USA Rugby Names 2016 U.S. Olympic Men's Rugby Team

The squad itself represents the country on so many levels and is cosmopolitan in makeup, which is a true reflection of the country.Mike Friday

UPDATE: Nate Augspurger, Martin Iosefo, Shalom Suniula selected as travel replacements.

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - USA Rugby Men's Sevens Head Coach Mike Friday has selected the 12 athletes and his seven staff to represent Team USA in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The diverse roster includes athletes from across the country, international rugby stars and an NFL Super Bowl Champion.

Rugby was last played in the Olympics by the men in 1924, when the USA won gold in the standard 15-a-side version of the game. This will mark the first time Rugby Sevens will be played in the Olympic Games.

"It's a huge honor to represent your country at any time in your life, but to be given the responsibility at the Olympic Games - the biggest sporting event on the planet - makes it even more special," said Friday. "The fact that we will be part of Team USA and that as a result we will be exposing the USA sporting public to another team sport they can engage with and enjoy watching, as well as passionately support their country, is immense.

"The boys fully appreciate the accountability that comes with that responsibility and are looking forward with confidence to those challenges. While we are not the pre-tournament favorites like Fiji who have to play with that expectation, we are a team who are hugely respected and feared by all other countries as genuine contenders. We know that on any given Sunday we have the power, pace and physicality to match and beat anyone. The boys recognize the magnitude of the task but are confident that we can be medal contenders if we play to our ability. We will represent the people of the USA in a way that they expect and deserve, exhibiting the characteristics that will make them proud."


Get to know Team USA


Team USA will be captained by Madison Hughes who recently became the United States' all-time leading scorer on the Sevens Series. Hughes, a graduate of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, also finished as the top-scorer in the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

Hughes is joined by veterans Zack Test, Folau Niua, Danny Barrett, Garrett Bender and Maka Unufe on the roster. All five were regular faces for USA Rugby throughout the 2015-16 season. Friday's squad also includes the dynamic pairing of Perry Baker and Carlin Isles. Isles has been dubbed "the fastest man in rugby" due to a 100-meter speed that could have qualified him for the Olympics in track and field. Baker, thanks to his own scorching speed, finished the 2015-16 Sevens Series in the top-five in scoring and second in tries scored.

This core group of athletes will be joined by familiar faces Andrew Durutalo and Chris Wyles. Neither Durutalo or Wyles participated in the 2015-16 season, instead playing professionally for clubs in Japan and England, respectively. This past season, Wyles achieved both an England Premiership League and European Cup championship double.

New England Patriot Nate Ebner joins Team USA after receiving his team's blessing to make a run at an Olympic dream. Ebner was the youngest-ever player to represent the Men's Sevens at age 17 and continued his rugby career at Ohio State University before joining the football team and subsequently being drafted into the NFL. The youngest member of the team, Ben Pinkelman (22) of Colorado, has progressed through the USA Rugby High Performance ranks and will build off of his career 36 games played.

When asked about his team's makeup, Friday responded "the squad itself represents the country on so many levels and is cosmopolitan in makeup, which is a true reflection of the country. The team is balanced in terms of physicality, power, X-factor and out-and-out pace. We possess great aerial presence and kickers who are able to exploit these skills. As along with the contact area, we see this as a huge area in the game.

"The squad has some big temperament players within it, and is underpinned by a strong work ethic and relentless approach to stay in any arm wrestle. This is the grit we need to exhibit along with our athletic ability."

Team USA will continue to train at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista before heading to Florida for a week. During the weeklong training session that includes scrimmages against New Zealand, Team USA will determine their three travelling reserves within the group of Nate Augspurger, Will Holder, Martin Iosefo, Thretton Palamo and Shalom Suniula.

"I want to thank the current training squad for their ongoing support and selfless approach to driving the squad mission forward," said Friday. "Their team ethic and commitment to their brotherhood is exactly why they are a special group of boys to work with, and why I am proud of every one of them. That is the true reflection of this squad and environment, and illustrates that they play for each other, not with each other."

USA Rugby High Performance Director Alex Magleby echoed Friday's sentiment on team mentality, saying "the Rio build up has been by far the most competitive camp we have ever had, thanks to the efforts of Mike, Assistant Coaches Chris Brown, Phil Greening and the rest of the staff for creating such a challenging but nonetheless supportive environment. The boys really pushed themselves and each other so that the team is above all else. Their work-ethic and support of each other through this process has been so impressive, especially given the enormity of the opportunity ahead."

Following the week of training in Florida, the men will travel directly to Brazil Aug. 1. Friday's side will begin play at the XXXI Olympic Games Aug. 9-12 at Deodoro Stadium. The USA are seated in Pool A alongside host nation Brazil, Argentina and 2015-16 Sevens Series Champions Fiji.

A full broadcast schedule for the Rugby Sevens competition will be announced by NBC at a later date.

All nominations to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team are pending approval by the United States Olympic Committee.

Men's Sevens Roster
Perry Baker
Danny Barrett
Garrett Bender
Andrew Durutalo
Nate Ebner
Madison Hughes
Carlin Isles
Folau Niua
Ben Pinkelman
Zack Test
Maka Unufe
Chris Wyles

Staff
Mike Friday, Head Coach
Chris Brown, Assistant Coach
Phil Greening, Assistant Coach
Brian Green, Physio
Paul Goulding, Video Analyst
Sarah Sall, Massage Therapist
Dr. Eric Test, Team Doctor
Nick Tricarico, Manager

Training Squad
Nate Augspurger
Pat Blair
Nick Edwards
Will Holder
Martin Iosefo
Matai Leuta
Thretton Palamo
ConRoy Smith
Joey Sok
Shalom Suniula
Kevin Swiryn
Brett Thompson
Peter Tiberio
Stephen Tomasin