Matt Hawkins’ selections continue to be bold, as he’s made four changes from the team that went to Gold Coast, Australia for the IRB 7s World Series opener last month to the one he’s picked to play in Dubai Nov. 29-30. He’s brought in two Series veterans, Nu’u Punimata and Andrew Durutalo, and two Series rookies – Zac Mizell and Pono Haitsuka.
Mizell and Haitsuka are still college students, who are taking online classes while training at the Olympic Training Center. Mizell (Arkansas State) and Haitsuka (Oregon State) are versatile and could play multiple positions. Haitsuka can move anywhere in the backline, and Mizell can swing from hooker to the backline.
Mizell and Haitsuka join Brett Thompson, Pat Blair and Stephen Tomasin as current Eagles still in college or less than a few months out of school. Mizell makes the team having not been able to play with the Falcons in either the NACRA 7s or Coral Coast 7s, as he’s been recovering from injury. Haitsuka has been active with the Falcons.
Maybe the most significant choice made by Hawkins was the one to keep himself off the roster. By bringing in Punimata, who hasn’t played on the Series since the 2011/2012 season, Durutalo and Mizell, all of whom can or do play in the forwards, Hawkins made room for himself to just concentrate on coaching.
The Eagles open up pool play against Fiji before playing England and Canada.
Jack Halalilo, Tai Enosa, Ryan Matyas and Hawkins are the players who played in Gold Coast that were not selected for Dubai.