Debuts on tap for Men’s Eagles Sevens in Canada

VANCOUVER - Men's Eagles Sevens Head Coach Mike Friday has made four changes for the March 12-13 HSBC Canada Sevens following a fourth-place campaign at HSBC USA Sevens.

The U.S. moved to fifth in the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings when all was said and done in Las Vegas, but lost Will Holder, Zack Test, and Maka Unufe to injury on the weekend. The Eagles were drawn into Pool D at the inaugural Series stop in Canada with England, France, and New Zealand.

In addition to the injury substitutions on the roster, Carlin Isles has also been released from the travel squad to pursue his dreams of Olympic qualification as a U.S. national team sprinter. The wing has scored 16 tries through five legs of the Series, and will be running the 60-meter event at the U.S. Indoor Championships in Portland, hoping to later qualify in the 100-meter event.

"We've given Carlin the permission to go and that was with a plan in place," Friday said. "Of course, our best plans kind of fell through with the injuries we've had, but I still didn't think it was right for us to not give Carlin the opportunity to test himself on the track at this time.

"It'll keep Carlin fresh and motivated, and we'll wish him well and be supporting him from Vancouver and San Diego that he shocks a few people and turns a few heads this weekend."

The USA Falcons development squad, made up of 12 athletes in the greater Eagles player pool, won the Americas Cup 7s division at the Las Vegas Invitational tournament in Sin City, going undefeated against the likes of Northeast Academy and a developmental Fiji team. The Eagles replacements each come from that team, with Seth Halliman and Ben Leatigaga set to make their Series debuts alongside the returning Pat Blair and Thretton Palamo.

Halliman joins Blair and Aladdin Schirmer as Central Washington University student-athletes to have earned a national team call-up, and already has a bevy of international sevens experiences at just 20 years of age. He was a Boys High School All-American at the LVI in 2014, graduated to the AIG Men's Collegiate All-American Sevens for the 2015 RugbyTown Sevens tournament, and went on three consecutive Falcons tours dating back to last October.

Leatigaga has also been a member of the Falcons on several occasions, and represented the U.S. with the national team at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, a bronze-medal campaign. Though he has not been selected to a Series side prior to now, the U.S. Army World-Class Athlete Program player has been named as a non-traveling reserve in the past. Leatigaga was also a member of armed forces sides at last year's Club 7s National Championships and Elite City Sevens.

"We'll miss the likes of Maka, 'Testy,' and Will, but nonetheless it gives others opportunities to step up and test themselves on the world circuit," Friday said, "as well as those that are already in the 12 to welcome and support the new guys.

"It's an exciting squad, an exciting balance, and a huge challenge - one I hope the boys are up for."

Not midway through the current season, with fewer than five months remaining until Rugby Sevens makes its Olympic debut at the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games, the Eagles are 13 points ahead of their standing through five tournaments in 2014-15. The team is currently riding a streak of seven consecutive Cup round appearances dating back to the end of the 2014-15 Series, a U.S. record on the circuit.

To be held at BC Place in the host city of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, HSBC Canada Sevens marks the turning point in the 2015-16 season, and will feature 2016 Games host Brazil. Counting Team GB (England, Scotland, and Wales) as one competitor, 10 of the 11 nations currently qualified for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad will play in British Columbia this weekend.

The Eagles kick off their Canada Sevens campaign against France Saturday, March 12, at 10:58 a.m. PT.

Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Canada Sevens

1. Thretton Palamo

2. Ben Pinkelman

3. Danny Barrett

4. Garrett Bender

5. Ben Leatigaga

6. Pat Blair

7. Folau Niua

8. Seth Halliman

9. Nate Augspurger

10. Madison Hughes (C)

11. Perry Baker

12. Martin Iosefo

Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Canada Sevens

v. France - Saturday, March 12 @ 10:58 a.m. PT

v. England - Saturday, March 12 @ 2:34 p.m. PT

v. New Zealand - Saturday, March 12 @ 6:44 p.m. PT