Rugby America

Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective

Success in Fiji for USA 7’s Team

A trip to the Semifinals of the Digicel Suva Sevens in Fiji was the icing on the cake for the team’s buildup for the next leg of the IRB 7’s World Series.

Planned as a developmental tool, USA 7’s Head Coach, Al Caravelli was very happy with the outcome.

“It’s great first step,” Caravelli said. “With only three practices under their belt, I was very pleased with their performance. The exciting part is that we aren’t even close to hitting our potential. There is still so much room for improvement. They’ve raised the bar on what my expectations are on them.”

The squad finished 2-1 in pool play with wins over Western Force (Australia), Fiji Army, and a close loss to the Fiji Police squad. The heat and humidity took its toll on the team, but they pushed forward with great results.

The USA also scored another surprise as they toppled the Fiji Wardens 12-10 in the Quarterfinals behind two tries from Team Captain Kevin Swiryn who returned to sevens action after an injury sustained playing in the World Cup Qualifiers for the Eagles. The team was stopped in the Semifinals by the Fijian Barbarians, who are essentially the National team.

“In the first tournament of the season, in Dubai, we committed 54 turnovers. In George that was half. Although we did just a slight bit better in this tournament, the great thing for us is that we didn’t throw away any 50-50 balls. But the shining light for us is we supported 100 percent of our line breaks,” Caravelli added. “No other team that I’ve ever coached has done that, and we did that in all five games.”

With a number of inexperienced players in the team, the statistic is very promising for the coming weeks that will see the USA head to New Zealand and then Las Vegas for the always important USA stop on the IRB circuit.

Of those lacking experience, former Olympian and NFL player, Bennie Brazell saw action in four of the five matches making some big tackles and adapting to his new sport well.

For now, the USA will stay in Fiji, training as a guest of the Suva Rugby Union. They will train several times alongside the Fijian National Sevens Team before playing the side in a curtain raiser on Saturday night, which features the Fijian Warriors against the Otago Highlanders of the Super 14. That match will help Caravelli with the final selection of the twelve players heading off to the third IRB Sevens World Series event in Wellington, New Zealand on Feb. 5-6.

“We will narrow down our team from fifteen to twelve for the IRB Sevens circuit,” U.S. Men’s Sevens Coach Al Caravelli said. “The competition for the twelve continues to be fierce. They are working very hard and making it very difficult on me to pick that last spot.”

Whittling down the team to twelve players is an unenviable task for Caravelli, but the fact that it will be a tough choice bodes well for the team moving forward. The playing time in Suva cannot be a complete indicator of which direction Caravelli will go with the squad. Both Zach Test and Mark Bokhoven were held out of all games this past weekend as both are returning from injury. Both a proven performers and will likely make the squad unless they have not fully recovered from their injuries. Nick Edwards and Leonard Peters were the only two players to play in all five games and they both have become integeral parts of the USA Sevens team.

Barring an injury to someone this week, here’s a quick look at how the squad might play out heading to Wellington, New Zealand.

Definitely In

  • Swiryn
  • Edwards
  • Hawkins
  • Nese Malifa
  • Peters
  • Emerick
  • Suniula

In if Healthy

  • Bokhoven
  • Test

On the Bubble

  • Pulu
  • Barnard
  • Brazell
  • Ata Malifa

Maybe Next Time

  • Richards
  • Efthimieu
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2 comments on “Success in Fiji for USA 7’s Team

  1. Barney
    January 26, 2010

    Cheers for a great article on American Sevens. The whole concept of Sevens in the States is so exciting? Will they be the Olympic champions?

    What are the chances of Brazell being in the squad?

    • rugbyamerica1
      January 26, 2010

      Glad you liked the article. With Sevens being such a hot topic I find myself covering more and more of it. Something tells me that is only going to increase in the future.

      Barring injury, I think there is a very good chance Brazell will make the squad for Wellington and Las Vegas. Actually, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t. The buzz that he has created around the world of Sevens can help on so many levels for the program. Plus, he showed pretty well in Fiji especially in the tackle and how a player handles themselves in contact is just one of those things that can be only coached so much. Either you can handle the physicality or you can’t.

      Caravelli has also decided to take the “kid gloves” off when dealing with cross-over athletes. Either they sink or swim and the only way to find out is to throw them in the fire. He handled Leonard Peters in a similar fashion and Peters was up to the task. He has now become a vital part of the team.

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This entry was posted on January 25, 2010 by in Club Sevens.
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