Perry Baker, Captain Madison Hughes and talismanic playmaker Folau Niua. The team was able to over come these injuries courtesy of Carlin Isles stepping up his game in Baker’s absence, Ben Pinkelman not missing a beat as the new captain, and the guys like Kevon Williams, Maka Unufe and Martin Iosefo filling in the playmaker void left by Niua. Beyond those three guys getting injured, there were other injures that saw the likes of Matai Leuta, rookie Cody Melphy and 7s prodigal son Brett Thompson got extended minutes. Courtesy of the injuries, it seems the USA side is deeper than it ever has been going into the season. So much so that a guy like Unufe didn’t make the squad for the first two legs which is a bit of a shock.
Finishing Speed: The exploits of Perry Baker can be seen by those watching 7s rugby. Whether you are a journalist like myself or just a casual observer forced to watch it, like my wife. However, the USA need another speedster to help stretch the field and finish tries. The reason they need another is for transition sake. Isles is definitely the 2 in the 1-2 speedster punch for the USA. The issue is that should injury occur and for the sake of future planning, an up and coming speedster needs to be found. Also nothing helps keep a player and a team sharp like fighting for their spot.
Consistency: The Eagles had 3 legs that they didn’t make the Cup quarterfinals. That cannot happen this season, if they wish to become a top 4 team. If you look at South Africa, you will see a team that was so consistent they never finished out of the top 4 and that allowed them to win the series despite only winning two legs. If the USA hopes to really turn the corner then regardless of how tough a group they are in, they must make the Cup Playoffs every time.
Player Rotation: With the added experience bench and fringe players received last season, the pressure is now on the coach. Head Coach Mike Friday must now be ready to trust the bench players more and rotate bodies to keep the team fresh. If the players stay fresher it makes them less vulnerable to injuries and insures that late in the day during the knockout rounds, the big time players will have more in the tank. It is time for the coach to practice what he preaches and trust the system, trust the players to execute the system.
That is it for now. Come back a bit later for my tournament preview.
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And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.