Like last season, we’ll have a USA 7s analysis and Tournament Preview for every stop of 7s series. Today we begin with the Gold Coast 7s.
Gold Coast, Australia: In case you were curious, the GC is located on the southeastern tip of Queensland, bordering New South Wales. We’re here for the first leg of the IRB HSBC Sevens Series; The Gold Coast 7s. We’ll tackle a few talking points from a USA 7s perspective and preview the tournament. After last year’s disappointing season, there is Rio Pressure – qualifying for the Olympics – for the USA to overcome. The spotlight will only grow more intense and individual teams will be constantly scrutinized. Let’s get to it.
Coach Mike “Half-day” Friday: Many were happy to see Mike Friday appointed as the USA head coach. Unfortunately, he is their 4th coach in 4 years. He was easily the best man available, but some say he should have been chosen in 2013. The problem now is that USA 7s is his second job, hence the “Half-day” tag. USA Rugby is paying for Friday to be a consultant and hired his right-hand man Chris Brown to be the boots on the ground in Chula Vista. Combine the two with Alex Magleby identifying talent as part of his part-time job and this coaching team is full of talented individuals. But 3 guys working 2 full time jobs will be interesting to see in action.
Gelling: A new coaching staff and lots of new players makes developing a team spirit and camaraderie problematic. On top of this, a kid fresh from college is the captain. Madison Hughes, who graduated from Dartmouth earlier this year (and appeared on a few legs, last season), is the the captain. We don’t doubt that he has all of the tools coaches look for in a captain, but does he have the ability to unite a fresh squad with plenty of veterans and new faces? It’s a lot to ask of the kid and the team in and of itself.
Avoiding Slow Starts: If there’s any one aspect of the USA team that needs to be improved… it’s the slow starts. They plagued last year’s side like a bad rash. The few times they avoided going winless in their first two matches they fared well. They’ll need to get at least one win in their first two matches.
Team changes (+/-): This tournament’s team is filled with tourney vets, players who got a test in previous years and some new faces. It has Residency Eagles and familiar faces Andrew Durutalo, Nic Edwards, Carlin Isles, Zack Test, Folau Niua and Maka Unufe. Another veteran, Danny Barrett, will be available after his trial at Aviva Premiership’s Gloucester Rugby. Of those with some tour experience are Garrett Bender (selected to three of last season’s tournaments), Patrick Blair with two caps and Captain Hughes, of course. Peter Tiberio returns after two years in the wilderness (since he graduated college) and the newbie is speedster, Perry Baker.
Optimist’s View: The right guy is finally in charge and and he’s surrounded with the right help and administration to make a difference. It’s OK to expect big things from this group as they are poised to deliver.
Cynic’s View: 4 coaches in 4 years. The constant tinkering backfires and Core Status is lost. There’s not enough time to qualify by being in the Top 4, so it will have to go through Canada or the repechage.
My View: This will be a process. There is a twin pressure to win now but also be ready to qualify for Rio. The team must take a “wait and see” approach. So, keep the pitchforks handy but make sure they’re in a different room from the celebratory balloons.
Going Forward: We see the USA team struggling and going 1-2 on Day 1. They will then go 1-2 on Day 2 with the two losses being close. Mostly likely, they’ll make the shield final at best.
There’s plenty of anticipation in the land of Oz. Last season, the home team made the final and gave the fans lots to cheer about. The preview will hope to match the energy and excitement of the fans.
It’s easy to call this group and give it to New Zealand. From there, it seems that the only other certainty is that Japan will finish last. It will be a battle between France and Samoa for second and playing in Australia will give the Samoans a near-hometown boost. Expect them to get second.
This is another group where it’s easy to predict who will finish first – South Africa – and who will finish last – American Samoa. However, unlike Pool A , it ‘s easy to figure out who will finish second; Kenya will push SA for finishing first.
It’s a safe bet that the Flying Fijians will win their pool. The host Australians will give the Fijians trouble but they will finish second. RWU friend Pedro Leal‘s Portugal will have some fun as they take third. Scotland will finish last in this group.
This is a tough group for the USA. All indications are that England should win this group. However, both Argentina and Canada are known to have a big run every now and then. That said, it will be England, then Canada. Argentina will be 3rd while the USA will bring up the rear. At best, the USA will come in 3rd.
Final standings will be
Cup: New Zealand
Third: South Africa
That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp,Junoir Blaber, DJ Eberle, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Cody Kuxmann, Jaime Loyd, Karen Ritter , Jamie Wall, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.