United States national rugby union team (sevens)

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United States
USA Rugby Logo.png
Union USA Rugby
Nickname(s) The Eagles
Coach(es) Matt Hawkins
Most caps Zack Test (44)
Top scorer Zack Test (471)
Most tries Zack Test (93)
Team kit
Change kit
World Cup Sevens
Appearances 6 (First in 1993)
Best result 13th (2001, 2005, 2009, 2013)

The United States national rugby union sevens team represents the United States in international rugby sevens competitions, including the IRB Sevens World Series, Rugby World Cup Sevens and World Games, and will represent the United States in the Summer Olympics in 2016. The Eagles also play in regional tournaments, such as the Pan American Games and the NAWIRA 7s.

The Eagles have seen tremendous improvement at the IRB Sevens World Series, a tournament with 9 events across the world, including the USA Sevens tournament held every February in Las Vegas. The Eagles have been a "core team" in the World Series and finished in the top 12 each season since 2008-09. The Eagles best season to date in the World Series was 2009-10 when they finished 10th, ahead of traditional powers France and Scotland, and reached the cup finals of the 2010 Adelaide Sevens, their first ever cup finals for a World Series tournament. The Eagles best result at the USA Sevens tournament was 2009, when they reached the semifinals.

Other successes include winning a bronze medal at the 2011 Pan American Games, and winning the 2008 NAWIRA RWC 7s Qualifier to clinch a spot in the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens.

The United States traditionally used the 7s team to prepare players for the XV-side. The national sevens team had also drawn a number of crossover athletes from other sports, such as football and track. Since January 2012, however, due to increased attention generated by rugby's return to the Olympics in 2016, the national sevens team has turned professional, with the team extending paid full-time contracts to its core players.

Players[edit]

USA Rugby and the U.S. Olympic Committee made funds available beginning in January 2012 to provide full-time contracts to 23 players -- 15 men and 8 women. USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville stated that a full-time sevens team would be a crucial step as USA Rugby prepares for rugby's return to the Olympics in 2016. Players train year round as a team at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego.[1][2]

Current squad[edit]

Number Position Player Age Caps
1 WG Mike Palefau (1981-09-10) September 10, 1981 (age 32) 27
2 WG Nick Edwards (1984-02-24) February 24, 1984 (age 30) 27
3 PR Danny Barrett (1990-03-23) March 23, 1990 (age 24) 4
4 FW Garrett Bender 5
5 HK Zack Test (1989-10-13) October 13, 1989 (age 24) 43
6 PR Brett Thompson (1990-08-16) August 16, 1990 (age 23) 14
7 FW Nu'u Punimata (1986-08-31) August 31, 1986 (age 27) 11
8 PR Andrew Durutalo (1987-10-25) October 25, 1987 (age 26) 19
9 FH Pono Haitsuka (1991-07-18) July 18, 1991 (age 22) 6
10 SH Mike Te'o (1993-07-22) July 22, 1993 (age 20) 4
11 FH Will Holder (1991-03-19) March 19, 1991 (age 23) 0
12 CE Ryan Matyas (1990-12-24) December 24, 1990 (age 23) 5

Former contracted players

The following players were contracted by the US team during 2012-13, but are not under contract for the 2013-14 season:
Matt Hawkins (now Head Coach), Blaine Scully (playing professionally in England), Luke Hume, Colin Hawley.[3]

The following players were contracted by the US national team during 2012, but won't be offered a contract for 2013:
Mike Palefau, Rocco Mauer, Peter Tiberio, Taylor Mokate, Nu'u Punimata.

Scoring Leaders: 2007-present[edit]

The US career leaders in major statistical categories in the IRB Sevens World Series are:[4]

Rank Player Years Events Points Tries Goals
1 Zack Test 2009–present 44 471 93 3
2 Jone Naqica 2002–2009 25 403 35 114
3 Shalom Suniula 2008–present 41 328 20 114
4 Nese Malifa 2007–2012 17 307 18 108
5 Matt Hawkins 2007–2013 37 280 56 0
6 Folau Niua 2011–present 20 260 21 77
7 Nick Edwards 2009–present 28 250 50 0
8 Jovesa Naivalu 1999–2008 14 237 47 1
9 Chris Wyles 2007–2009 10 205 41 0
10 Mike Palefau 2005–present 28 185 37 0
11 Colin Hawley 2010–2013 26 175 35 0
12 Kevin Swiryn 2008–2010 11 175 35 0
13 Carlin Isles 2013–present 14 145 29 0
14 Tai Enosa 2009–present 16 145 11 45
15 Paul Emerick 2007–2012 17 145 29 0
16 Todd Clever 2004–2011 19 140 28 0
17 Brett Thompson 2013–present 16 105 21 0

Updated May 6, 2014

Notes:

  • Active scoring leaders are in bold.
  • These figures include only the IRB Sevens World Series, and do not include other events such as the Pan American Games or Rugby World Cup Sevens.
  • These statistics from the IRB's Squad Lists are released before each tournament, and consequently do not include statistics from the player's last tournament.

Notable Past Players[edit]

IRB Sevens World Series[edit]

The IRB Sevens World Series, which is played every year from October through May, is the principal event in which the US national sevens team plays. The US has competed in the IRB series every year since the event's inaugural 1999-2000 season. The US team had some initial success during the early years of the tournament led by the try-scoring Jovesa Naivalu. However, the US team struggled in the 5 seasons from 2002-03 through 2006-07.

The U.S. national rugby sevens team in Wellington for the 2008 New Zealand Sevens

The 2007-08 season was a turning point for the US team, qualifying for 6 of the 8 series tournaments, and notching a notable win against Samoa en route to placing sixth at the 2007 South Africa Sevens. The team was led by Chris Wyles who scored 26 tries on the season, and was the top try scorer at the 2008 USA Sevens with 8 tries. The IRB rewarded the Eagles' success by promoting the US to "core" team status for the 2008-09 season, meaning that the US automatically plays in all 8 tournaments without having to go through qualifying rounds.[7]

The 2008-09 season was the breakout season for the US, finishing 11th on the season. The high point of the team's season was the home tournament, the 2009 USA Sevens. Nese Malifa's 30 points in that tournament helped the US notch wins against Australia and Kenya to reach the semi-finals, their best result ever on home soil.

The 2009-10 season saw continued improvement, with the team finishing the season in 10th place. Led by Matt Hawkins and Nese Malifa, the team finished 9th to win the Bowl in the 2010 USA Sevens. The US then advanced to their first ever Cup final at the 2009 Adelaide Sevens, scoring upset wins against England, Wales and Argentina.

The team took a small step back during the 2010-11 season with a 12th place finish. A number of key players were unavailable for most or all of the season, including the previous season's leading try scorer Nick Edwards and leading point scorer Nese Malifa. Additionally, a number of competing teams had moved to professional status, leaving the mostly amateur US team struggling to keep pace.

The 2011-12 season saw significant changes for the US. The team turned professional in January 2012, with contracts for up to 15 players.[8] The change to professional status did not bring immediate improvement. Head coach Al Caravelli resigned, and Alex Magleby was selected as the new head coach. The US finished the 2011-12 season in 11th, a slight improvement over the previous season, even though the team did not reach the quarterfinals of any of the 9 tournaments. Bright spots for the season included the emerging leadership of Shalom Suniula (captain), Zack Test (team leading 21 tries) and Colin Hawley.[9]

The 2012-13 IRB Series saw a slightly different format, with 15 core teams instead of 12, but with the possibility of relegation for the teams that finished in the bottom three. The U.S. got off to a slow start, ranked last among the 15 core teams after the first two legs. The U.S. saw improvement, however, reaching the quarterfinals in five of the last seven tournaments, and finishing in the top 6 during the last three tournaments. The U.S. finished fifth to win the Plate final at the 2013 Japan Sevens, the first time the U.S. had won a plate since 2001,[10] and followed that feat by again finishing fifth to win the Plate final at the 2013 Scotland Sevens, with Nick Edwards the leading try-scorer in the tournament with 8 tries. The U.S. finished the season in 11th place, and had two players among the seasons top try-scorers: Nick Edwards (20) and Zack Test (18).

Season by season[edit]

IRB Season Final Rank Total Points # Events Cups Plates Bowls Shields Leading Try Scorer Leading Points Scorer
1999-00 18th 0pts 5 0 0 0 0
2000-01 10th 16pts 5 0 1 0 0
2001-02 11th 12pts 7 0 0 1 0
2002-03 19th 1pt 3 0 0 1 0
2003-04 15th 0pts 3 0 0 0 2
2004-05 14th 0pts 2 0 0 0 0
2005-06 15th 0pts 3 0 0 0 0
2006-07 15th 2pts 3 0 0 0 1
2007-08 13th 6pts 6 0 0 0 1 Chris Wyles (26) Chris Wyles (130)
2008-09 11th 24pts 8 0 0 0 3 Kevin Swiryn (20) Kevin Swiryn (100)
2009-10 10th 32pts 8 0 0 1[11] 1 Nick Edwards (17) Nese Malifa (120)
2010-11 12th 10pts 8 0 0 1 2 Zack Test (24) Zack Test (120)
2011-12 11th 41pts 9 0 0 0 0 Zack Test (21) Zack Test (107)
2012-13 11th 71pts 9 0 2 0 0 Nick Edwards (20) Shalom Suniula (101)
2013-14 13th 37pts 6 0 0 0 3 Zack Test (18) Folau Niua (85)
Total - - 84 0 3 4 13 - -

2013-14 IRB Sevens World Series[edit]

Leg Date Finish Record (W-L-D) Leading Try Scorer Leading Points Scorer
Australia October 2013 14th 3-3 Zack Test (3) Folau Niua (27)
Dubai November 2013 16th 0-5 (6 players) (1) Folau Niua (13)
South Africa December 2013 1-4 Carlin Isles (5) Carlin Isles (25)
United States January 2014 13th 3-3 B. Thompson & Z. Test (4) Folau Niua (21)
New Zealand February 2014 13th 2-3-1 Carlin Isles (6) Madison Hughes (33)
Japan March 2014 6th 2-3-1 B. Thompson & Z. Test (5) Madison Hughes (28)
Hong Kong March 2014 T-7th 1-4 Zack Test (4) Zack Test (20)
Scotland May 2014 T-15th 0-5 Will Holder (3) Will Holder (15)
England May 2014

Rugby World Cup Sevens[edit]

Tournament[12] Host W/L Record Finish
1993 Scotland Scotland 1-4 Knock Out GS
1997 Hong Kong Hong Kong 4-3 Bowl Champion
2001 Argentina Argentina 2-4 Plate Quarter-Final
2005 Hong Kong Hong Kong 2-4 Plate Quarter-Final
2009 United Arab Emirates Dubai 1-3 Plate Quarter-Final
2013 Russia Moscow 1-3 Plate Quarter-Final

Summer Olympics[edit]

Year & City Host Country USA Record USA Finish Leading Try Scorer Leading Points Scorer
1900 Paris France DNP
1908 London  England DNP
1920 Antwerp[13] Belgium 1-0 Gold Joseph Hunter (1)
1924 Paris[14] France 2-0 Gold Linn Farrish (2)
2016 Rio de Janeiro Brazil

The United States has participated in two of the four rugby tournaments at the Summer Olympics from 1900 to 1924. The United States has won two gold medals, making it the most successful country in the history of Olympic rugby. Furthermore, as rugby has not been played at the Olympics since 1924, the United States is the defending Olympic rugby champion, with its back-to-back golds in 1920 and 1924.

Rugby will return to the Summer Olympics at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where the United States will attempt to defend its title.

Rugby union at the World Games[edit]

Year Host Record Finish
2001 Akita[15]  Japan - DNP
2005 Duisburg[16]  Germany 1-5 7th
2009 Kaohsiung[17]  Taiwan 2-4 5th
2013 Cali  Colombia - DNP

Pan American Games[edit]

Year Host Record Finish Leading Try Scorer Leading Points Scorer
2011 Guadalajara  Mexico 3-1-2 Bronze Maka Unufe (5) Folau Niua (41)
2015 Toronto  Canada

Head coaches[edit]

Other International Competitions[edit]

Year Event Result
1986 Hong Kong Sevens[18] Plate Champions
1988 Hong Kong Sevens[18] Plate Champions
1994 Hong Kong Sevens[19] Plate Final
2000 Rugby World Cup Sevens Qualifier - Chile Qualified for RWC 7s
2004 NAWIRA Championship Champions
2006 Bangkok International Rugby Sevens[20] Cup Champions
2006 Singapore Cricket Club International Rugby Sevens[21] Cup Quarterfinals
2007 Singapore Cricket Club International Rugby Sevens[22] Plate Champions
2008 NAWIRA RWC 7s Qualifier Cup Champions
2010* Digicel Suva Rugby Festival International Sevens[23] Cup Semifinals[24]
2012 NACRA Sevens/RWC 7s Regional Qualifier Qualified for RWC 7s[25]

* - Played as the USA Cougars[26]

Honors[edit]

These statistics are sourced from USA Rugby's Database:[27]

Potential for development[edit]

The country's then national team coach, Al Caravelli, explained the U.S. team's potential in a 2008 interview:

When we train at the Olympic training center they have a big database where an athlete can type in 'I run the 100 meters in 10.2 seconds but I didn't qualify for the Olympics, I weigh this much. What other sports can I play?' I've found over a thousand athletes that can run 10.2 seconds at one hundred meters and weigh over 200 pounds [91 kg]. I don't know if they can catch and pass yet but if they can see the atmosphere at a Wellington, a Dubai or a Hong Kong Sevens, and we can attract those types of athletes then we can continue to promote the sport in the United States.[39]

An article in The Guardian in 2014 noted that the inclusion of sevens in the Olympics had greatly expanded funding available to the sport, and that the large pool of American football and basketball players who may be unable to earn professional contracts in the NFL and NBA meant there were many sportsmen who had skills and strengths they could transfer to rugby union.[40]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "USA Rugby to contract Sevens players," Nov. 30, 2011, http://www.irbsevens.com/destination/edition=4/news/newsid=2060731.html#usa+rugby+contract+sevens+players
  2. ^ USA Rugby, Eleven Men's Athletes Ink Full-Time Deals with USA Rugby, Jan. 19, 2012, http://www.usarugby.org/#cc%3D%5BApplication%5D%5C%5CStructure%5C%5CContent%5C%5CBrand%20Resource%20Center%5C%5CContent%5C%5CHome%5C%5C208D7949-1299-1078-7124-00E05889C33C%5C%5CNewsArchive%5C%5C21125036-1296-100E-EBC6-9CF78B06F959%5C%5C23181D59-134D-3AA4-1A55-F530EAB75AF1%5C%5C23181D59-134F-85CC-D374-8BA3FDB0A9A5%7B%7BTab%3AView%7D%7D
  3. ^ RugbyMag, Eagles 7s Need Players, Sep. 2, 2013, http://www.rugbymag.com/usa-sevens-men/9184-eagles-7s-need-players.html
  4. ^ HSBC Sevens World Series XIII - Wellington 2011-12, Squad Lists with Career Totals, http://www.irbsevens.com/documents/3/IRB7-13-NZL-SquadLists.pdf
  5. ^ Rugby Mag, "Hawkins Set for Record-Setting Day," Dec. 8, 2011, http://www.rugbymag.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2901:hawkins-set-for-record-setting-day&catid=45:usa-sevens-men&Itemid=202
  6. ^ Rugby7.com, Leslie Williams Award, "Leslie Williams Award". Retrieved 2011-12-21. 
  7. ^ USA joins Sevens big guns, http://orange.planet-rugby.com/Story/0,18712,3896_4183664,00.html
  8. ^ USA Rugby, Eleven Men's Athletes Ink Full-Time Deals with USA Rugby, Jan. 19, 2012, http://www.usarugby.org/#cc%3D%5BApplication%5D%5C%5CStructure%5C%5CContent%5C%5CBrand%20Resource%20Center%5C%5CContent%5C%5CHome%5C%5C208D7949-1299-1078-7124-00E05889C33C%5C%5CNewsArchive%5C%5C21125036-1296-100E-EBC6-9CF78B06F959%5C%5C23181D59-134D-3AA4-1A55-F530EAB75AF1%5C%5C23181D59-134F-85CC-D374-8BA3FDB0A9A5%7B%7BTab%3AView%7D%7D
  9. ^ IRB, USA Sevens look to build momentum in Glasgow, April 26, 2012, http://www.irbsevens.com/destination/edition=10/news/newsid=2061882.html
  10. ^ Rugby Mag, USA Wins Plate in Tokyo, March 31, 2013, http://www.rugbymag.com/usa-sevens-men/7596-usa-wins-plate-in-tokyo.html
  11. ^ "Born in the USA: Sevens captain pops the question". YouTube. 2010-02-15. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  12. ^ "RWC Sevens 2009 - Rugby World Cup Sevens History". Rwcsevens.com. 2009-01-08. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  13. ^ Sports Reference, Olympic Sports, Rugby at the 1920 Antwerpen Summer Games: Men's Rugby, http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/summer/1920/RUG/mens-rugby.html
  14. ^ Rugby at the 1924 Olympics, http://wesclark.com/rrr/1924_olympics_2.html
  15. ^ "Home". Worldgames-iwga.org. 2012-02-07. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  16. ^ "USA Rugby". USA Rugby. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  17. ^ "World Games Day 2: Fiji cruise to Gold Medal | Ultimate Rugby Sevens - The Online Home for Everything Rugby 7s". Ur7s.com. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  18. ^ a b Hong Kong Sevens, http://www.hksevens.com/Schedule-PastResults-1980.htm
  19. ^ http://www.hksevens.com/Schedule-PastResults-1990.htm[dead link]
  20. ^ a b "Complete Winners Archive | Bangkok International Rugby Sevens". Bangkoksevens.com. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  21. ^ [1][dead link]
  22. ^ [2][dead link]
  23. ^ [3][dead link]
  24. ^ [4][dead link]
  25. ^ Rugby Mag, Canada Edges USA in Men NACRA 7s FInal, August 26, 2012, http://www.rugbymag.com/usa-sevens-men/5625-canada-edges-usa-in-men-nacra-7s-final.html
  26. ^ [5][dead link]
  27. ^ USA Rugby, Men's Eagles Database, http://www.usarugby.org/goto/mens_sevens
  28. ^ http://www.rugbymag.com/usa-sevens-men/10411-four-tries-garner-usa-the-shield.html
  29. ^ http://www.rugbymag.com/usa-sevens-men/10319.html
  30. ^ http://www.rugbymag.com/usa-sevens-men/9586.html
  31. ^ http://www.rugbymag.com/index.php/usa-sevens-men/7956-eagles-win-plate-again.html
  32. ^ http://www.rugbymag.com/usa-sevens-men/7596-usa-wins-plate-in-tokyo.html
  33. ^ Rugby Mag, "Eagles Win Bronze at Pan Ams," Oct. 31, 2011, http://www.rugbymag.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2507:eagles-win-bronze-at-pan-ams&catid=39:usa-men&Itemid=194
  34. ^ [6][dead link]
  35. ^ [7][dead link]
  36. ^ [8][dead link]
  37. ^ [9][dead link]
  38. ^ [10][dead link]
  39. ^ "Ngwenya flies in for the Eagles" (Press release). International Rugby Board. February 7, 2008. Retrieved February 28, 2008. 
  40. ^ Kitson, Robert (25 March 2014). "Rugby union takes foothold in US with rise of crossover competitors". theguardian.com. Retrieved 26 March 2014.