The Women’s 7s National All-Star Championships looms this weekend and it’s an important one. With the USA national 15s team at the World Cup, this marks the beginning of the USA 7s program’s drive to the 2013 7s World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
So for USA coach Ric Suggitt, there are some decisions to make, and perhaps having the 15s national team players away is a good thing.
“Anytime you get an opening to explore new players, well that is a positive,” Suggitt told RUGBYMag.com. “When players get an opportunity to train or play they should always make the most of it. NASC 7s is another opportunity.”
Suggitt will be in attendance scouting talent, looking for players who have what it takes to compete internationally.
“The first thing we will look for is attitude and character,” Suggitt said. “If we get that then anything is attainable. The next thing we are looking for is to see if the players are fit enough to play international 7s.”
And then there are skills. But pressed to list specific skills that he’d like to see at the NASC, Suggitt couldn’t settle on just one.
“My humble opinion after the camps and USA Invitational 7s is that we need to improve on all our fundamentals,” he said. “Almost equally important, though, is that we need to become knowledgeable on how to play 7s while under immense pressure.”
That’s tough to do if the level of competition isn’t high. But Suggitt’s job is to find those who can jump to the next level and improve.
All of that is vitally important for the USA team as it becomes part of the US Olympic effort going forward. With this year being a 15s World Cup year, and with USA Rugby cutting budgets throughout the organization, the 7s women’s team has received short shrift. They have not played in an international tournament since February in Las Vegas, and if Suggitt is to make judgments on how players respond to international competition, he knows they need international competition.
Plans are afoot for more events for the USA women’s 7s team to play in. There is, currently, no women’s IRB Circuit, despite continued calls for one to be developed. Such a circuit would only be useful to the USA, though, if they entered a team to play in it.
“We have identified that we require a playing structure that is international,” Suggitt said. “We are currently refining our domestic schedule as we speak and we need to align it with an international schedule. So, if we can fit in four international tournaments a year for the next couple of years and then add one a year for the next three, then we are on the correct track in proper preparation for the 2016 Olympics. We cannot put the cart before the horse though. We need to qualify and we should also not lose sight of the next Seven’s World Cup and the possibility of other international competitions.”