Women's Eagles Sevens: Clermont-Ferrand 2016 preview

CLERMONT-FERRAND, France - The Women's Eagles Sevens finish the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series May 28-29 at Stade Gabriel-Montpied, as the city of Clermont-Ferrand hosts its first Series leg - HSBC Clermont-Ferrand Sevens. The entire tournament will be broadcast at no charge to viewers on The Rugby Channel.

Richie Walker's Eagles have been out of action since the fourth round in British Columbia, Canada, where they followed up a Plate-winning performance at HSBC Atlanta 7s with a seventh-place finish. The 20-point output from those two stops helped the U.S. climb to seventh in the Series standings.


Though the Eagles may have been "out of action" since mid-April, 12 athletes from the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., competed in a London Invitational Sevens tournament last weekend as the USA Falcons. Joanne Fa'avesi and Nicole Heavirland were with the team as it went 6-0 against development sides from Brazil, Canada, England, France, Japan, and Spain.

The play in the U.K. was similar to the Falcons presented by Penn Mutual's work at the Las Vegas Invitational the first week of March, except the competition level was much greater in Guildford. The Falcons in Las Vegas conceded just five points in four matches to Brazil, South Africa, and two domestic traveling teams before a big defeat to France's development squad in the Cup Semifinal.

Beating a Canadian side as the Falcons also shows improvement in the training group at the OTC, as a set of scrimmages in January against the neighbor was split but mostly favored the team wearing black and red.


Fa'avesi and Heavirland were not selected to the U.S. team for the fifth and final stop on the circuit, but are training with the team at the site of C.A.S. Gerzat RFC. Similar to the selection decisions made for the Falcons and Eagles in the U.K. and France, Walker had also made a series of strategic squad decisions between the Atlanta and Canada legs of the Series.

As they were his first tournaments as head coach, Walker wanted the Eagles to get more comfortable with each other on tour in an effort to better learn the game plan. The camaraderie that resulted showed in the final pool match in Georgia, a 12-5 defeat of now-second-ranked New Zealand.

Additionally, Walker needed to see more than 12 or 14 players compete against international competition. Heavirland had made her debut in Atlanta, and Emily Azevedo and Carmen Farmer were debutants in Canada. This weekend, 17-year-old Lilly Durbin could receive her first sevens cap with the Eagles. Fallbrook High School teammate of Richelle Stephens, Durbin was selected to the AIG Women's Junior All-Americans even before there was a Girls High School All-American powered by ATAVUS team. She did win the 2015 Las Vegas Invitational with the GHSAAs, however, and has been training off and on with the U.S. at the OTC for the past few years. She is now a member of the Residency program.

Kelly Griffin had not missed a Series leg in the first three seasons, but could not play in Atlanta and Canada due to an injury. Fellow veterans from the inaugural Series Lauren Doyle and Victoria Folayan have also been away from the pitch at certain points this season, but the latter and Griffin are back to put forth a Rio-worthy session at Stade Gabriel-Montpied.


It would be best if the Eagles that were in the U.K. last week could replicate their defeat of a Team GB training team in the opening match of pool play Saturday, May 28. While a seventh-place finish in Brazil has kept England from jumping New Zealand in the standings, two third-place finishes and, most recently, a Cup win means the Roses have been able to beat just about everyone on the circuit. The Eagles are 1-1 against their first opponent in France, with the lone victory coming during England's dip in form in South America.

Spain surprised many in Canada, reaching the Plate Final following just four wins in three tournaments. The Eagles went down to Spain twice in the fourth round, barely qualifying for the Cup round as the second seed from the pool. It was the little mistakes that cost the U.S. the first match, with a drop in concentration responsible for the second.

Rounding out pool play will be Kenya, new to the Series. As much as the match is important for the Eagles to secure Cup qualification, Kenya will be looking to compete well against two teams that are qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games seeing as how the Lionesses will be traveling to Brazil in a couple of months.


HSBC Clermont-Ferrand Sevens is the final leg of the 2015-16 Series, and a Champion will be crowned between Australia, England, and New Zealand. Australia holds a big lead atop the standings with a 12-point advantage over New Zealand, and has won three tournaments this season prior to a third-place campaign in Canada.

The tournament will be broadcast live and for free to viewers in the United States on The Rugby Channel. Live match updates can also be found on USA Rugby's Twitter timeline.

Women's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Clermont-Ferrand Sevens
1. Jillion Potter
2. Kathryn Johnson
3. Carmen Farmer
4. Kelly Griffin
5. Kristen Thomas
6. Lilly Durbin
7. Richelle Stephens
8. Bui Baravilala
9. Ryan Carlyle
10. Alev Kelter
11. Jessica Javelet
12. Victoria Folayan

Women's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Clermont-Ferrand Sevens
v. England - Saturday, May 28 @ 5:44 a.m. ET
v. Spain - Saturday, May 28 @ 8:50 a.m. ET
v. Kenya - Saturday, May 28 @ 11:34 a.m. ET