Team USA Eagle 7s star, Matthew “Polar Bear” Hawkins, who is also now working with Serevi, contributes weekly every Thursday on Rugby Wrap Up – technology permitting.
SAN DIEGO, CA – Sorry I have missed the last couple of weeks; life outside of being a player really takes its toll and their just aren’t enough hours in the day. That said, I’ve missed you all, so let’s talk some rugby.
Since my last report, a lot has transpired on the Sevens and Eagles front, so let’s take a quick look there, then look ahead to the last two events of the HSBC World Series and finally consider the who the possible World Champion Contenders are and who I pick to take the title.
We left off with the USA Sevens program in the midst of change. Coach Al Caravelli, who had been at the helm for the past 6 seasons, got to the point where rugby was unfortunately causing a struggle for him in his day-to-day family and work life and decided to step away and take a break for a while. USA Rugby acted swiftly and brought in an interim coach, Alex Magelby who was an unknown quantity in the Men’s arena, but had won much praise in the College world for the work he had done with Dartmouth 7s. All was very much up in the air as know one new quite what he was going to do and exactly what he could change with Hong Kong and Japan right around the corner.
In review, Mags stuck with a pretty similar team for Hong Kong, bringing Mark Bokhoven and Nuu Punimata back in to the forwards and Rocco Mauer found his way to center stage for his first shot on the HSBC World Series. In their first outing the team hadn’t quite clicked yet, and let themselves down with their basics. They went 1-4 and really didn’t have much to walk away with.
Unlike Hong Kong, Japan was new for everyone. It was the first time Japan hosted the HSBC World Series and no one quite knew what to expect. The first day the weather in Tokyo was like nothing I have ever seen. It threw a lot of teams off kilter and the games were a lot tighter in game-play and score-lines. The USA managed to fight through two opening losses to win 3 straight and find themselves in the Bowl Final. Unfortunately they lost out to France 17-15, but this is something they should be very proud of – not happy – but proud. They battled and had results.
Since returning home, I have spoken with a few of the players and they are all very upbeat about the coaching change and the difference it has brought to the team dynamic. I think they are on to something, but unfortunately it’s the end of the Series, so I don’t see too much changing for this campaign. I do expect them to have a good showing in both Scotland and London, however, and keep their spot at #10 to end out the year. Considering all that has transpired over the last few months, this is something they can be pleased with and it will provide a launch pad going in to next season and the World Cup.
Now on to the big question: Who is going to take it all? Looking at the top contenders, it is a three-horse race. New Zealand, Somoa and Fiji all have what it takes to finish out the year strong and claim the World Series, but I think its going to take two Finals appearances to do that and New Zealand, under the leadership of Gordon Tietjens and DJ Forbes, will finish strong and hold the HSBC World Series Cup aloft come May 13.
That’s all for now… Please leave your thoughts below and tell your mates about Rugby Wrap Up… Cheers.