Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
On the other side of the world the fabled Hong Kong 7’s leg of the IRB 7’s Series is set to kick off. Day 1 of the tournament starts off with Australia taking on the hosts and the day closes out with our very own Eagles taking on Tunisia. Hopefully playing under lights and in front of a packed house won’t distract the Eagles from the task at hand. Hong Kong has twenty-four teams in six pools instead of the standard sixteen in four pools, so the top two teams from each pool do not automatically move on to the Top 8. The top teams from each pool, plus two wild cards will make the Top 8. Points differencial will be the key to the Eagles making the Top 8.
After a solid 2006/2007 7’s campaign, Tunisia has underperformed in the 7’s series this year with only one win and a draw in eleven contests, but they are not to be overlooked. The last time the two teams met was in Hong Kong last season when the Eagles beat Tunisia 14-5 and historically the two teams have played close matches. This match could be the key to the Top 8 for the Eagles. They will not only need to win the match against Tunisia, but also put some points on the board. The Eagles second pool match is against Chinese Taipei who will need to be put to the sword quickly and then buried by the Eagles. With finishing the pool against New Zealand, the Eagles will need to have as big of a points differential as possible to soften the blow that New Zealand will look to put on them. The battle for the last two spots in the Top 8 will not doubt make for some great drama on Day 2 of the tournament.
The Eagles also welcome Jone Naqica back to the squad after returning from an injury suffered at the start of the 7’s series. Deemed ready by Head Coach, Al Carvelli, Naqica will help steady the Eagles inconsistent restarts and bring his playmaking skills back to the squad to go alongside Chris Wyles. The rest of the squad is very fit and while they do have decent speed in the squad, they lack a true burner on the outside. The Eagles could be one of the most physical sides in the tournament and will look to use that in their favor.
USA 7s Squad for Hong Kong
Forwards: Vili Matanibucaka, Todd Clever, Thretton Palamo, James Gillenwater, Matt Hawkins
Backs: Jone Naqica, Justin Boyd, Chris Wyles, Nese Malifa, Jason Pye, Troy Hall, Dallen Stanford