Hughes to captain U.S. at Pan American Games

CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Men’s Eagles Sevens Head Coach Mike Friday has selected a squad of 12 for the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.

Madison Hughes will captain Team USA during the two-day Rugby Sevens event at Exhibition Stadium July 11-12. The Dartmouth College student-athlete, as well as Perry Baker, Garrett Bender, and Carlin Isles, played in all nine of the 2014-15 World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series events and won the 2015 NACRA Sevens Championships to qualify the U.S. for the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games.

Nate Augspurger, Pat Blair, and Martin Iosefo made 14 combined appearances on the circuit, in which the Eagles finished sixth. The 108-point campaign was the best result for the U.S. since it was added as a core team prior to the 2008-09 season.

Seventeen rugby players attended the pre-Pan Am Camp at the Olympic Training Center, including four remote athletes. Members of the World-Class Athlete Program, Ben Leatigaga and Will Holder will suit up for Friday after having represented the U.S. as Falcons at the 2015 CONSUR South American Sevens Tour and 2015 Las Vegas Invitational.

Mike Te’o and Stephen Tomasin have previously been capped on the Series, and were in action this season with the Falcons at the two aforementioned events. Brett Thompson returns to the squad for the first time since the final leg of the 2013-14 Series.

“It is not the special things I am looking for,” Friday said of his selections. “It is the ability to fit on the team and contribute accurately to ensure, as a team, we perform to the standards that we expect of whoever takes the field to represent the program. This is a great opportunity for the 12 chosen to make that point.”

The Eagles’ Cup-winning effort at Marriott London Sevens, during which they scored 30 tries against the likes of Australia, England, and South Africa, was followed by a similarly-dominant performance in Cary, N.C. The U.S. won all five of its matches at WakeMed Soccer Park and capped off the weekend with a defeat of Canada to join the growing list of qualified nations for the Olympics.

While Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and the U.S. are the only core teams from the Series in a Toronto 2015 Rugby Sevens pool, three of the four earned medals four years ago at Guadalajara 2011. This year’s tournament host defeated Argentina in the 2011 Final and the Eagles responded to a dropped rivalry match in the Semifinal with a victory in the Bronze-Medal Match against Uruguay.

“We are a team that is part of the ‘bigger teams,’ which is a different dynamic and a new experience for a lot of the squad,” Friday said. “The Pan Am Games will also allow us a dry run for what they Olympics will be like from an administrative and planning perspective, and will no doubt provide us with a number of learning experiences.

“We set our expectations high as a group and we are going to the Games with the intention of competing to try and win the gold medal, and the 12 that are selected take on that responsibility and challenge when the accept the place whether this is your first appearance this season or you have played every leg of the Series. These are the characteristics and behaviors that are non-negotiable to be a part of the squad.”

The U.S. will face Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay in pool play Saturday, July 11, before the eight teams are re-seeded for the Sunday knockout rounds.

Men's Eagles Sevens | Toronto 2015 Pan American Games

1. Carlin Isles

2. Patrick Blair

3. Brett Thompson

4. Garrett Bender

5. Mike Te'o

6. Stephen Tomasin

7. Will Holder

8. Ben Leatigaga

9. Nate Augspurger

10. Madison Hughes (C)

11. Perry Baker

12. Martin Iosefo

Men's Eagles Sevens | Toronto 2015 Pan American Games

v. Chile - Saturday, July 11

v. Mexico - Saturday, July 11

v. Uruguay - Saturday, July 11