United States national rugby sevens team

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United States
Union USA Rugby
Nickname(s) The Eagles
Coach(es) Mike Friday
Captain(s) Madison Hughes
Most caps Zack Test (62)
Top scorer Madison Hughes (1,111)
Most tries Perry Baker (156)
Team kit
Change kit
World Cup Sevens
Appearances 7 (First in 1993)
Best result 6th (2018)
Official website
usarugby.org/mens-eagles-sevens/

The United States national rugby sevens team competes in international rugby sevens competitions. The main competition they play every year is the World Rugby Sevens Series, a series of ten tournaments played around the globe that includes the USA Sevens tournament in Las Vegas every spring. The team also participates in major tournaments every four years, such as the Summer Olympics, the Rugby World Cup Sevens, and the Pan American Games. The national sevens team is organized by USA Rugby, and the team has been led by Head Coach Mike Friday since 2014.

The Eagles have been a core team in the World Series and finished in the top twelve each season since 2008–09. The Eagles' best season to date in the Sevens Series has been the 2016–17 where they finished fifth. The best result in a single Sevens tournament was winning the 2018 USA Sevens and the 2015 London Sevens. In 2018 the Eagles won their first USA Sevens tournament at Sam Boyd stadium in Las Vegas. Successes in quadrennial events include winning bronze medals at the 2011 and 2015 Pan American Games, and winning the 2015 NACRA Sevens to clinch a spot in the 2016 Olympic Games.

The United States traditionally used the sevens team to prepare players for the XV-side. Since January 2012, 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. The national sevens team has drawn a number of crossover athletes from American football and track, the most prominent examples being Perry Baker and Carlin Isles.

World Rugby Sevens Series[edit]

Early years (1999–2011)[edit]

The World Rugby Sevens Series, which is played every year from October through May, is the principal event in which the U.S. national sevens team plays. The US has competed in the World Series every year since the event's inaugural 1999–2000 season. The U.S. team had some initial success during the early years of the tournament led by Jovesa Naivalu, who held the record for most tries scored until broken by Zack Test. However, the U.S. team struggled in the five 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.[1]

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 ninth 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.

Professional era begins (2011–2014)[edit]

The 2011-12 season saw significant changes for the U.S. The team turned professional in January 2012, with contracts for up to 15 players.[2] 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.[3]

The 2012–13 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,[4] and followed that feat by again finishing fifth to win the Plate Final at the 2013 Scotland Sevens,[5] 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 season's top try-scorers: Nick Edwards (20) and Zack Test (18). Coach Alex Magleby stepped down after the season.[6]

The U.S. team fared poorly during the 2013–14 Series under new coach Matt Hawkins, finishing the season in 13th place. Once again, Zack Test led the team with 23 tries and 119 points on the season; other leading scorers included Carlin Isles with 17 tries, including six at the 2014 Wellington Sevens, and newcomer Madison Hughes with 34 goals scored.[7] Hawkins was blamed for the exodus of several veteran players, such as Colin Hawley and Shalom Suniula, and was asked to step down at the end of the season.[8]

Top 6 finishes (2014–present)[edit]

USA Rugby sevens team in 2014

The U.S. had its best season ever in the 2014–15 Series under head coach Mike Friday, who was hired in summer 2014.[9] The U.S. finished sixth in the series, its best finish to date. The team capped off the season by winning the 2015 London Sevens after defeating Australia in the cup final, the first time the U.S. has won a World Series tournament.[10] Carlin Isles set a U.S. record with 32 tries for the season and Madison Hughes set a record with 296 points.

The U.S. began the 2015–16 Series by "shocking the world" when it defeated New Zealand for the first time at 2015 Dubai Sevens.[11] The team beat the 12-time World Series champion in pool play and again in the tournament's third-place match[12] before a third victory in as many matches in the 2015 South Africa Sevens Plate Semifinal.[13] The U.S. once again finished the season in sixth, tying its best ever finish. The previous season's scoring records were broken again, as Perry Baker notched 48 tries and Madison Hughes scored 331 points.

The U.S. began the 2016-17 World Series slowly, sitting in 11th place after the first three rounds. The U.S. was missing certain key players from the previous season. The U.S. turned things around mid-season. In the second half of the season, the team for the first time reached four consecutive semifinals: first at the USA Sevens where the U.S. finished third; then at the Canada Sevens where Perry Baker scored 9 tries including his 100th career try; followed by Hong Kong and Singapore. The U.S. finished the season in fifth place overall, a record high for the team. Perry Baker was the season's leading try scorer (57) and points scorer (285) on the Series, whereas Madison Hughes ranked third in points (279). Perry Baker and Danny Barrett were both selected to the 2016-17 Dream Team, and Baker was selected as the 2017 World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year.

The 2017–18 season began badly for the U.S. In the first tournament in Dubai, Baker suffered a concussion, and the rest of the team limped to a last place finish. The U.S. improved from that point on, reaching the semifinals of the Australia Sevens. The team then won the 2018 USA Sevens, the first time the U.S. won their home tournament, boosted in large part by Perry Baker, who led all scorers with 8 tries.[14][15]

Season by season[edit]

Season Rank Points Events Cups Plates Bowls* Shields Most tries Most points
1999–2000 18th 0 5 0 0 0 0
2000–01 10th 16 3 0 1 0 0
2001–02 11th 12 7 0 0 1 0
2002–03 19th 1 3 0 0 1 0
2003–04 15th 0 4 0 0 0 2
2004–05 14th 0 2 0 0 0 0
2005–06 15th 0 3 0 0 0 0
2006–07 15th 2 3 0 0 0 1
2007–08 13th 6 6 0 0 0 1 Chris Wyles (26) Chris Wyles (130)
2008–09 11th 24 8 0 0 0 3 Kevin Swiryn (20) Kevin Swiryn (100)
2009–10 10th 32 8 0 0 1[16] 1 Nick Edwards (17) Nese Malifa (120)
2010–11 12th 10 8 0 0 1 2 Zack Test (24) Zack Test (120)
2011–12 11th 41 9 0 0 0 0 Zack Test (21) Zack Test (107)
2012–13 11th 71 9 0 2 0 0 Nick Edwards (20) Shalom Suniula (101)
2013–14 13th 41 9 0 0 0 4 Zack Test (23) Zack Test (119)
2014–15 6th 108 9 1 1 2 0 Carlin Isles (32) Madison Hughes (296)
2015–16 6th 117 10 0 0 0 0 Perry Baker (48) Madison Hughes (331)
2016–17 5th 129 10 0 0 1 0 Perry Baker (57) Perry Baker (285)
2017–18 6th 117 10 1 0 1 0 Carlin Isles (49) Carlin Isles (247)
Total 126 2 4 8 14 Perry Baker (156) Madison Hughes (1,004)

* – At the start of the 2016-17 season, the plate and shield awards were abandoned, with the bowl replaced by the Challenge Trophy. The Eagles won the first ever Challenge Trophy with a 9th-place finish at the 2016 Dubai Sevens. Perry Baker lead in tries and overall points for the 2016–17 World Rugby Sevens Series.

Current season[edit]

2017–18 Season
Leg Date Finish Record
(W-L-D)
Leading Try Scorer Leading Points Scorer Dream Team
selection
Dubai December 2017 15th 0–5 Carlin Isles (3) Carlin Isles (15)
South Africa December 2017 6th 4–2 Carlin Isles (6) Madison Hughes (37)
Australia January 2018 4th 3–3 Perry Baker (9) Perry Baker (45) Ben Pinkelman
New Zealand February 2018 9th 4–1–1 Perry Baker (8) Perry Baker (40)
United States March 2018 1st 6–0 Perry Baker (8) Perry Baker (40) Pinkelman, Barrett, Baker
Canada March 2018 4th 3–3 Perry Baker (7) Perry Baker (37) Perry Baker
Hong Kong April 2018 6th 3-2-1 Carlin Isles (7) Carlin Isles (35)
Singapore April 2018 9th 4–2 Carlin Isles (8) Carlin Isles (40)
England June 2018 6th 3-2-1 Carlin Isles (8) Carlin Isles (40)
France June 2018 6th 3-2-1 Carlin Isles (6) Carlin Isles (30)

Player statistics (2017–18)[edit]

The following table shows the leading players for the U.S. after the 2017–18 Sevens Series season. Among all World Series, players, Isles ranked first in tries scored with 49, and Baker ranked fifth with 37. Ben Pinkelman ranked fourth in tackles with 124 and fourth in matches played with 58.

Leading U.S. players (2017–18 WS season)
Player Position Matches Tackles Tries
Ben Pinkelman Forward 58 124 11
Matai Leuta Forward 46 82 8
Martin Iosefo Back 55 80 22
Folau Niua Halfback 52 80 9
Stephen Tomasin Forward 38 67 15
Madison Hughes Halfback 23 61 5
Perry Baker Back 30 58 37
Danny Barrett Forward 49 56 17
Kevon Williams Halfback 47 52 14
Carlin Isles Back 53 40 49
Maka Unufe Back 33 36 9

Source: World Rugby website.

Current team[edit]

A pool of American full-time professional rugby players train year round as a team at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego.[2][17] The twelve players selected for tournament rosters are generally drawn from this training squad. For special tournaments, however, the U.S. sometimes draws from American players who are playing rugby professionally abroad.

USA Rugby and the U.S. Olympic Committee have made funds available since January 2012 to provide full-time salaried contracts to players. Up until 2011, players had been part-time semi-pro players paid a stipend for their participation. USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville stated that a full-time sevens team is a crucial step as USA Rugby prepares for rugby's return to the Olympics in 2016.

Squad[edit]

The table below shows the U.S. roster assembled for the most recent tournament. The statistics listed for events and tries refer to statistics generated in World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments.

Current squad (2018 Canada Sevens)
Player Position Age Events Tries
Danny Barrett Forward 28 34 58
Ben Pinkelman Forward 24 16 25
Matai Leuta Forward 28 21 8
Folau Niua Scrum-half 33 53 54
Kevon Williams Fly-half 27 6 4
Martin Iosefo Center 28 26 36
Perry Baker Wing 32 31 156
Substitutes
Brett Thompson Forward 28 17 23
Malon Aljiboori Forward 21 4 0
Nick Boyer Forward 1 0
Cody Melphy Half-back 25 1 0
Carlin Isles Wing 28 36 99

Squad regulars over the past 12 months who are out include:

Coaches[edit]

Position Name
Head Coach Mike Friday[18]
Assistant Coach Chris Brown[19]
Performance Director Alex Magleby

Tournament history[edit]

Summer Olympics[edit]

Although Rugby union had previously been played at the Olympics (most recently in 1924), Rugby sevens made its debut at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The U.S. defeated Canada 21–5 in the final of the 2015 NACRA Sevens to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.[20] At the 2016 Olympics, the U.S. went 1–2 in pool play, narrowly missing the quarterfinals due to a 14–17 loss to Argentina. The U.S. finished in ninth place, with Carlin Isles scoring six tries (all against Brazil and Spain) and Danny Barrett scoring four tries.

Rugby World Cup Sevens[edit]

Rugby World Cup Sevens Record
Year Round Position Pld W L D
Scotland 1993 Group Stage 17th 5 1 4 0
Hong Kong 1997 Bowl Winner 17th 7 4 3 0
Argentina 2001 Plate Quarterfinalist 13th 6 2 4 0
Hong Kong 2005 Bowl Quarterfinalist 13th 6 2 4 0
United Arab Emirates 2009 Plate Quarterfinalist 13th 4 1 3 0
Russia 2013 Plate Quarterfinalist 13th 4 1 3 0
United States 2018 5th-Place Final 6th 4 2 2 0
Total 0 Titles 6/6 36 13 23 0

Pan American Games[edit]

The U.S. has played rugby sevens at every Pan Am Games since the sport was introduced at the 2011 Games. At the 2011 Games, the U.S. lost 19–21 to Canada in the semifinals before defeating Uruguay 19–17 for the bronze. At the 2015 Games, the U.S. again lost to Canada 19–26 in the semifinals and defeated Uruguay 40–12 to capture their second consecutive bronze.[21]

Year Host Record
(W-L-D)
Finish Most tries Most points
2011 Mexico Guadalajara, Mexico 3–2–1 3rd Maka Unufe (5) Folau Niua (41)
2015 Canada Toronto, Canada 5–1 3rd Carlin Isles (6) Madison Hughes (31)
2019 Peru Lima, Peru

World Games[edit]

Games Host U.S. Record U.S. Finish
2001 Japan Akita, Japan[22] DNP
2005 Germany Duisburg, Germany[23] 1–5 6th
2009 Taiwan Kaohsiung, Taiwan[24] 2–4 5th
2013 Colombia Cali, Colombia DNP

Other international competitions[edit]

Year Event Result
1986 Hong Kong Sevens[25] Plate Champions
1988 Hong Kong Sevens[25] Plate Champions
1994 Hong Kong Sevens[26] Plate Final
2000 Rugby World Cup Sevens Qualifier – Chile Qualified for RWC 7s
2004 NAWIRA Championship Champions
2006 Bangkok International Rugby Sevens[27] Cup Champions
2006 Singapore Cricket Club International Rugby Sevens[28] Cup Quarterfinals
2007 Singapore Cricket Club International Rugby Sevens[29] Plate Champions
2008 NAWIRA RWC 7s Qualifier Cup Champions
2010* Digicel Suva Rugby Festival International Sevens[30] Cup Semifinals[31]
2015 NACRA Sevens/Olympic Regional Qualifier Cup Champions
2017 Silicon Valley Sevens Series Cup Finalist

* – Played as the USA Couga |}

* – Played as the USA Cougars[32]

Player records (career)[edit]

The following tables show the U.S. career leaders in major statistical categories in the World Rugby Sevens Series.

Notes:

  • These figures include only the World Rugby Sevens Series, and do not include other events such as the Rugby World Cup Sevens.
  • These statistics are taken from the World Rugby Squad Lists. These are released before each tournament and consequently do not include statistics from the player's last tournament.

Other notable players[edit]

  • Chris Wyles — played 2007–2009; scored 44 tries and was ranked #2 in tries for the U.S. when he left USA 7s for professional rugby in England.

Player records (season)[edit]

Previous head coaches[edit]

Coach Tenure Best Series Finish Best Tournament Finish
John McKittrick 2001–2005 3rd (2001 Wellington Sevens)
Al Caravelli 2006–2012 10th (2009–10) 2nd (2009 Adelaide Sevens)
Alexander Magleby 2012–2013 11th (2011–12, 2012-13) 5th (multiple)
Matt Hawkins 2013–2014 13th (2013-2014) 6th (2014 Japan Sevens)
Mike Friday 2014–present 5th (2016–17) 1st (2018 USA Sevens, 2015 London Sevens)

Honors[edit]

These statistics are sourced from USA Rugby's Database:[33]

Top Three Finish

Potential for development[edit]

The country's then national team coach, Al Caravelli, explained the U.S. team's potential in a 2008 interview: "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 ... we can attract those types of athletes then we can continue to promote the sport in the United States."[51]

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.[52]

The U.S. also sometimes fields a developmental team, the USA Falcons, in several tournaments.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "USA joins Sevens big guns" Planet Rugby.
  2. ^ a b USA Rugby, "Eleven Men's Athletes Ink Full-Time Deals with USA Rugby", January 19, 2012.
  3. ^ "IRB, USA Sevens look to build momentum in Glasgow" Archived May 7, 2012, at the Wayback Machine., IRB Sevens, April 26, 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Eagles blank Scotland to win Tokyo Plate Final", USA Rugby, March 31, 2013
  5. ^ Eagles defeat Argentina for second consecutive Plate" Archived December 22, 2015, at the Wayback Machine., USA Rugby, May 5, 2013
  6. ^ "Magleby stepping down as Eagles Sevens Head Coach after World Cup" Archived December 22, 2015, at the Wayback Machine., USA Rugby, May 29, 2014
  7. ^ HSBC SEVENS WORLD SERIES XV – BEST PERFORMERS – WS XV (2013–14) Archived October 20, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ "Hawkins steps down as Men's Eagles Sevens head coach" Archived December 22, 2015, at the Wayback Machine., USA Rugby, June 26, 2014.
  9. ^ "Friday appointed Men's Eagles Sevens Head Coach", USA Rugby, July 18, 2014.
  10. ^ "Men's Eagles Sevens end 2014-15 Series with Cup win in London" Archived December 22, 2015, at the Wayback Machine., USA Rugby, May 17, 2015.
  11. ^ "USA rugby sevens team shocks the world, defeats New Zealand", Washington Post, Jake Russell, December 4, 2015.
  12. ^ "U.S. ends Dubai trip with second defeat of New Zealand, third place title" Archived December 22, 2015, at the Wayback Machine., USA Rugby, December 5, 2015.
  13. ^ "U.S. continues roll over New Zealand in Cape Town Plate Semifinal" Archived December 22, 2015, at the Wayback Machine., USA Rugby, December 13, 2015.
  14. ^ "Las Vegas Sevens: 'Gladiator' USA team win on home soil", CNN, March 5, 2018.
  15. ^ "Perry Baker took USA to sevens gold in Vegas – now the hard work begins", Guardian, March 5, 2018.
  16. ^ "Born in the USA: Sevens captain pops the question". YouTube. 2010-02-15. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  17. ^ "USA Rugby to contract Sevens players" Archived January 17, 2012, at the Wayback Machine., November 30, 2011.
  18. ^ "Friday appointed Men's Eagles Sevens head coach", USA Rugby, Chad Wise, July 18, 2014.
  19. ^ "Chris Brown appointed USA Sevens Assistant coach with former coach Alex Magleby to oversee the program", Ultimate Rugby Sevens, July 6, 2014.
  20. ^ "Eagles send Canada packing, book trip to Rio de Janeiro", USA Rugby, June 14, 2015.
  21. ^ "GOLD ELUDES TEAM USA AT PAN AM GAMES", USA Rugby, Colin Flora, July 13, 2015.
  22. ^ "Home". Worldgames-iwga.org. February 7, 2012. Archived from the original on May 17, 2007. Retrieved February 13, 2012. 
  23. ^ "USA Rugby". USA Rugby. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  24. ^ "World Games Day 2: Fiji cruise to Gold Medal". Ultimate Rugby Sevens. Retrieved 2012-02-13. 
  25. ^ a b Hong Kong Sevens Past Results, Hong Kong Sevens.
  26. ^ "Schedule - Past Results". Archived from the original on February 6, 2010. Retrieved December 9, 2009. 
  27. ^ a b "Complete Winners Archive | Bangkok International Rugby Sevens". Bangkoksevens.com. Archived from the original on February 20, 2012. Retrieved February 13, 2012. 
  28. ^ [1] Archived July 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ [2] Archived November 10, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  30. ^ [3][dead link]
  31. ^ [4][dead link]
  32. ^ "US Opens With A Win". Archived from the original on January 26, 2010. Retrieved January 21, 2010. 
  33. ^ Men's Eagles Database Archived January 25, 2010, at the Wayback Machine., USA Rugby.
  34. ^ "Men beat Uruguay, win bronze at Pan American Games", USA Rugby, July 12, 2015
  35. ^ "Eagles send Canada packing, book trip to Rio de Janeiro", USA Rugby, June 14, 2015
  36. ^ "Men's Eagles Sevens end 2014-15 Series with Cup win in London" Archived December 22, 2015, at the Wayback Machine., USA Rugby, May 17, 2015
  37. ^ "Eagles Win Bronze at Pan Ams" Rugby Mag, October 31, 2011.
  38. ^ "No. 1-ranked Fiji beaten by Eagles in Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens Plate Final" Archived December 22, 2015, at the Wayback Machine., USA Rugby, December 14, 2014
  39. ^ "Eagles defeat Argentina for second consecutive Plate" Archived December 22, 2015, at the Wayback Machine., USA Rugby, May 5, 2013
  40. ^ "US Wins Plate in Singapore". Archived from the original on October 30, 2007. Retrieved December 4, 2009. 
  41. ^ "Eagles move to sixth in Series standings with Bowl win in Tokyo" Archived December 22, 2015, at the Wayback Machine., USA Rugby, April 5, 2015
  42. ^ "Test earns Dream Team nomination, helps Eagles win Bowl at Gold Coast Sevens", USA Rugby, October 12, 2014
  43. ^ "USA Win Bowl in Australia". Retrieved April 3, 2011. [dead link]
  44. ^ "Bowl Final to USA". Archived from the original on August 16, 2016. Retrieved February 15, 2010. 
  45. ^ "Eagles defeat Japan, win Shield at Marriott London Sevens" Archived December 22, 2015, at the Wayback Machine., USA Rugby, May 11, 2014
  46. ^ "Spain defeat earns second consecutive Shield for Eagles", USA Rugby, February 8, 2014
  47. ^ "USA Sevens: Day Three", USA Rugby, January 26, 2014
  48. ^ "Eagles take Gold Coast Sevens Shield with 22-0 defeat of Portugal, USA Rugby, October 13, 2013
  49. ^ "USA Wins Shield in Wellington". Retrieved February 5, 2011. [dead link]
  50. ^ "Shield for USA". Archived from the original on July 28, 2012. Retrieved February 6, 2010. 
  51. ^ "Ngwenya flies in for the Eagles" (Press release). International Rugby Board. February 7, 2008. Retrieved February 28, 2008. 
  52. ^ Kitson, Robert (March 25, 2014). "Rugby union takes foothold in US with rise of crossover competitors". theguardian.com. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 

External links[edit]