Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
by Ted Hardy
After a weeklong camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., the USA Men’s Sevens team has been selected for the last two stops of the HSBC Sevens World Series in London on May 21-22 and Edinburgh on May 28-29.
An up and down season for the squad looks to finish strong which is a contrast to recent seasons when the USA 7’s team finished the final leg of the World Series with largely experimental lineups filled with collegiate talent. Team USA Head Coach Al Caravelli has picked perhaps the best USA team chosen for the final two tournaments.
Bolstered by the availability of experienced and talented players, Caravelli has depth, talent and experience in the squad. Of the twelve players selected to represent the USA, only one is making his debut on the HSBC World Series.
That player being Cameron Dolan, the dominant eight man for Life University’s College Premier Division side. Dolan has come up through the age-grade system for the USA and has been on Caravelli’s radar since he was an Under-17 player.
“Cam is a unique kind of player. He’s a true forward with the speed of a back. I’m excited to see him break onto the international scene,” Caravelli said of the 21 year-old Dolan.
Mike Palefau and Nese Malifa are back in top form according to their coach, and their considerable experience and expertise will be an asset to the team, if in limited capacity as they transition back to international rugby.
The last time Malifa was with the squad was last year in Adelaide, when the USA played in its first-ever Cup final in Adelaide after beating England, Wales and Argentina. Malifa’s playmaking ability, kicking, and leadership has been sorely missed this season.
Palefau returns to the squd having not played with Team USA since 2009.
The team is led by captain Matt Hawkins once again and he’s accompanied by the usual company in this year’s Series: Paul Emerick, Shalom Suniula, Zack Test, Miles Craigwell, Tai Enosa (returning after missing out in Hong Kong and Adelaide), Colin Hawley, and Roland Suniula.
All but four of the players named to the traveling squad were at the USA fifteens pre-Rugby World Cup domestic camp from May 4-8th at the Olympic Training Center, the exceptions being Hawkins, Craigwell, Dolan and Boyd.
Test and Emerick have 20 and 15 tries in the Series so far, respectively, putting them among the elite try-scorers in the Series.
The Eagles have tough opponents in both London and Edinburgh, including host nations England and Scotland at home.
In England the USA faces England, Argentina, and France in pool play. All of which are teams that the USA have beaten in recent seasons. The key games for Team USA in London will be Argentina and France. Argentina has steadily secured points on the series this season, but is far from dominant and the USA has had their number in recent years. France has struggled for most of the season, but always seems to play the USA tough.
Team USA needs victories over both squads if they want to move onto the Cup Round and secure coveted HSBC World Series points.
Team USA faces a far greater task in Scotland as they are pooled with Samoa, Fiji, and hosts Scotland in Edinburgh.
USA Men’s Sevens Traveling Squad
Matthew Hawkins (Belmont Shore), Mike Palefau (Utah Warriors), Paul Emerick (Life), Shalom Suniula (Brisbane/USA Men’s Sevens), Miles Craigwell (NYAC), Nese Malifa (Glendale), Cameron Dolan (Life), Justin Boyd (Frisco Griffins), Tai Enosa (Belmont Shore), Colin Hawley (Olympic Club), Roland Suniula (Boston)