Hughes to captain Men’s Eagles Sevens in Gold Coast

CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Following the latest of the three Men’s Eagles Sevens High Performance Camps, Head Coach Mike Friday has selected the traveling squad for Gold Coast Sevens, the first stop of the 2014-15 IRB HSBC Sevens World Series.

Sixty-one athletes were tested and pushed to the limits at the Olympic Training Center at camps held throughout the summer. The 12 selected for Gold Coast Sevens have proved to the Eagles coaching staff they can help the team pursue Olympic qualification.

“There have been some tough decisions in putting this 12 together and I have to hand it to those boys that have gained selection for the hard work they have put in over that last few months,” Friday said. “Whilst non-selections are disappointing to the boys that have missed out, it will fuel their fire to push on and compete for the next tour as competition makes for a healthy squad and an honest, hard-working environment.”

Familiar faces on the team include Residency Eagles Andrew Durutalo, Nic Edwards, Carlin Isles, Zack Test, and Maka Unufe. Perry Baker will be making his first appearance on the Sevens World Series circuit, while Danny Barrett will be available after his trial at Aviva Premiership’s Gloucester Rugby. Garrett Bender, who was selected to three of last season’s tournaments, will also travel to Australia.

Dartmouth College’s Madison Hughes was named captain by the coaching staff. The 21-year-old scored 98 points in three Series stops last season.

“Madison is a selfless player who has both the respect of the squad and the ability,” Friday said. “He is not a shouter but understands the game and speaks with authority, calmness, and clarity on what he wants from the boys and has shown the leadership in driving the squad in what we are looking to achieve with the ball and without the ball.”

Pat Blair and Folau Niua help flesh out the squad, while Peter Tiberio will make his first appearance for the Eagles since the 2011-12 Series.

“There is a good balance of physicality and power, as well as obvious pace in this squad, and I am looking forward to seeing where we are on our journey from ‘participants to contenders’ on the Sevens World Series,” Friday said. “We know it’s going to be immensely tough with the traditional super rugby powers on the sevens circuit of New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji, England, Australia, and Samoa, and our immediate aim is to become an opponent that these teams are nervous to play against.”

The Eagles were drawn into Pool D with Argentina, Canada, and England for the Oct. 11-12 Series opener. The Eagles held a 1-0-7 record combined against the three opponents last year, who each claimed a top-10 spot in the 2013-14 Series standings.

With the 2014-15 Series set to determine four participants for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games, the Eagles cannot afford a lackluster start as in previous years. Since the 2010-11 Series, the Eagles have not gained more than six of a possible 20 points from the first circuit stop.

“We fully expect there to be bumps on the journey, but they are the bruises to getting better and it is how we react to these obstacles as we need to be resilient and stay on task and move forward,” Friday said.

The Eagles will kick off their season against border rival Canada Friday, Oct. 10, at 6:12 P.M. ET. Watch Gold Coast Sevens on Universal Sports and follow live match updates on Twitter by following @USARugby.

Men's Eagles Sevens | Gold Coast Sevens
1. Garrett Bender
2. Andrew Durutalo
3. Zack Test
4. Nic Edwards
5. Pat Blair
6. Madison Hughes (C)
7. Folau Niua
8. Peter Tiberio
9. Danny Barrett
10. Maka Unufe
11. Carlin Isles
12. Perry Baker

Men's Eagles Sevens | Non-Traveling Reserves
Aladdin Schirmer
Pila Taufa
Mike Te'o

Men's Eagles Sevens | Gold Coast Sevens
v Canada - Friday, October 10 - 8:12 P.M. ET
v England - Friday, October 10 - 10:51 P.M. ET
v Argentina - Saturday, October 11 - 2:07 A.M. ET