Having arrived in the USA a full day earlier than everyone except the South Africans, the USA men’s 7s team has an extra night to relax, rest up, and prepare for the USA 7s in Las Vegas.
Despite the fact the team finished 0-4-1, Head Coach Alex Magleby is not discouraged, and said he saw some things he liked, including some fight in the players.
“I thought Matt Hawkins and Zack Test toughed it out really well,” said the coach. “Zack is still a young guy, but he is becoming a leader and realizing he just needs to let his actions speak for him. I was proud of him this weekend. Matt is the leader of the team and did a great job.”
Jack Halalilo continues to show improvement, but he and the other forwards will have some competition for spots as Andrew Durutalo and Blaine Scully continue to come back from injury. Scully made a couple of early errors – “I think he just wanted to get his first hit in” said Magleby of one ill-advised decision to steamroll an opponent rather than give the pass – but he also made some superb plays, such as the try-saving tackle against England.
There will be plenty of competition, then, among the forwards for playing time.
In the backs, Magleby has some issues. Nick Edwards has yet to truly assert himself. His style of play fits in with Magleby’s confrontational style, but the players are not working together well. Luke Hume is a dangerous and exciting attacker, and improving on defense, but when he goes off on his own, he is often isolated – whether that’s a symptom of Hume not looking for support, or his support not looking for him remains to be proved. It’s probably both.
Folau Niua struggled in Wellington. He is coming off two knee surgeries and doesn’t quite have the spring in his step yet. It is up to Niua to identify space wide and exploit it, but it doesn’t seem like he and Hume are on the same page yet – it could be that Shalom Suniula, now coming on as a late sub, has something to contribute here.
And Carlin Isles was a weapon not used to his potential in Wellington. Certainly defenses were keying on him, but the problem was the USA players were paying him little mind at all. He can't score if he doesn't touch the ball.
But the biggest issue is goalkicking. Magleby acknowledged that he is concerned about the goalkicking. Niua was 2-10 on the weekend, and suffered through a frustrating Shield semifinal against Wales when the USA scored three unconverted tries and lost by two.
“It’s a team game,” said Magleby. “There were several things we could have done better to win those games.”
That is true, but better goalkicking alone could have made for two wins, instead of a loss and a tie.
Magleby said Niua’s issues were a matter of confidence, and that he has to relax a little, do what comes naturally, and not try to change too much.
That may actually be the formula for the team as a whole.