If it wasn’t quite apple pie and motherhood, it was the next best thing: hot dogs, kids and cheerleaders.
Oh, and there were cute dogs with Stars and Stripes flags.
The USA Sevens rugby team arrived in Wellington this week for the two-day festival that is as much about fancy dress costumes as sports. Still, the Eagles have won the Shield here the last two years in a row and Coach Al Caravelli said he is hoping to do better this year – he’s sensing an upset, he said.
The U.S. is in a tough opening-day pool, with England, South Africa and the Cook Islands. The Eagles will play the first game of the tournament at 1 p.m. on Friday.
But Monday it was all about getting to know the team. The event was open to the public and kids from all over Wellington showed up for the lunchtime event. The Eagles played touch rugby and had foot races with anybody – young, old or cheerleader. They signed autographs and just hung out with anyone who wanted a chat.
They also met the Eaglelites, the group of cheerleaders from Wanganui who will be trying to get the crowd at Westpac Stadium fired up for the Eagles during the games and on Thursday’s parade through the streets of Wellington.
Hot dogs and sodas were provided to all comers. The Eagles stuck around until every kid had fallen exhausted to the ground after all-out touch rugby games under the (for once) hot sun of Wellington and every autograph had been signed.
Next up is the parade of nations that takes place on Thursday. All 16 participating teams will take to the streets of Wellington on floats and give out various goodies to the huge crowds. Then, on Friday, it’s down to the serious business of rugby.
After three rounds of the nine-round IRB Sevens series, the Eagles are in 11th place out of 21 competing teams. They are on 17 points and need to up their game if they are to be serious competitors for a medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The team enjoys their time in Wellington, they said, and will have to knock off either South Africa or England in the first round to amass some serious points here. After Wellington, the tournament moves to Las Vegas for the USA Sevens next weekend.
By Jarrod Beckstrom, USA Rugby
CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Twenty national team players and prospects will arrive in camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. on Friday January 20, 2012 to prepare for the New Zealand and USA legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
With the announcement in November 2011 that 15 national team players would receive full-time training contracts, the structure of the first camp of 2012 varies from previous team assemblies.
A core group of contracted players are joined by a ‘taxi squad’ during pre-tournament camps. Any combination of full-time and taxi squad players can be named to the 12-player squad that represents the USA in international competitions.
Ten of the 12 players selected for the first three legs of the World Series in Australia, Dubai, and South Africa are all at camp, providing experience to a number of newcomers to camp. Veterans Mark Bokhoven, Mike Palefau, and Matt Hawkins provide experience and leadership to a very young camp roster.
All-American and Davenport University standout, J.P. Eloff, will be in camp after an impressive club sevens season with the Chicago Lions. Eloff is the younger brother of former Eagle and Rugby World Cup veteran, Phillip Eloff.
Former Junior All-American (JAA) Apelu So’oalo of the Hawaiian club the Kalihi Raiders will join the camp as well. So’oalo scored a crucial try for the JAAs in the 2011 Junior World Rugby Trophy in the USA’s win over Zimbabwe. In August 2011, So’oalo earned All-Star honors and helped the SoCal Griffins win the 2011 All-Star Sevens National Championship in August.
Schyulkill River standout Greg Ambrogi will be in camp after recovering from an injury sustained in the 2011 Men’s Club Sevens National Championship after a collision with fellow USA camper Maka Unufe.
Unufe debuted for the USA in the 2011 Pan American Games, but missed out on the first three stops on the HSBC Sevens World Series. Unufe’s Pan Am teammate, Rocco Mauer, also missed the first three stops of the Series.
Blaine Scully and Roland Suniula return to the squad after injury ruled them out of the November camp and the first three World Series events.
USA MEN’S EAGLE SEVENS CAMP | JANUARY 20-27, 2012
Garrett Bender (Minneapolis, Minn.)
Tai Enosa (San Diego, Calif.)
Colin Hawley (Trowbridge, Calif.)
Rocco Mauer (Cleveland, Ohio)
Folau Niua (East Palo Alto, Calif.)
Blaine Scully (Sacramento, Calif.)
Roland Suniula (Boston, Mass.)
Shalom Suniula (San Diego, Calif.)
Zack Test (Palo Alto, Calif.)
Peter Tiberio (Naperville, Ill.)
Maka Unufe (Provo, Utah)
Greg Ambrogi (Schyulkill River; Havertown, Pa.)
Mark Bokhoven (Denver Barbarians; Ames, Iowa)
Miles Craigwell (Old Puget Sound Beach; Boston, Mass.)
Andrew Durutalo (Old Puget Sound Beach; Seattle, Wa.)
Jean Pierre Eloff (Davenport University; Pretoria, South Africa)
Matthew Hawkins (Belmont Shore; San Diego, Calif.)
Nese Malifa (Glendale; Glendale, Colo.)
Mike Palefau (Utah Warriors; Salt Lake City, Utah)
Apelu So’oalo (Kalihi Raiders; Honolulu, Hawaii)
With the Wellington Sevens just around the corner, check out some of the players that are likely to come to New Zealand in February:
The USA has climbed the world rankings in sevens, and continues to compete with the best teams in the world. The team travels all over the world for the HSBC Sevens World Series, including South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom.
Every year the USA hosts a leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series, where the best men’s sevens teams in the world battle it out for the annual Sevens World Series Championship. The USA has been included as a World Series stop since 2003, marking the first time the U.S. ever hosted an official IRB-sanctioned international sevens tournament. With a worldwide TV audience and 16 national teams converging annually in the U.S., the USA Sevens promises to boost rugby’s profile within North America.
The USA Men’s Sevens Team is coached by Al Caravelli. In 2006-2007, the U.S. program really started evolving into the Team we see today, winning the Cup and going undefeated at the Bangkok Sevens in 2006 and winning the Shield trophy at USA Sevens. Those successes, as well as the overall record of the team, prompted the IRB to promote the USA to become a core member of the IRB Sevens Series.
In October 2009, the sport of Sevens Rugby was selected, along with golf, to be included in the Olympic lineup for the Games in 2016. Watch the U.S. Men’s Sevens Teams as they build a winning team for those Games.
GUADALAJARA, Mexico – It was the most mixed of bags for the USA Eagles, as they notched up a win, a tie, and a loss on the first day of the 2011 Pan-American Games.
This means the Eagles Sevens will proceed out of pool play as the second seed and will face Guyana in the quarterfinals.
First day play saw the U.S. team beat Chile, tie Brazil and go down to Canada, despite leading at half-time.
- USA Rugby
Dartmouth received the kickoff and were brilliant in their patience. Nick Downer burst through from his own 22 for a half-break that put Big Green on the front foot and they simply worked their way down the field, making small inroads, consolidating on the ruck, and working again.
More on their results here.
Reigning DI national champion Army is now the closest thing the country has to a women’s collegiate 7s champion, having put away Penn State 14-5 in the USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championship title match.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Army captain Jess Sexauer (seen hoisting the trophy in photo right) said. “Our program is so new that it’s crazy to come so far so soon. We’re graduating 10 seniors this year, so next year will be a change, but this was our year. It was one of our goals from the beginning of the year. We knew both national championships were doable.” More on their amazing story here.
Dartmouth vs. Army Highlights:
Hulu.com Coming soon!
Video Courtesy of NBC Sports and USA 7s
When the IRB Sevens tournament moves to Las Vegas this weekend, it will be a coming-out party of sorts for Rugby in the United States.
Now that the American Football season is over with last week’s Super Bowl, the NBC network has decided to program about 15 hours of live Rugby. A first. A big first.
All of the Eagles Rugby World Cup games will also be broadcast back home. The U.S. Sevens team, during their recent visit to Wellington, were all buzzing about what this unprecedented TV exposure could mean for the sport.
“It’s huge for us,” said Captain Matt Hawkins. “It really gets our name out there. It creates awareness for Rugby.”
Of course, the players also know that it will be important for them to perform well. Their second-day performance in Wellington, when they beat both Canada and France to win the shield, will have given them a good boost. Everyone involved with U.S. Rugby is hoping the paly will do the same for NBC’s ratings. Building a buzz around the sport is the quickest way to bring new talent to the game.
GEORGE, South Africa- There is no such thing as an easy pool in the HSBC Sevens World Series, but there is definitely a particularly difficult one, and that is what the USA team found out when they squared-off with Pool B opponents Samoa and Fiji. But flashes of brilliance and determined grit landed the Eagles in the Emirates Airline South Africa 7s Bowl quarterfinals against France.
Unfortunately, that’s as far as it went for the U.S. The next day they lost to both France and Zimbabwe by the identical scores of 19-17.
The Eagles didn’t take a backwards step in the opening match against defending world champions Samoa. Instead, the Eagles scored after 25 seconds through East Palo Alto center, Mile Pulu. Two minutes later Eagle skipper, Matt Hawkins, led by example and dotted down another score, leaving Samoa scratching their collective head and finding themselves down ten points early.
The Samoans answered back before halftime and carried the momentum through the first five minutes of the second half, scoring four unanswered tries. It was USA newbies Nu’u Punimata and Miles Craigwell who brought the USA within three points of the biggest upset of the South Africa 7s. The two crossover athletes heeded USA Head Coach Al Caravelli’s favorite mantra “Empty the Tank” and throttled their way to two USA tries late in the match. In the end, missed conversions cost the USA the game, with a final score of 24-22.
Scrumhalf Shalom Suniula’s phenomenal handling skill and Craigwell’s physicality in the Samoa match garnered the attention of the commentators with a nice finish by Punimata. The Eagles earned a “Play of the Day” highlight produced by the IRB (http://tinyurl.com/2cz3gox).
After emptying the tank against one island giant, the Eagles were in Fiji’s sights for the USA’s second pool matchup of day one. Pulu struck for the USA early, scoring the only American points of the match after only 17 seconds of play. Knock ons and missed tackles sealed the fate of the Americans and the match ended with a lopsided 43-5 score line in favor of Fiji.
A loss is a loss, but the Eagles played Samoa tough and had real flashes of brilliance against excellent competition, showing the promise of this young Eagles team. The USA also hung with rugby powerhouse New Zealand in what started out as a close match last weekend in Dubai. With every tournament, the young squad is getting better and more experienced, an asset for the USA in both the near and short terms.
PULU POWERS ON
Rugby sevens is the ultimate team sport, but when a player is on a streak like Mile Pulu is on, it’s definitely worth noting. Pulu has scored seven tries so far in the Sevens World Series, with at least one try in every game. It’s safe to say Caravelli is glad Mile came along with the USA for the first two stops of the Series.
- Jarrod Beckstrom, USA RUGBY