USA Prepares for London Sevens Tournament

Ted HardyContributor IMay 19, 2009

The London, England 7’s stop on the IRB World Series Circuit is set to kick off this weekend (May 23-24) and excitement is in the air for the American squad. Head Coach Al Caravelli has seen his squad cut into again.

This time by the call ups of Captain Kevin Swiryn and Justin Boyd to the USA Eagles 15’s squad for their upcoming matches against Ireland and Wales. Undaunted, Caravelli and his new look squad forge ahead.

The 7’s team that the USA will take to the final two stop on the Series barely resembles the team that began the Series late in 2008. Still, faced with adversity, Caravelli continues to find and develop talent capable of competing against the best sevens players in the world. His newest batch represent the youngest team he’s ever fielded.

The squad selected for England and Scotland boasts a blend of youth and experience, with seven new additions since the last leg of the Series—five of which are making their first-ever IRB Sevens World Series appearance.

The five new players include: 19-year-old Tai Enosa, who will join the USA 15’s team after Scotland; All-American Steve St. Pierre, who captained the BYU Cougars to their first national title in early May; two-time All-American and captain of Kutztown University, Marco Barnard; San Diego State University’s Alex Ross and Corey Blair.

”That is the nature of Sevens. We have to continue to develop players and we are all looking forward to seeing how quickly this squad can come together to challenge the best in the world,” Coach Caravelli said. “It is the fastest team we have ever selected in the three years I have been coaching—we have selected 11 backs who can all play multiple positions.”

Back in the fold is James "Guppy" Gillenwater who returns to the squad after an injury he sustained during the 7’s World Cup in March. His experience and leadership will be a necessity for the young squad.

The USA kicks off the tournament against Fiji and this game could go a long way towards helping the team’s morale. Even if they lose to Fiji, if the USA can keep the game close they will pick up some momentum for the rest of Day 1.

All-Time the USA is 2-8 against Fiji. The two teams last met on the IRB Circuit in Wellington where the USA stunned Fiji with a 15-10 win. Fiji comes into England third place overall in the 2008/2009 IRB Series Standings and have played very well of late.

This is going to be a tough game for the USA. While the USA is capable of pulling off an upset, keeping this one close will be a boost.

Next up for the USA is their old nemesis Kenya. The two squads have had mirrored paths through the ranks of the sevens world. While Kenya has passed the USA and become a force to deal with on the IRB Series, they haven’t nearly faced the type of turnover in which the American teams has been dealt.

Through it all, the USA and Kenya games have always been tighly contested. All-Time the USA is 4-6-1 against Kenya and has nearly matched them in points scored 138-139 in those games.

The two teams last met on the IRB Circuit in Hong Kong where Kenya won 19-12. Kenya comes into the tournament very hot, having won nine out of their last 11 games and they sit comfortably in fifth place in the IRB Standings.

This game is a pivotal match for both Kenya and the USA. Maybe more so for the USA who will likely have to win this game to have any hopes of reaching the Cup Quarterfinal round of the tournament.

The USA’s final Day One opponent is Scotland. The Scots have had a down season on the IRB Circuit, but with their home event on the horizon they have bolstered their squad with Scottish 15’s Internationals Thom Evans and Ally Hogg in hopes of finishing strong.

Evans is a legitimate finisher with speed to burn and will be one to watch. The two teams have split their All-Time meetings 3-3-1 with the USA outscoring the Scots 125-118. The two teams last met in the Shield Final in Adelaide when the USA won 24-21. Scotland is another must win game for the USA. Regardless of how their first two games go, no one wants to finish Day 1 without a win.

The USA faces a tough tournament field, but have youth and speed on their side. Two ingredients that can go a very long way in sevens rugby. With a solid veteran presence, the USA sevens team could have some surprises in store for their opponents.

With two events to go on the 2008/2009 IRB Sevens World Series the USA is tied for eighth place with Australia. Their standing is the highest ever achieved by a USA sevens team on the IRB Series which began play in 1999.

“We will focus on continuing to raise the bar. Everyone continues to work very hard to better themselves each time they step on the pitch and most important putting in the hard work on their own. That is what it takes to be successful,” Caravelli added.

USA Squad for London, England Sevens

Thretton Palamo (San Francisco Golden Gate)
James Gillenwater (Belmont Shore)
Mark Bokhoven (Denver Barbarians)
PJ Komongnan (NOVA)
Tai Enosa (Tempe)
Mike Palefau (Las Vegas)
Alex Ross (San Diego State)
Steve St. Pierre (BYU)
Marco Barnard (Kutztown University)
Zach Pangelinan (Old Mission Bay Athletic Club)
Zach Test (San Francisco Golden Gate)
Corey Blair (Belmont Shore)