Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
BOULDER, Colo. – USA Men’s Sevens coach, Al Caravelli, has named three player pools for the 2011-2012 international rugby sevens season: a pool for the 2011 Pan-Am Games; a pool for the 2011-2012 HSBC Sevens World Series; and a developmental squad.
The final Pan-Am squad will be named on Oct. 21 and the traveling team for the World Series tournaments will be announced prior to the team’s departure for those tournaments.
In Caravelli’s fifth year as head coach of Team USA, he has developed a system and network of scouts to identify talent coming through the ranks. Those scouting reports paired with Caravelli’s first-hand evaluations all play into selection. From May to August, Caravelli has scoured sevens tournaments and qualification events for the men’s club and all-star national championships that took place in August to monitor player form and work to identify which players will be invited to a camp.
Changes to USA Rugby eligibility regulations allowed Caravelli to look at more players in this year’s sevens competitions, specifically the rule change that allows college players to join competitive men’s club sevens teams without affecting collegiate eligibility.
The Pan-Am and HSBC Sevens World Series pools are very similar, with only a few additional players included in the latter. “The combination of the three pools is where we will draw players from to compete in this year’s Sevens World Series,” Caravelli said.
The developmental pool consists of players who are on the cusp of breaking into the international ranks. Continued exposure to the Olympic training environment will allow these players, who are going to be based in San Diego, a chance to adapt to that environment and continue to work on skills at team assemblies. With the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., approximately 25 minutes from San Diego, these athletes would have access to world-class training facilities and would be able to participate in Team USA camps.
“If we could get as many players as possible to move to San Diego that would be a big shot in the arm for the national program. It would enable us to train every day after everyone’s workday. Even if we only train for an hour a day it would be great. We all know it’s a big life-changing decision but one of several we will need to make if we are to succeed,” Caravelli said.
A group of collegiate players have played their way onto Caravelli’s radar and will join camps and possibly HSBC Sevens World Series tours as their academic schedules allow. Caravelli recognizes the value in giving players experience at the highest level during their collegiate careers.
“This has worked well for us in the past with student-athletes. Players like Blaine Scully, Colin Hawley, Steve St. Pierre, Ryan Roundy, Taylor Mokate, and Peter Tiberio have been able to join the national team while enrolled in college. Two other players who haven’t made the national team as of yet, Don Pati and Rocco Mauer, have also attended camps during the academic year and they continue to grow as athletes.”
Last year both Tiberio and Mokate were able to travel to Hong Kong and Adelaide as that leg of the Series coincided with their respective spring breaks.
Caravelli tends to select a handful of collegiate-level players ready to compete at the international level to the London and Scotland World Series tournaments in May as the academic year is over for most college kids.
The 2011 Pan-American Games are the first challenge on the men’s sevens schedule. The two-day tournament will be the USA’s first taste of Olympic-style rugby with the Pan-Am Games structure mirroring that of the 2016 and 2020 Olympics. The main feature of that format is that it awards 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, that is, it doesn’t have a plate, bowl, or cup as the World Series does. Day one sees teams play their pool opponents for seeding on day two. Day two is the playoffs, with teams competing outside their pool and vying for gold, silver, and bronze.
The recent All-Star Sevens National Championships held in late August were played in that structure, giving players and Caravelli the chance to experience the Pan-Am Games format.
“I really want to thank the Club Strategic Committee and the Territorial Unions (TUs) along with their coaches for playing the All-Star Sevens tournament identical to the Pan-Am Games. I know it wasn’t an easy format, but it followed the (Pan-Am Games) structure to the tee and I again thank everyone involved,” Caravelli said, recognizing the efforts that territorial and local area unions have made to improving the quality of sevens rugby across the board.
Following the Pan-Am Games, the team will have a quick turnaround and return to camp on Nov. 11 to prepare for the HSBC Sevens World Series. In 2011-2012, the World Series will have nine tournaments, with the Tokyo Sevens adding another stop to the previous eight-tournament Series schedule. The first stop of the Series is now in the Gold Coast (Australia) in November with Dubai and Port Elizabeth (South Africa) making up the first leg of the tournament.
2011 Pan-Am Games Player Pool: Justin Boyd (Belmont Shore) Miles Craigwell (Old Puget Sound Beach) Paul Emerick (Life University) Tai Enosa (Belmont Shore) Colin Hawley (Olympic Club) Duncan Kelm (Belmont Shore) Nese Malifa (Glendale) Rocco Mauer (Chicago Lions)Folau Niua (San Francisco Golden Gate) Mike Palefau (Utah Warriors) James Patterson (Highlanders, New Zealand) Nu’u Punimata (Old Puget Sound Beach) Mile Pulu (East Palo Alto) Blaine Scully (At Large) Roland Suniula (Boston) Shalom Suniula (Belmont Shore) Zack Test (Unattached) Maka Unufe (Utah Warriors) Don Pati (Univ. of Utah)
Considered for Pan-Am but Currently Unavailable Due to Injury: Matt Hawkins (Belmont Shore) Mark Bokhoven (Denver Barbarians) Peter Tiberio (Chicago Lions) Taylor Mokate (University of Oklahoma) Alex Ross (Belmont Shore) Greg Ambrogi (Schuylkill River) Cameron Dolan (Life University) Ben Leatigaga (Army)
HSBC Sevens World Series Pool: Greg Ambrogi (Schuylkill River) Marco Barnard (At Large) Garrett Bender (Eastside Banshees) Mark Bokhoven (Denver Barbarians) Justin Boyd (Belmont Shore) Curtis Chaffin (Dallas Harlequins) Corey Council (Gentlemen of Aspen) Miles Craigwell (Old Puget Sound Beach) Cameron Dolan (Life University) Andrew Durutalo (Hakuoh University Rugby Club) JP Eloff (Davenport University) Paul Emerick (Life University) Tai Enosa (Belmont Shore) Matt Hawkins (Belmont Shore) Colin Hawley (Olympic Club) Bubba Jones (St. Mary’s College of California) Duncan Kelm (Belmont Shore) Garrett Lambert (Life University) Ben Leatigaga (Army) Nese Malifa (Glendale) Rocco Mauer (Chicago Lions) Taylor Mokate (Univ. of Oklahoma) Folau Niua (San Francisco Golden Gate) Mike Palefau (Utah Warriors) Don Pati (University of Utah)James Patterson (Highlanders) Nu’u Punimata (Old Puget Sound Beach) Mile Pulu (East Palo Alto) Alex Ross (Belmont Shore) Blaine Scully (At Large) Roland Suniula (Boston) Shalom Suniula (Belmont Shore) Apelu So’oalo (Marist Hawaii) Zack Test (Unattached) Peter Tiberio (Univ. of Arizona) Alipate Tuilevuka (Old Puget Sound Beach) Maka Unufe (Utah Warriors)
College Players Available as Schooling allows: J.P. Eloff (Davenport University) Don Pati (Univ. of Utah) Bubba Jones (St. Mary’s College of California) Curtis Chaffin (Dallas Harlequins) Garrett Lambert (Life University) Cameron Dolan (Life University)
Developmental Squad: Garrett Bender (Eastside Banshees) Luke Thiem (Chicago Lions) Apelu So’oalo (Marist Hawaii)Taylor Lanigan (Old Mission Bay Athletic Club) Corey Council (Gentlemen of Aspen)