Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
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.
In if Healthy
On the Bubble
Maybe Next Time