Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
The USA 7’s team closed out their best Dubai tournament ever with losses to Samoa and South Africa on Day 2 of the Dubai 7’s.
Despite losing their final two games at the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens in the United Arab Emirates, Head Coach Al Caravelli is happy with the way his team is finding its shape.
Having advanced to the quarter finals of the first tournament of eight in the renamed HSBC Sevens World Series, USA earned their first points of the season, something that had taken them four tournaments last year.
“We played some good rugby and because of our recent history with Dubai I’d give our participation here a pass,” said Caravelli.
“We want to finish in the top ten and these six points are a good start.”
USA, who had qualified for the Cup section after wins against Zimbabwe and Argentina in the opening day, faced stiffer opposition in Series defending champions Samoa and experienced South Africa. They struggled to contain two very good sides yet showed glimpses of good rugby in the 38-5 and 24-10 losses.
“We really didn’t play well in the first of two games and I told them a performance such as that against Samoa was not acceptable; they needed to be more physical. Although Samoa had raised their game, we had brought ours down.”
The team responded for their exit against South Africa. Again, in a losing performance, there was enough for Caravelli to be positive.
“I think some of my questions about the team were answered; despite not being able to have a warm-up tournament, we have some players that showed sufficient quality to take the game forward.”
Amongst those mentioned was captain Matt Hawkins. “He showed his leadership after the first day when he put high goals. I think he is one of the best scrummagers in the series.”
“Shalom Suniula had a great tournament as well. He is only 21 and has been around for two years; he is the new Nese Malifa of this team.”
Praise also went to crossover Miles Craigwell who until July, had never played rugby. A former defensive back with the Miami Dolphins, he scored a great individual try in his first tournament and could add a lot to the team.
“He made three great tackles against South Africa and showed that some of the football skills can be of great use in rugby,” added Caravelli.
A former free-safety, one of Craigwell’s tackles on a South African player resulted in time stoppage to get the player off the field.
“Some of this squad will move on; others will have to continue working on their rugby. But what we need as a team is to string together full performances throughout matches.”
With rugby’s inclusion in the Olympic Games from 2016, it is the unearthing of talent that will became an integral part of the road to Río de Janeiro 2016. “Way before that we have the Pan American Games in Mexico that will be of great importance to both us and the USOC.”
To round off, Caravelli made the goals for next week’s Emirates Airline South Africa 7s clear. “One of our goals for the year is to be consistent from tournament to tournament and that means we want to qualify, at least, for quarter-final in each one of them.”
Even acknowledging his team is playing in a pool with two of the most experienced sevens teams in the world Caravelli knows what he wants. “They raised my expectation. Not being in the top eight will be considered a failure.”
With a goal of cracking into the Top 8 teams on the IRB World Series standings, the USA has taken a big first step by securing points in the first tournament of the season.
Also, don’t forget that the USA 7’s team traditionally gets better with each passing tournament. If this is the starting point, there is alot to look forward to this season.