BOULDER, Colo. – USA Men’s Sevens Head Coach, Al Caravelli, is a happy camper. When the Eagles’ May training camp begins Monday at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Chula Vista, Calif., he expects to see the highest level of competition for spots on a traveling squad he has seen since taking the helm of the program five years ago.
The team will train this week and depart for the UK on May 16 to compete in the last two legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Edinburgh (May 21-22) and London (May 28-29).
“Usually at this stage of the Series we take an inexperienced, newer team to London and Scotland. But with several players returning from injury, we will have an experienced and talented squad,” Caravelli said.
Coming back from injury are Nese Malifa, Mile Pulu, Nu’u Punimata and Rocco Mauer. Pulu was on an absolute tear in the series before injury, cutting up strong defenses, averaging a try per game and was among the top try-scorers in the tournament.
Though key players are back, their absence led the coach to select a few young players on the Hong Kong and Adelaide squad, giving the newbies valuable experience and an opportunity to impress Caravelli on the international stage.
The team struggled a bit in Hong Kong, but in Adelaide the Eagles powered their way to a Bowl final where they defeated Kenya to bring home some hardware and some Series points. With positive momentum and a wealth of talent to choose from, Caravelli is almost spoiled for choice.
“Competition will be fierce for all positions,” Caravelli noted, “Just look at the half backs: Marco [Barnard], Shalom [Suniula], Nese [Malifa], Tai [Enosa], Pete [Tiberio] and Zach Pangelinan.”
While the talent at the May camp is remarkable, the versatility of several players enables Caravelli considerable flexibility in selection.
“The really nice thing is that several players can play multiple positions for example: [Paul] Emerick can play center, wing, prop and hooker. Hawley can play hooker, prop, fly half, center and wing.
At center, Roland [Suniula], Mile [Pulu] and Mike Palefau are competing for spots. Mike [Palefau] can play wing as well and so can Mile [Pulu].”
Three players with pace and physicality are competing for spots on the wing: Justin Boyd, Rocco Mauer, and Miles Craigwell. In the forwards, Zack Test, Colin Hawley, Todd Clever, Nu’u Punimata, and Cameron Dolan will be battling for inclusion on the traveling squad.
Dolan is the greenest of the bunch, but Caravelli rates the Life eight man and has been tracking him since he was an Under-17.
Ten players invited to this camp will have trained for almost two straight weeks at the OTC when the team is selected as they took part in a camp for the Eagles fifteens squad last week in the build up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
USA EAGLE SEVENS PLAYER POOL
Marco Barnard (Pretoria Harlequins), Justin Boyd (Frisco Griffins), Miles Craigwell (NYAC), Paul Emerick (Life), Tai Enosa (Belmont Shore), Matt Hawkins (Belmont Shore), Colin Hawley (Olympic Club), Nese Malifa (Glendale), Rocco Mauer (Bowling Green), Mike Palefau (Utah Warriors), Mile Pulu (San Francisco Golden Gate), Roland Suniula (Boston), Shalom Suniula (Pearl City), Zack Test (At Large), Peter Tiberio (Univ. of Arizona), Nu’u Punimata (Old Puget Sound Beach), Cameron Dolan (Life) Todd Clever (Suntory, Japan), Zach Pangelinan (Old Mission Bay Athletic Club)