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)
The Wellington Rugby Sevens Tournament is right around the corner! Amidst all the fun, excitement, and costumes, we’re taking a moment to welcome the players – namely the USA Eagles Sevens team. And to do this we’re hosting a welcome event for anyone who would like to come wish the guys luck, get a photo taken, and maybe even toss the ball around a bit. If you’re going to be in Wellington come on over to Anderson Park, in the Wellington Botanic Gardens, from 1-3pm on Monday, January 30th to welcome this year’s team to the city.
There will be free food!
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.
USA Sevens Captain Matt Hawkins talks about how he came to the States from his native South Africa and why he thinks the addition of Sevens Rugby to the Olympics could spawn a huge interest in the sport in the United States. He recently spoke to the U.S. Embassy at the team’s Evans Bay training ground before the Wellington Sevens tournament.