United States national rugby sevens team
|Most caps||Zack Test (62)|
|Top scorer||Madison Hughes (764)|
|Most tries||Zack Test (143)|
|World Cup Sevens|
|Appearances||6 (First in 1993)|
|Best result||13th (2001, 2005, 2009, 2013)|
The United States national rugby sevens team represents the United States 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 seasons to date in the Sevens Series have been the 2014–15 and 2015–16 seasons, where they finished sixth both times. The best result in a single Sevens tournament was winning the 2015 London Sevens. The Eagles' best result in the USA Sevens has been to reach the quarterfinals, which they have done in 2009, 2015, and 2016. Successes in quadrennial events include winning bronze medals at the 2011 and 2015 Pan American Games, and winning the 2015 NACRA Championships to clinch a spot in the 2016 Olympic Games.
The United States traditionally used the sevens team to prepare players for the XV-side. The national sevens team has also drawn a number of crossover athletes from American football and track, the most prominent examples being Perry Baker and Carlin Isles. 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.
- 1 World Rugby Sevens Series
- 2 Current team
- 3 Tournament history
- 4 Player records
- 5 Previous head coaches
- 6 Honors
- 7 Potential for development
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
World Rugby Sevens Series
Early years (1999–2011)
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 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.
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 (2011–present)
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. 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.
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, 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 season's top try-scorers: Nick Edwards (20) and Zack Test (18). Coach Alex Magleby stepped down after the season.
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. 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.
The U.S. had its best season ever in the 2014–15 Series under head coach Mike Friday, who was hired in summer 2014. 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. 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. The team beat the 12-time World Series champion in pool play and again in the tournament's third-place match before a third victory in as many matches in the 2015 South Africa Sevens Plate Semifinal. 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.
Season by season
|Series Season||Final Rank||Total Points||Events||Cups||Plates||Bowls*||Shields||Leading Try Scorer||Leading Points Scorer|
|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||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||9th||8||1||0||0||1||0||Perry Baker (5)||Madison Hughes (39)|
|Total||-||-||107||1||4||7||14||Zack Test (143)||Madison Hughes (764)|
* – The start of the 2016-17 season saw the plate and shield awards 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.
|Leading Try Scorer||Leading Points Scorer||Dream Team
|Dubai||December 2016||9th||4 – 2||Baker, PerryPerry Baker (5)||Hughes, MadisonMadison Hughes (39)|
|South Africa||December 2016|
|New Zealand||January 2017|
|United States||March 2017|
|Hong Kong||April 2017|
A pool of American full-time professional rugby players train year round as a team at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego. 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.
The table below shows the U.S. roster assembled for the most recent tournament. The statistics (events, points, and tries) refer to statistics generated in World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments.
|Baker, PerryPerry Baker (c)||30||20||405||81|
|Niua, FolauFolau Niua||31||41||392||41|
|Unufe, MakaMaka Unufe||25||24||200||40|
|Barrett, DannyDanny Barrett||26||24||177||35|
|Durutalo, AndrewAndrew Durutalo||29||31||154||30|
|Iosefo, MartinMartin Iosefo||26||14||80||16|
|Tomasin, StephenStephen Tomasin||22||5||59||11|
|Leuta, MataiMatai Leuta||26||9||25||5|
|Pati, DonDon Pati||26||1||5||1|
|Gletzer, AlecAlec Gletzer||25||1||0||0|
|Welmers, AnthonyAnthony Welmers||24||0||0||0|
|Williams, KevonKevon Williams||25||1||0||0|
The following shows regular squad players who are not on the latest roster but are expected to return to the squad later this season:
|Test, ZackZack Test||27||60||691||137||Post-Olympic break. Expected to return in January.|
|Hughes, MadisonMadison Hughes (c)||24||24||764||56||Post-Olympic break. Expected to return in January.|
|Isles, CarlinCarlin Isles||27||28||380||76||Injured. Expected to return in January.|
|Bender, GarrettGarrett Bender||25||22||55||11||Post-Olympic break. May return in January.|
|Pinkelman, BenBen Pinkelman||22||5||30||6||Injured. Expected to return in March.|
|Head Coach||Mike Friday|
|Assistant Coach||Chris Brown|
|Performance Director||Alex Magleby|
|Olympics||Host||USA Record||USA Finish||Leading Try Scorer|
|1920||Antwerp, Belgium||1–0||Gold||Joseph Hunter (1)|
|1924||Paris, France||2–0||Gold||Linn Farrish (2)|
The United States participated in two of the four rugby XV tournaments held at the Summer Olympics from 1900 to 1924. The United States 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 returned to the Summer Olympics at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The U.S. defeated Canada 21–5 in the final of the 2015 NACRA Men's Sevens Championships to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. 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
|1993||Scotland||1–4||17th-T (Group Stage)|
|1997||Hong Kong||4–3||17th (Bowl Champ)|
|2001||Argentina||2–4||13th-T (Plate QF)|
|2005||Hong Kong||2–4||13th-T (Plate QF)|
|2009||Dubai||1–3||13th-T (Plate QF)|
|2013||Moscow||1–3||13th-T (Plate QF)|
|2018||San Jose and San Francisco||TBD||TBD|
Pan American Games
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.
|Finish||Most tries||Most points|
|2011||Guadalajara, Mexico||3–2–1||3rd||Maka Unufe (5)||Folau Niua (41)|
|2015||Toronto, Canada||5–1||3rd||Carlin Isles (6)||Madison Hughes (31)|
|Games||Host||U.S. Record||U.S. Finish|
Other International Competitions
|1986||Hong Kong Sevens||Plate Champions|
|1988||Hong Kong Sevens||Plate Champions|
|1994||Hong Kong Sevens||Plate Final|
|2000||Rugby World Cup Sevens Qualifier – Chile||Qualified for RWC 7s|
|2006||Bangkok International Rugby Sevens||Cup Champions|
|2006||Singapore Cricket Club International Rugby Sevens||Cup Quarterfinals|
|2007||Singapore Cricket Club International Rugby Sevens||Plate Champions|
|2008||NAWIRA RWC 7s Qualifier||Cup Champions|
|2010*||Digicel Suva Rugby Festival International Sevens||Cup Semifinals|
|2015||NACRA Sevens/Olympic Regional Qualifier||Cup Champions|
* – Played as the USA Cougars
The following tables show the U.S. career leaders in major statistical categories in the World Rugby Sevens Series.
- 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.
Updated: December 4, 2016
Previous head coaches
|Coach||Tenure||Best Series Finish||Best Tournament Finish|
|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||6th (2014–15, 2015–16)||1st (2015 London Sevens)|
These statistics are sourced from USA Rugby's Database:
- Top Three Finish
- 2015 Pan American Games – Bronze Medal
- 2015 NACRA Sevens – Champions
- 2015 London Sevens – Champions
- 2011 Pan American Games – Bronze Medal
- 2010 Adelaide Sevens – Runner-Up
- 2008 NAWIRA RWC 7s Qualifier – Champions
- 2006 Bangkok International Sevens – Champions
- 2004 NAWIRA Championship – Champions
Potential for development
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."
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.
The U.S. also sometimes fields a developmental team, the USA Falcons, in several tournaments.
- "USA joins Sevens big guns"[permanent dead link] Planet Rugby.
- USA Rugby, "Eleven Men's Athletes Ink Full-Time Deals with USA Rugby", January 19, 2012.
- "IRB, USA Sevens look to build momentum in Glasgow" Archived May 7, 2012, at the Wayback Machine., IRB Sevens, April 26, 2012.
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-  Archived July 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
-  Archived November 10, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- [dead link]
- [dead link]
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- "Eagles Win Bronze at Pan Ams" Rugby Mag, October 31, 2011.
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