USA Eagles wrap up long Sevens campaign

Team USA played their last game of the international sevens season on Sunday. After a bruising Saturday in Scotland, the Eagles were set to face Kenya in the Emirates Airline Edinburgh Sevens Bowl Quarterfinals. A tight 15-17 loss to the Kenyans sent the USA to the Shield Semifinals. Russia would score a late try to pull away and eventually hang on to win, eliminating the Eagles from Shield Final contention.

In their 17 previous encounters, Kenya had won 10 games and they would increase that tally to 11 against the USA on Sunday. Undoubtedly the Kenyans had thoughts of the Eagles hoisting the Bowl in Adelaide after defeating Kenya 17-10. It would be the Americans who lost on Sunday though.

Shalom Suniula struck first against Kenya, showcasing his elusive side step and penetrating speed to score as the Kenyan fringe defense was a shambles after Paul Emerick plowed through the ruck and took two Kenyan defenders with him. However after the early Eagle strike, Kenya upped their intensity at the breakdown and were able to capitalize on American penalties. Read more of this post

A USA Eagle from Samoa

Junior Sifa

Junior Sifa

We got an exclusive interview with Junior Sifa, USA Eagles’ Centre, who has come a long way from his college rugby days. Getting ready to play for the national team at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand this year – Cynthia Apfelbaum, Rugby USA

Bio Sheet:
Full name:
Junior Lotomau Sifa.

Born: 24 March 1983 (28 years old) in American Samoa. Moved to New Zealand at age 8.

Current residence: Nottingham, UK.

Education: Auckland University, New Zealand (2002-2005).

Rugby position: Centre.

Current clubs: Nottingham Rugby R.F.C in Nottingham, England (2010-Present), USA Eagles (2008-Present).

Rugby has a reputation of being a [dangerous] full-contact sport. What rugby-related injuries have you had? I have broken my fibula and tibia in the right leg that kept me from playing rugby for 2 years when I was 13. I have also broken my little finger in my left hand, torn the ligaments in my right thumb, fractured my right cheek bone, and broken my right side of my jaw.

Which one was the worst? Breaking my jaw was probably the worst, as it had to be wired shut for 7 weeks, which meant I could not eat anything apart from shakes and soup.

What are the pros and cons of rugby, not only as a professional rugby player? Getting injured is always one of the cons, but there are many pros: the friends that you make and traveling the world doing what you love to do is awesome.

You transferred from Midleton in Ireland to Nottingham in England. How are you getting used to the change of club and country? I have enjoyed my time here in Nottingham. It is my first time in a full time professional environment, so enjoying training most days of the week.

Full time professional and playing for a national team, you have achieved a lot in the last couple of years. If you weren’t playing rugby for a living, what would be your other dream job? Not too sure, but probably something outdoors; would not like to be inside an office. Read more of this post

The man who morphed Rugby into Gridiron

Photo from Rugby-Pioneers.blogs.com

Photo from Rugby-Pioneers.blogs.com

A lot of people know Walter Camp as “the Father of American Football.” Not many people, though, know that Camp was a Yale man (like me) and a fine rugby player (unlike me).

Camp was an exceptionally gifted athlete of the first order. He played on every varsity sports team at Yale, including hurdles, rowing, swimming, and tennis. He was the captain of both the baseball and football teams.

But he was more than a jock. He attended Yale Medical School, worked his way up to the chairmanship of the New Haven Clock Company, moonlighted as a sports writer, coached university teams, and served on numerous civic committees including the rules committees governing collegiate football.

His first passion was rugby. Back in his early school years, the 1870s, rugby was the premier game that elite American universities played among themselves.

It was all about kicking in those days. A “try” meant that after the attacking team crossed the line and touched the ball down – for which they received no points – they could have a “try” at goal, worth one point. Many of those early collegiate games were decided by 1-0 scores, even if attacking teams had scored three or four of what today are known as tries.

The story, written by Ambassador David Huebner, continues here.

Eagles name Churchill Cup squad

Eagles Head Coach, Eddie O’Sullivan, has named his squad that will travel to London next week to compete in the Churchill Cup.

The Churchill Cup is an annual tournament, regularly anchored by the Eagles, Canada and England “A,” their second level team. Next month’s tournament is being played in England and will be broadcast by Universal Sports.These will be LIIVE online and delayed on television, with the schedule available at www.universalsports.com or by clicking here.

“The Churchill Cup is a very important annual tournament for the Eagles and this year with the Rugby World Cup (RWC) just three months away, it assumes an even greater importance as part of our preparations for New Zealand,” said O’Sullivan.

The Eagles will, however, be without some of their overseas professional players.

“We will be resting Chris Wyles and Taku Ngwenya, who have had a long tough, season overseas, which will allow them valuable rest time before beginning their preparations for RWC. Samu Manoa is also being rested to give him the best possible preparation before taking up his contract with Northampton on July 1,” said O’Sullivan.

The team departs for England on May 29 and will only have a few days on the ground before taking on Pool A opponents, the England Saxons on June 4 at Franklin’s Gardens in Northampton and Tonga on June 8 at Moseley Road in Surrey. Read more of this post

Eagles struggle in London; New Zealand wins world sevens series

The London Sevens tournament was a rough one for the USA Eagles. In a tourney that saw New Zealand win its 9th World Sevens title – despite being knocked out in the semis by Fiji – the Eagles ended up losing in the Shield semi-final.

No points for the Eagles, who are now 11th in the standings.

But the Eagles Sevens can rightly feel a little miffed, after a  struggling England team were awarded a very dubious try that helped them to a win. Each of the Sevens tournaments has provided the Eagles with a signature win, this time it was a 22-21 victory over Argentina in Pool play. It could have been a very different tournament for the United States had the England game then gone the other way.

The later stages of the tournament were not kind to the Eagles, losing 14-0 against Spain in the Bowl quarterfinals. Thus dropped to the semifinals of  the Shield, the Eagles lost that game 21-15 to Portugal to head home empty handed.

Though the tournament was eventually won by South Africa, England’s elimination gave New Zealand an insurmountable point score with the Edinburgh Sevens tournament to come this weekend.

Adrian Pratt, U.S. Embassy Wellington

Keelhaulers vs. Fighting Billy Goats – a U.S.-NZ match

Rugby at the Basin - click to view larger imageAs part of our Rugby World Cup celebrations, we’ve organized a Rugby match between the Keelhaulers from the California Martitime Academy and the Fighting Billy Goats of Victoria University.

And, if you’re in Wellington on May 31, you are invited to come along. The game will be played at the historic River Basin stadium, the site of international cricket matches, and will begin at 3 p.m. It’s free (Note: if it is wet, the game will be held at Kelburn Park, Wellington).

The Keelhaulers will be sailing to Wellington aboard the Training Ship Golden Bear, docking at the Overseas Terminal on Sunday, May 29. On board will be almost 300 students and instructors from the prestigious California Maritime Academy. Located in Vallejo, near San Francisco, the Academy is recognized for excellence in the business, science, technology, engineering, operations, and policy aspects of the transportation industries. They are here at the personal invitation of U.S. Ambassador David Huebner.

He’s looking forward to the game.

“The Keelhaulers are one of the best teams in the U.S. Despite the small size of the school, they have been nationally ranked in club rugby and won the Pacific Coast League’s Western Division Championship in 2009 and 2010,” Huebner said. “I expect it to be a close game.”

The Keelhaulers vs. Fighting Billy Goats is part of the embassy’s year-long RWC celebration that has already seen an exchange of Kiwi and Hawaiian Rugby coaches and the launch of this blog.

The Golden Bear will depart Wellington on June 1, but will be back in New Zealand when she visits Auckland on July 28 for a three-day visit. The Keelhaulers are expected to take part in another Rugby match there as well.

Adrian Pratt, U.S. Embassy Wellington

Rugby players can surprise you

By Adrian Pratt, US Embassy Wellington

By the time I moved to New Zealand, I’d been away from Rugby for a long time. In the intervening years, Rugby had turned professional and new leagues and competitions had been set up across the globe.

On our first weekend in Wellington, my boys – aged 14 and 11 – sat down to watch the All Blacks play the Springboks of South Africa. It was the first time they’d watched Rugby, and it was a mistake. The ferocity of the game, the bone-crunching tackles – not to mention the terrifying New Zealand haka – turned my boys quickly to thoughts of playing soccer.

Their self-preservation instinct was smart. The very physique of the players seemed to have changed. Back in my day, the guys were big, to be sure, but now they seemed massive and, as the expression goes, ripped. And then there was the attitude of the guys on the field. Rugby matches, put plainly, were fierce.

But then a funny thing happened: I met some of the players. First up were the USA Eagles Sevens players, some of whom play for the full national side as well. Having been exposed to plenty of sports stars in my life, I wasn’t precisely hopeful. A lot of sportsmen at the top of their game can be mono-syllabic, arrogant and have forgotten that what they do as a career is the stuff of dreams for millions of young people.

But, simply put, the Eagles were a delight. They were teeming with enthusiasm – about being in New Zealand, about playing for the United States, about Rugby. As we talked to them they were bubbling over with good cheer and polite, amusing banter. These guys were respectful, and nothing but great ambassadors for their country and their sport.

We admired that.

Surely this was an aberration. People performing so mercilessly on the field had to be barbarians. Just had to be.

But in the intervening months I’ve been exposed to a lot more Rugby players, including some All Blacks. I’ve been singularly impressed with their calm, polite and approachable demeanor. All of them. This week I ran across Rodney So’oialo and Victor Vito. I couldn’t have been more impressed. They too seemed to view themselves as good-will ambassadors for their sport and did a remarkable job. They showed interest when people approached them, engaged in casual and involved conversations.

In an age of spoiled-brat athletes – or worse – in fields as varied as soccer to motorsports, it is delightful to know that there are still role models out there. Who would have thought that I’d find them in Rugby, said to be a gentleman’s sport played by hooligans? These guys better be careful or else they might start getting a reputation. A good one. And, with the Rugby World Cup rapidly approaching, that’s a great thing of course.

Caravelli opts for experience in London, Edinburgh 7s

The last two tournaments of the HSBC Sevens World Series are approaching, and U.S. Coach Al Caravelli has opted for experience in his  team selection.

The London tournament, starting May 21, is up first, followed by Edinburgh from May 28-29.

And, according to Jerrod Beckstrom of USA Rugby, a departure from the typically young team picks for the final stops of the Series (often smattered with freshly out-of-school collegiate players), the 12-player squad he has named this year is steeped in speed, experience, size and physicality.

The only player in the squad from the college ranks is Cameron Dolan, the dominant eight man for Life University’s College Premier Division side who has been on Caravelli’s radar since Dolan was an Under-17 player.

“Cam is a unique kind of player,” said Caravelli of the 21-year-old Dolan. “He’s a true forward with the speed of a back. I’m excited to see him break onto the international scene.” 

Mike Palefau and Nese Malifa are back in top form according to their coach, and their considerable experience and expertise will be an asset to the team, if in limited capacity as they transition back to international rugby. The last time Malifa was with the squad was last year in Adelaide, when the USA played in its first-ever Cup final in Adelaide after beating England, Wales and Argentina. Palefau’s last time with the team was in 2009. Read more of this post

O’SULLIVAN PLEASED WTH DOMESTIC PLAYER CAMP

CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Eagles Head Coach, Eddie O’Sullivan, was extremely pleased with his squad at the recent camp held at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in San Diego. The camp was the first for the Eagles fifteens team in their preparations for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in September.

EaglesXV Domestic Camp Credit: USA Rugby and EaglesXV.com

During the camp, held from May 4-8, the players had several chances to impress O’Sullivan, the most obvious opportunity being a controlled scrimmage on the Saturday afternoon.

“It was a very successful camp for us. The players really applied themselves, with us getting seven very tough sessions done between Thursday and Sunday,” O’Sullivan said.

With the Rugby World Cup only months away, this domestic camp proved a valuable selection tool for O’Sullivan and his coaching staff.

Newly appointed technical experts Fiore Screnci (Scrum Coach) and Chris O’Brien (Kicking Coach) had a chance to work with the 35 players, while Matt Sherman (Backs Coach), Dave Hodges (Forwards Coach) and Mike Tolkin (Defensive Coach) imparted their expertise to the group.

“The work ethic was excellent and we got a lot of quality reps done. We also got a lot of information that we didn’t have before, particularly some of the new players,” said O’Sullivan, “The next job now is to pick the Churchill Cup pool.”

The Eagles will travel to England in June to compete in the 2011 Churchill Cup, where they will take on the England Saxons (June 4) and Tonga (June 8), before the Elimination round (June 18).

The Eagles’ Churchill Cup opponents will be challenging and so too will be their training and match schedule.

“We hit the ground on the 30th of May and have to play on the 4th of June. It’s then a very short turn-around till we play Tonga,” said O’Sullivan.

The coach will select his Churchill Cup team over the next few weeks. Read more of this post

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