Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
CHULA VISTA, Calif. – USA Rugby announced Wednesday the Men’s and Women’s Eagles Sevens Olympic Residency squads for 2014 at the Olympic Training Center.
Forty-three players have accepted contracts to train at the OTC full-time and utilize the high performance facilities offered by the United States Olympic Committee. With Rugby Sevens making its debut at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the Eagles are working to take the podium.
“As we head towards the Pan Am Games in 2015 and Olympic qualification we are continuing to develop the USA Rugby/USOC residency program at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego,” USA Rugby Chief Executive Officer and President of Rugby Operations Nigel Melville said. “We appreciate the support that the USOC are providing for us and will continue to build competitive men’s and women’s Eagles Sevens teams during the next 12 months.
“There are lots of new faces and increased athleticism and skillful players across the squads. The environment is positive, supportive and increasingly competitive.”
Both teams have kicked off their respective IRB Sevens World Series with “home” legs upcoming in the next 40 days. The men will be in action Jan. 24-26 at USA Sevens in Las Vegas, Nev., while the women will host the first Atlanta 7s at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University Feb. 15-16.
Matt Hawkins led the Men’s Eagles Sevens to three Plate Final appearances during the 2012-13 IRB HSBC Sevens World Series as a player, but this year he leads the team as head coach. So far, the Eagles sit 14th in the 2013-14 standings after the first three tournaments in Australia, Dubai and South Africa.
Players such as Zack Test and Folau Niua have been with the team for multiple Series circuits, but some will not be returning in favor of new faces. Hawkins will have 25 players at his disposal in Chula Vista, an increase from last year.
“We have a squad list of 25, which is great for us,” Hawkins said. “Normally we would have 15 guys. To have an extra 10 is phenomenal and it’s been a great effort from the administration to get that together.
“For all of the new guys, we’re expecting the same thing we expected from the guys who joined us four months ago. You’ve got to come in, get comfortable with the system, get to know what’s going on and start proving yourselves. We need to see where you are and what you can do as soon as possible. There’s no time to sit around and wait. Essentially, we’re looking to understand who you are and make you a complete rugby player in the sevens sense.”
Five athletes will join Hawkins’ squad as part of the World Class Athlete Program, which provides outstanding Armed Forces athletes with support and training to compete and succeed in national and international competitions and in the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Women’s Eagles Sevens finished fourth in the inaugural IRB Women’s Sevens World Series last year and finished each of the four legs of the Series (Dubai, Houston, Guangzhou, Amsterdam) in the top seven. A second-place finish at Houston 7s highlighted the Eagles’ rise to prominence on the circuit.
Despite a bronze-medal run at the IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 in Moscow, Russia, the Eagles’ Residency squad has a number of changes for 2014. Head coach Ric Suggitt has brought in a younger set of players who have come from the High Performance Pathway, as well as a few crossover athletes.
“As we prepare for this year, we must always remember the good work the previous players in Residency put into the program,” Suggitt said. “They helped establish the foundation and now it is up to the new group to shape this and make it even better.
“We have some brand new players like Jessica Javelet who are completely new to rugby who will add a new dimension to how we train and play. From our All-American program, we have players like Megan Bonny and Rebekah Siebach who have added speed and size. All are still very new to sevens but they are learning very quickly.”
Both the Men’s and Women’s Eagles 15s sides will be busy during the spring and summer, possibly pulling from some of the athletes at the OTC. Niua helped the Men’s Eagles win their final two matches of the November Tour and Megan Bonny and Jillion Potter could retain their spots with the Women’s Eagles as they prepare for the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 in France.
“At the end of the day, the best 12 guys are going to make the tour,” Hawkins said. “We’ll just have to see what they produce and go from there.”
Men’s Eagles Sevens | 2014 Residency Squad
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Coaching Staff
EZIA Human Performance – Strength and Conditioning
Men’s Eagles Sevens | Remaining 2013-14 IRB HSBC Sevens World Series Dates
Women’s Eagles Sevens | 2014 Residency Squad
Women’s Eagles Sevens | Coaching Staff
Women’s Eagles Sevens | Remaining 2013-14 IRB Women’s Sevens World Series Dates
About USA Rugby
Established in 1975, USA Rugby is the governing body for the sport of rugby in America and a Full Sport Member of the United States Olympic Committee. Currently headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, USA Rugby is charged with developing the game on all levels and has over 115,000 active members. USA Rugby oversees four national teams, multiple collegiate and high school All-American sides, and an emerging Olympic development pathway for elite athletes. It also hosts over 30 national playoff and championship events every year as a service to its members. In October 2009, the International Olympic Committee announced that Rugby Sevens (the seven-a-side version of the game) will appear in the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro. Visit www.usarugby.org for more information.