Leatigaga called up to Eagles for final leg of Series

LONDON - Ben Leatigaga replaces Nate Ebner in Mike Friday's Men's Eagles Sevens squad for HSBC London Sevens, the final round of the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

The New England Patriot is in Chris Brown's USA Falcons team participating in the Howard Hinton Sevens tournament this weekend in Tours, France. Leatigaga was most recently called into Series action during round six in Vancouver, where the U.S. Army World-Class Athlete Program athlete made his international debut.

Leatigaga made five substitute appearances at HSBC Canada Sevens, scoring the team's final try of the tournament in the Plate Final defeat to Samoa with a burst of speed reminiscent of the man he replaced in the squad. He was filling in for Carlin Isles, who was allowed to run at the 2016 USARF Indoor Track & Field Championships that weekend.

As Friday said prior to the High Performance Camp for Hong Kong and Singapore selections, the debut experience for Leatigaga - as well as the young Seth Halliman at that particular tournament - would "hopefully make them hungry to play again."

The newest Eagle will not be the only one of the 12 hungry, however, as a disappointing Bowl Semifinal exit at HSBC Paris Sevens last weekend drops the U.S. to sixth in the Series standings. In London last year, the team won its first Cup Final and finished the season in sixth, the U.S.'s highest-ever standing.

The Eagles have been ranked as high as third this season, and no lower than sixth through nine rounds. That may have been satisfactory for previous Eagles teams, but in an Olympic year Friday said there were "no excuses" for the kind of performances that kept the team from its eighth Cup Quarterfinal of the season.

Argentina - the team that jumped into fifth with a fourth-place finish at Stade Jean-Bouin - scored the majority of its 36 points in the opening day shutout of the U.S. from Eagle turnovers. The team improved for the second day's matches, but could not overcome a seven-minute, 19-7, France lead before finally getting things right against Canada.

Even before the second match it was all but guaranteed the Eagles would not reach the Cup for the second tournament running due to the point differential and the rise of France in recent weeks. Bowl results mirrored those from Singapore, as well, with a win against Portugal and a final loss to Scotland in the knockout rounds.


Canada, 0-5 in Paris and ranked 13th of 15 core teams on the circuit, could very well be the whipping boy of London's Pool A this weekend, with most recent Cup winner Samoa and second-ranked South Africa on tap for both North American teams. Additional intrigue goes into the Canada-Samoa matchup, as both will be vying for the final Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games spot in the men's competition at next month's repechage tournament.

A full tournament preview will be posted to USARugby.org Friday, May 20.

Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC London Sevens

1. Ben Leatigaga

2. Ben Pinkelman

3. Danny Barrett

4. Garrett Bender

5. Zack Test

6. Thretton Palamo

7. Folau Niua

8. Maka Unufe

9. Nate Augspurger

10. Madison Hughes (C)

11. Perry Baker

12. Martin Iosefo

Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC London Sevens

v. Samoa - Saturday, May 21 @ 5:14 a.m. ET

v. South Africa - Saturday, May 21 @ 8:42 a.m. ET

v. Canada - Saturday, May 21 @ 11:26 a.m. ET