Dubai, Cape Town to offer debuts for Men's Eagles Sevens

UPDATE | Nov. 30

Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens will be available to stream on WorldRugby.org for viewers in the United States.

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - Men's Eagles Sevens Head Coach Mike Friday has selected a squad of 13 athletes to open the 2016-17 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series at Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens Dec. 2-3.

Eight Residents of the Olympic Training Center, including six members of Team USA's first Rugby Sevens Olympic squad from the Rio 2016 Games, lead a team that could see four athletes make their Series debuts in the United Arab Emirates or South Africa. The Eagles have been drawn into Pool B with Scotland, Rio bronze medalist South Africa, and Uganda for the opening leg of the 10-tournament season.

"The squad is very much in transition and has had limited time together for these first two legs," Friday said. "With a number of the boys having been focused on the XVs in what is a very important year for Rugby World Cup qualification, preseason has been limited and disjointed for some.

"We recognize it has been a difficult buildup and there are a number of mitigating factors and distractions that we have had to deal with, but we start this Sevens Series setting our standards as high as ever. I expect - as the players expect - to be contenders in every leg, and they are fully aware of the responsibility and accountability that comes with accepting the shirt."

Madison Hughes is one of four selections that had just returned to the United States from the XVs national team's November Tour in Europe. The 2015-15 Series' top points-scorer started at full back for both of the Eagles' matches in Europe this month, while Martin Iosefo and Matai Leuta also earned their first international test caps in XVs on the wings and Stephen Tomasin was an unused reserve. Leuta was kept out of Olympic contention earlier in the year due to injury.

Andrew Durutalo missed out on the Series last season, signing with the Sunwolves of Super Rugby before returning to southern California to claim a spot in Friday's Team USA squad heading for Rio de Janeiro. He is also coming off of the XVs tour, during which he and fellow sevens selections Danny Barrett and Folau Niua played against the New Zealand Maori All Blacks in Chicago's "The Rugby Weekend Presented by AIG."

Perry Baker and Maka Unufe have been training full-time at the OTC with Chris Brown and staff, though the former will have a debutante speedster joining him in the first two legs of the Series with Carlin Isles not fully recovered from a previous injury. Kevon Williams has soared with Denver Barbarians and the Denver Sevens high performance sides in competitive domestic tournaments since putting his name on the national team radar playing out of New Mexico Highlands University, and will get his first opportunity against top-level international competition with the Eagles.

Alec Gletzer made his XVs debut at the Americas Rugby Championship in the early part of 2016 and was an AIG Men's Collegiate All-American selection during his time at University of California, Berkeley. University of Utah graduate Don Pati was part of Chris Brown's first Falcons team upon his and Friday's hire in 2014, has proven his form this year in leading Rugby Utah to a 2016 USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship in Denver. Anthony Welmers, a graduate of Davenport University, is the 13th player selected for Dubai and Cape Town, and was a member of the Falcons team that played in two tournaments in South America in January.

"The squad also gives opportunities for some guys to make their debuts and continue the development of the Eagles Sevens as established contenders on the Series, something we have worked very hard to be over the last two years," Friday said. "These debutantes will need to learn quickly and realize that it is a very harsh environment if they are not ready for the challenge."

South Africa's squad includes six bronze medalists from the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games as well as additional veterans of the Sevens Series unavailable during the summer. Scotland did not have a stand-alone team in Rio de Janeiro, but did have two selections to the Team GB squad that won a silver medal. The nation is also kicking off the new Series having won the most recent Cup in London, while Uganda is the invited team to the competition.

Viewing details for Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens will be finalized prior to tournament kickoff in the early hours of Friday, Dec. 2.

Men's Eagles Sevens | Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens / HSBC Cape Town Sevens
Perry Baker
Danny Barrett
Andrew Durutalo
Alec Gletzer

"The squad also gives opportunities for some guys to make their debuts and continue the development of the Eagles Sevens as established contenders on the Series, something we have worked very hard to be over the last two years."
Mike Friday, Men's Eagles Sevens Head Coach

Martin Iosefo
Matai Leuta
Folau Niua
Don Pati
Stephen Tomasin
Maka Unufe
Anthony Welmers
Kevon Williams

Men's Eagles Sevens | Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens
v. Scotland - Friday, Dec. 2 @ 12:44 a.m. ET
v. Uganda - Friday, Dec. 2 @ 3:44 a.m. ET
v. South Africa - Friday, Dec. 2 @ 10:06 a.m. ET