It’s been four months since the USA men’s 7s team played in an IRB World Series tournament, but they haven’t been idle.
The players have been in camp for a good portion of that time (along with some much-needed down time), and played in both the Serevi 7s in Glendale, Colo. (where they won) and the NACRA 7s (where they finished second to Canada).
That level of activity is in itself is a big deal.
“I have never gone into a World Series season with so much time together with the team, and with so much tournament experience,” said USA captain Shalom Suniula as he looks at the beginning of the team’s warmup for the Gold Coast. “We’ve been in the OTC for about a month now, and had a few days off. That time together just creates a ton of continuity. We’re just learning more and more about how each player plays.”
The Eagles came out of the NACRA 7s a little frustrated. They felt emotion had allowed them to get out of their game plan against Canada, and they struggled a little in contact. At the same time, they almost won the game – Luke Hume grabbed a tipped kickoff and was about to go in under the posts at the end of the match when the play was called back for a Zack Test knock-on. Test said later he never touched the ball; it was tipped backwards by a Canadian player.
“We just need to keep playing better and we can get the benefit of the doubt on some calls,” said Suniula.
The captain said he is seeing the younger players step up as leaders – Rocco Mauer and Maka Unufe, along with veterans such as Test and Colin Hawley.
“These guys are becoming leaders in part because they are here all the time,” he said. “We’ve got other guys coming in on occasion, which is good and helps the team as well.”
Those guys would be the likes of Mike Palefau and Luke Hume. Palefau may well have been the USA’s best player this past season, and he’s still in the mix despite living and working in Utah. Hume is new to the USA team, having sparkled for them in the two warmup tournaments.
“I am really excited to see how Luke performs in the World Series; I think he’s got all the tools to do well,” said Suniula.
Coming out of the NACRA 7s, USA Coach Alex Magleby said his team needed to be more forceful and smarter in contact. Suniula said that opinion has been translated into training.
“For the last four weeks, we’ve been doing almost nothing but contact,” he said. “I think we want to go in against Canada and surprise them. We’re putting a lot of effort into and I am excited to see how we do.”