After losing to Wales in the Bowl quarterfinal, the USA Eagles slipped down to compete for the Shield. In the semi-final they were unable to overcome Scotland, falling 14-12, despite having a one-man advantage for almost the last two minutes. Even with Roland Suniula’s two tries against Scotland, the Eagles will go home bitterly disappointed at being winless in Wellington.
Wales put the USA out of competition for the Bowl in the quarter-finals by 10-0. The Eagles haven’t won a game in Wellington and will be very disappointed with their performance. Coach Al Caravelli had hoped for more. The Eagles will now compete forthe Shield a little later in the day.
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.
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.
After a rough start to the first day – a 21-12 loss to England and 36-5 thrashing by Wales – the U.S. Eagles did enough in the last game to qualify for a Bowl quarterfinal appearance. In that game, the Eagles broke away from a plucky Cook Island team to win 19-14.
Day Two did not begin well, with the U.S. falling to Scotland and being dropped to the Shield contest – and a date against their arch-rival Canada. But the Eagles looked like they were finally gelling, beating Canada and then France in the final of the Shield competition.
The silverware should give the Eagles some good confidence as they head to the Los Vegas Sevens and a potentially massive NBC TV audience, something that has never before happened. The Eagles acquitted themselves well in Wellington and were popular with the fans.
Thousands of Wellingtonians came out to cheer on the participants of the IRB Sevens tournament. The U.S. Eagle team was serenaded not only by their own Beyonce-tribute cheerleaders, but also by a group of Welsh supporters from New Zealand who sang the Stars and Stripes. Yeah, it was that kind of day.
The lunch-time parade wound its way through the Central Business District as thousands of office workers watched on, cheered and applauded.
The 12-man U.S. team was on a float that boasted a Statue of Liberty. The English team was escorted by a spooky person dressed up as the Queen who drove along in an old London cab waving regally. The New Zealanders were fronted by a Waka on wheels – a traditional Maori canoe (except for the wheels) – with a dozen rowers. There was a random Elvis impersonator. Of course there was an Elvis impersonator.
The cheerleaders for each team had been selected through a popular-vote competition. At the parade they were again vying for votes – singing or chanting the number for people to text with their support. The USA Single Ladies were even handing out business cards, vowing to “get the whole stadium off their seats and getting down with our crew!” Them’s fighting words.
The only brief flutter of tension arose when the Braveheart-bedecked Scottish entourage were hailed as being from Wales. They didn’t like that.
Though rain had threatened all morning, the parade and the thousands of spectators were treated to glorious sunshine. The martial, rhythmic sounds of drums and bagpipes swirled in the air. Gymnasts and dancers twirled. The crowd, lined three deep, cheered as the teams threw candy, beads and trinkets. Every team was applauded, every fan, it seemed – even the ones on balconies – was waved at.
The celebration of so many cultures, with good-natured energy, was just the warm-up act. The lunch-time crowd were all in their civilian clobber. Tomorrow they bust out the costumes.
By Adrian Pratt, U.S. Embassy, Wellington
To view more photos visit the U.S. Embassy’s FlickR page.
“What are you going as?” is the first question out of people’s mouth these days in Wellington as the IRB Sevens tournament comes to town.
I’m apparently meeting two Troy Polamalus – friends from the Pacific islands dressing up as the legendary Pittsburgh Steeler strong safety – and an Uncle Sam.
The annual tournament – played here since 1999 – is the town’s excuse to go a little wild. More than 30,000 people come to Wellington for the tournament and even those without tickets head downtown in costume to let their hair down – or to don a wig.
“Wellington, if I had to describe it to anyone that didn’t know, I would explain it as if there’s a rock concert going on and all of a sudden someone decides to play a game of Rugby,” said U.S. captain Matt Hawkins. “It’s awesome. There’s no vibe like Wellington. The city’s awesome. The people are awesome.”
The two-day tournament features teams from 16 countries. The U.S. first faces England on Feb. 4, the first of their three games that day. Their tournament involvement begins with a multi-nation parade through the streets of Wellington.
The U.S. Eagle has had some success in Wellington, having gone to the cup twice and, last year, winning the shield. They’ve had big upset wins over Fiji, England and Samoa – and are hoping for more of the same.
“Wellington is almost as good as being home,” said U.S. Coach Al Caravelli. “So I like our second home here in Wellington.”
The Rugby is important, but so is the atmosphere. “Wellington really comes to life this time of the year,” said Roland Suniula.”
“We miss seing our Borat costume,” chimed in his brother, and fellow Eagle, Shalom.
Swimwear. Anyone who’s seen the Borat movie will know what that means. The Wellington Sevens rules describing permissible costumes no longer allow that type of attire. Shalom may be the only person sad about that. Then again, maybe not.
Adrian Pratt, U.S. Embassy, Wellington