The USA 7s team took a day off on Thursday, with a Captain’s Run slated for Friday before the Gold Coast 7s this weekend (first game 9:58PM ET Friday night).
The day off comes after a less-than-perfect training session on Wednesday, where Head Coach Alex Magleby praised his team for their attitude, but not necessarily for their accuracy.
“Their legs didn't seem heavy [after the long travel] but [the session] just seemed heavy,” Magleby told RUGBYMag.com. “We weren't surgical, but that’s the reason you practice.”
This group should be accurate, given how much time they have spent together. But it’s also important to note that some of the players – Pete Dahl, Luke Hume, Mike Palefau, and Matt Hawkins specifically – aren't in residence.
The old excuse of not having enough time together is mostly irrelevant, but not entirely so.
“When you talk about coming up with the right combinations of players, I think with this group we just don’t know,” Magleby explained. “We have five guys who have never been on the circuit, and a lot of unknowns in terms of where guys are and where their performance level is.”
The team’s play on Day One against New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada, should dictate who gets to play on the second day. Hawkins said before the team left that South Africa is a team the Eagles often play really close, and Canada, he feels, should be beaten.
“That’s a game we have the capability of controlling,” he said. “We should beat them.”
But Magleby isn’t thinking in those terms.
“I don’t care about who we’re playing,” Magleby said. “There are certain tournaments where we would care and I have, but this one, I really don’t care. As we build this thing, let’s make sure we’ve got the right culture and the right game plan and the right guys, and prove to ourselves that we can take care of those things before we spend a lot of time worrying about what the other team is doing.”
So what is this team doing? Fitting all the pieces together.
“There are plenty of combinations we can do, especially with players who can play multiple positions,” explained the coach. “It will be interesting to see how guys respond and perform on Day One and how they grow. Some guys will play better with other guys, we know that, and we’ll find the right combinations.”
Look for Magleby to try to pair inexperienced players with the more experienced. So Brett Thompson might team up with Matt Hawkins or Zack Test. Mike Te’o will work with Shalom Suniula in the halfback hinge. Wing Carlin Isles will benefit from having Mike Palefau on his inside.
“We’re going to have to go through some growing pains,” said Magleby. “But we’re growing. And the connectivity and cohesion are things that now are the next step in our development.”