The players on the USA 7s team in Hong Kong know they can win games.
They have been right there, leading or tied late, only to see many of those matches slip away. This weekend at the biggest 7s tournament in the world, they can’t afford to let the games slip away. Captain Matt Hawkins knows this.
“I think the guys came out of Las Vegas with a lot of frustration,” Hawkins told RUGBYMag.com. “So many of the games were really close. We looked at those games, we knew that they were winnable. Now we look at what we’re facing in the next two tournaments and what we need to do in the Series – we’re excited about our pool and feel we match up with those teams. We have expectations.”
So much has come down to close games, it seems there has to be something more than just simple execution. Head Coach Alex Magleby is known to track the ancestry of mistakes and issues within the team – if a player commits a holding-on penalty, was that his mistake, or the mistake of players in support, or the mistake of the teammate who passed to him in isolation? It is, as they say, a rich tapestry.
For Hawkins, there is an emotional aspect, too.
“Look at our game against Spain in Las Vegas,” he explained. “We knew going in we needed to win by 14 to make it to the Quarterfinals. We went into that game with the mind-set that we would win, and we’d win by a certain amount. Carlin [Isles] made two great plays to get us up 10-7, but then we played some really good team rugby to finish that game off.”
The difference between that game and the close losses to Samoa and Canada was the mental approach.
“Our attitude was, we’re going to win, not, let’s hope we win,” Hawkins said. “Overall, we’re playing some really good rugby. We have a great squad of guys. But what we need to do is go into every game with the mind-set we had for that game against Spain.”