The Otaki School, just up the road from Wellington, was selected to represent the USA Eagles at the Rippa World Cup. Rippa Rugby, the equivalent of flag football, is played throughout the country.
This year the organizers decided to mirror the Rugby World Cup 2011 and hosted a nationwide competition. Year Six boys and girls from Otaki were to represent the USA, and boy did they take their job seriously. When Ambassador David Huebner swung by for a visit last week, the whole school came out to greet him and performed a passionate powhiri, a welcoming ceremony. It was quite overwhelming. (You can read about the fantastic welcome they gave Ambassador Huebner here.)
The two-day tournament took place in Auckland. The first day the teams played the same teams the USA Eagles will face in September: Ireland, Russia, Australia and Italy. The Otaki team had the perfect start, thrashing Ireland (the team from Ashburton) 40-5. They may then have rested on their laurels a little, going down to three defeats.
We prefer to think they were just resting up for the second day. Whatever they did worked. The Otaki Mini Eagles came out fighting, beating South Africa and England and tying Canada to put a nice gloss onto their tournament.
In the end, the competition was all about sportsmanship and fun, but as the ambassador said, if we’d had the choice, we would have picked Otaki. It is a remarkable school filled with students full of passion, tenacity and fight. Well done, young Eagles. You did us proud.
By: Dallen Stanford, USA Rugby
Glendale, Colo. – Eagles Head Coach, Eddie O’Sullivan, has named his best possible squad for the Canada encounter set to take place at BMO Field in Toronto on Saturday.
“It’s important that we get a solid start to this August tour, with the Rugby World Cup (RWC) only weeks away. The squad has switched on right from the start, and realize that their RWC campaign is in their hands,” said O’Sullivan.
The 35-man Eagles squad arrived in Glendale on Sunday, July 31, hitting the ground running with two-a-day sessions on both Monday and Tuesday.
“Some players were not available during the Churchill Cup, so this is our first real opportunity to work those combinations that will allow us to achieve our goals,” explained the Head Coach.
The 22-man traveling squad will depart for Toronto on Thursday morning, looking to start their RWC campaign on a high note.
Canada are currently ranked 16th on the IRB World Rankings, one place ahead of the United States. Next week the Eagles will host Canada at Infinity Park on Saturday, August 13, after which the squad will travel to Tokyo to take on Japan on Sunday, August 21.
Two players that are not available for this upcoming match include veteran fullback Chris Wyles and Highlanders winger James Paterson. Wyles is nursing an ankle problem, and Paterson is continuing his rehabilitation.
“We need to give both Chris and James time to get back to full health,” added O’Sullivan.
The Eagles are led by the outstanding Todd Clever, with hard working Louis Stanfill (flank) and Nic Johnson (8th man) completing the loose forwards. In the tight five, the experienced props Mate Moeakiola and Shawn Pittman will look to dominate up front. Phillip Thiel – one of Life University’s standouts – starts at hooker.
45 Days to Go!
Wellington is girding itself for the arrival of the Sevens Tournament. More than one wag has referred to the Sevens Weekend as Wellington’s Mardi Gras. There are even beads.
The tournament, in which the United States is participating, will be held Feb. 4 and Feb. 5 at Westpac Stadium. It’s the third of eight IRB Sevens World Series events.
Those are just the boring details, though. The Sevens attract about 30,000 visitors every year and, let’s say, it can get a little wild. There are even cheerleaders. To view their routines, some of which are a little unfortunate, you can check here. Many of the visitors dress up – flamboyantly. Action heroes, cartoon characters, nurses, Smurfs, mullets, doctors with portable IV-drips (probably with life-saving nectar in them) and everything in between can be seen on the streets of this fair city.
The whole town basically disintegrates into a fancy dress party occasionally interrupted by Rugby games – except when New Zealand is playing. Then it gets serious. (New Zealand has won the IRB Sevens Series more than anyone else, and the New Zealanders take their Rugby, including the Sevens, very seriously.) Even those who don’t have tickets to the games dress up and head into the entertainment district.
Apparently there is alcohol involved.
Oh, yeah, back to the Rugby. This year the United States is in Pool A, with England, Wales and the Cook Islands. It’s a difficult group. Not that there’s such a thing, really, as an easy game in Sevens: It’s the great equalizer format. Normal Rugby has 15 players. With less than half that, Sevens relies much more on speed. The defending champions are Fiji.
The United States team will be arriving at the end of January for training. They’re hoping to have a couple of scrimmage games. Perhaps even one against the Kiwis. We’ll post pictures and interviews.
Adrian Pratt, U.S. Embassy, Wellington
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
DUBAI – USA Men’s Sevens lost its two second round games at the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens in the United Arab Emirates, but coach Al Caravelli is happy with the way his team is finding its shape.
Having advanced to the quarter finals of the first tournament of eight in the renamed HSBC Sevens World Series, USA earned their first log points, something that had taken them four tournaments last year.
“We played some good rugby and because of our recent history with Hong Kong I’d give our participation here a pass,” said Caravelli.
“We want to finish in the top ten and these six points are a good start.”
TBLISI, Georgia – The Eagles narrowly missed out on a sweep of their 2010 test matches in a nail-biter against Georgia. It was a physical and close encounter between the USA and hosts Georgia, with a vibrant crowd of 35,000 packed into National Stadium in Tbilisi. The Eagles looked like they would stave off Georgia, but a last minute Georgian try and conversion pulled the home team ahead with a final score of 17-19.
Eagles Head Coach Eddie O’Sullivan knew that the American defense was solid and physical. Against Georgia, the Eagles employed an all out tactical blitz. O’Sullivan’s Eagles kept the Georgians guessing in all aspects of the game, especially on attack.
A versatile group of loose forwards, Todd Clever, Inaki Basauri, and Louis Stanfill, popped around the scrums and line outs, never letting the Georgians get a good read on the American set-piece. The American pack would keep the Georgians off-rhythm at line outs as well and were dictating pace in all aspects of forward play.