This is part one of a two part series examining who is in contention for a spot on next season’s U.S.A. 7’s team.
In less than a month the Eagles will be participating in their first 7’s tournament of the season when they travel to Ottawa for the NACRA qualifiers for the 2013 Rugby World Cup in Russia. Qualification shouldn’t be a problem for the Eagles with only Canada posing a serious threat. However, with a new stop on the IRB Sevens Series being added this year, the question becomes, is the team going to be ready for months of grueling 7’s action?
That is the big question for head coach Alex Magleby as he moves forward with his team. A reported eight contracts have been handed out to players for the fall 7’s season and so far only three of those players have been identified. That means that at least five (maybe more, last year there were a dozen contracted players) or more players are going to get a contract. But who will that be? Does Magleby bring in the same players he had under contract last year, does he give contracts to players that played for the team but didn’t have contracts, or does he give them to a completely new group of players?
In order to answer these questions, let’s take a look at who played for the Eagles last year, who had a contract, and who is known to have a contract this year.
|Played 2011-12||Contract 2011-12||Contract 2012-13|
|Garrett Bender||Garrett Bender||Tai Enosa|
|Mark Bokhoven||Tai Enosa||Taylor Mokate|
|Justin Boyd||Colin Hawley||Peter Tiberio|
|Miles Craigwell||Rocco Mauer|
|Andrew Durutalo||Folau Niua|
|Nick Edwards||Nu'u Punimata|
|Tai Enosa||Blaine Scully|
|Matt Hawkins||Shalom Suniula|
|Colin Hawley||Zach Test|
|Duncan Kelm||Maka Unufe|
Odds are very high that a bulk of last year’s contracted players will have their contracts renewed, but some may not. Let’s take a look at each contract player and see if keeping them under contract makes sense.
Zach Test: An automatic starter and will receive a contract. Only Suniula can match his experience.
Colin Hawley: Same as Test. Helped lead Olympic Club to a nationals berth and is a leader going forward.
Rocco Mauer: Led the Chicago Lions this summer along with JP Eloff. Stud while with the Eagles last year. Still young, plenty of promise. Will return.
Shalom Suniula: Last year’s captain was married and took the summer off. He should be back and under contract.
Folau Niua: Had some rough patches last year but showed well enough to earn another contract.
Had a contract last year, but looking questionable this year:
Nu’u Punimata: Signed late in the year and has been playing this summer with OPSB. His lack of speed was exposed last year on the Series and could hurt his chances of returning. However, he does fit the mold of the type of player Magleby wants on his team and is very strong.
Maka Unufe: At last year’s Pan-Am Games Unufe showed why many consider him to be a future star in 7’s. However, a series of personal issues kept him from the team last year and from developing on schedule. He still has the ability to single-handily take over a game, but he will have to show enough growth to keep a contract. A lack of a team in Utah has hurt him this summer by keeping him from club rugby, but he did have a chance to play with Atlantis in Victoria and will likely play in the RugbyTown Sevens next month.
Garrett Bender: Only played in three tournaments last year and was frequently injured. Still young and strong, but he’ll need to show growth in order to justify a second contract. He needs to push for playing time in the series. Bender has been playing with Youngbloodz this summer and has helped them qualify for nationals.
Blaine Scully: Would be an automatic but an achilles injury has him out for the long-term and will not get a contract this fall. American rugby fans should hope he gets well soon.
Played for the Eagles last year without a contract:
Mike Palefau: Plays with OPSB but lives in Utah. A combination of having a business and family in Utah, as well as being an older player, will prevent him from a contract but not from continuing to be a large part of the team.
Andrew Durutalo: Saw time with the 15’s version of the Eagles over the summer. Works for Serevi Rugby and plays for OPSB, so he most likely would not need a contract to continue to be a part of the team. Could his 15’s aspirations clash with his 7’s aspirations? Not likely, but still something to consider.
Nick Edwards: Currently playing with Sydney University in the Shute Shield. He has been a great player for the Eagles in the past and could be a big part of the team if he commits. Over the past few years it seems that Edwards comes in and out of the team. He would be a great candidate for a contract, it’s just up to him to show the commitment.
Mark Bokhoven: Has retired from playing rugby and is coaching the Denver Barbarians.
Matt Hawkins: Effectively stopped playing for the Eagles to coach San Diego State. Still plays for Old Aztec and could always be called into the team, but will not get a contract.
Miles Craigwell: Like Durutalo he works for Serevi Rugby and plays for OPSB. He could be offered a contract, but his job with Serevi gives him the flexibility to attend camps and play in the Series, making it unnecessary to give him a contract.
Duncan Kelm: Lives in San Diego and plays for Old Aztec. He played well with the Eagles last year, but will have to show really well this summer in order to break through into the team, especially with some potential competition at forward and the arrival of Taylor Mokate.
Roland Suniula: Left 7’s and now plays professional 15’s in France.
Justin Boyd: A bit old to be considered for a contract. Could still be called into the team.
In part two of our series we’ll take a look at some new players that could make a case for a contract and a place on the team.
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.