Men’s Eagles Sevens: 2018 Hong Kong Sevens Preview

Stephen Tomasin and Maka Unufe highlight extended 15-man traveling roster

LAFAYETTE, CO. - The 2017-18 HSBC World Sevens Series continues with its seventh stop at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens Tournament next week Apr. 6-8. Finishing fourth at this stop last season, and now with an extended traveling roster of 15 players to compensate for injuries, Head Coach Mike Friday has additional depth to make final roster selections the week of competition. Currently in the Top 5 of 8 statistical categories this season, the United States has shown their resilience in the challenge to overcome adversity. Broadcast information will be confirmed closer to date with updates available by following @USARugby on Twitter. 

THIS SERIES LAST STOP

Nearly a week after their historic cup win in Las Vegas, the Men's Eagles Sevens finished fourth at the Canada Sevens tournament, where they added 15 points to their overall Series standing of 6th place.

The Eagles started with a strong 45-0 shutout of Uruguay, sliding past rival-Canada for a 28-21 comeback victory before falling to Australia 21-31 in Pool A.

Though they didn't earn a complete sweep in pool play, the United States came back in the Cup Quarter Final with their second shutout victory of the tournament over New Zealand, 0-17. The Cup Semi Final proved to be more of a challenge, however, as a try from Kenya on the last play pushed USA to the Bronze final where they ultimately conceded a top 3 finish to South Africa (7-29).

Towards the end of their run in Vancouver, several athletes played out of position to compensate for injuries sustained on the team. And, while challenges were presented, the squad continued to work in unison to identify the appropriate areas of focus leading into Hong Kong.

WHO TO WATCH

Head Coach Mike Friday's extended traveling roster is highlighted by the return of Stephen Tomasin and Maka Unufe. Tomasin, who suffered a knee injury in Sydney, has been forced to sit out the past three tournaments, unable to build on his 48 total points this season. Unufe, who suffered a bruised thigh in Las Vegas, was unable to suit up for Canada Sevens and grow his 42 total points this season.

As an addition to the increased depth of the group, Pat Blair and newcomer Cody Melphy will also travel with the crew. Melphy, who made his HSBC Series debut at USA Sevens, has the chance to earn his first try in senior competition; while Blair, who has over 10 tournaments under his belt, may make his first Series appearance this year.

In the absence of many regular faces, remaining squad members have continued to step up. Among them are Kevon Williams and Malon Al-Jiboori the latter of which made his Series debut this season. Jiboori, who was recently capped in XVs during the 2018 Americas Rugby Championship, scored his first two Sevens series tries at Canada Sevens, alongside Williams who hit his season high of 3 tries in Vancouver, as well.

HEAR IT FROM THE HEAD COACH, MIKE FRIDAY

On training during camps ...
"We have worked hard to try and get the balance right between recovery and on-field work to allow us to be in the best position to perform come Hong Kong weekend. It has been a tough training camp for the lads who haven't had much time to recover from the previous two legs; and, due to the change in schedule this year, we have even less time to prepare."

On an extended traveling squad with the return of Stephen Tomasin and Maka Unufe ...
"It's great to have Steve and Maka back to bring further strength, experience and attacking firepower into the team. Both players are hugely versatile, balancing the extended traveling squad. With a few minor injury concerns, we will make a final decision the week of the tournament."

On the competition in Pool Play ...
"In light of the Commonwealth Games and how certain teams are adopting their approach to Hong Kong, we are in the Group of death with three quality teams. Argentina and France will be at full power, both having strengthened significantly for these two legs with returning sevens stars. Wales is also sending their Commonwealth team which has the benefit of full internationals who have played in this year's Six Nations."

THE COMPETITION

As emphasized by Coach Friday, the competition in pool play will be nothing short of elite. France, who currently sits in 10th place and faces USA first, is coming back from a tough last place finish in Vancouver, with 13th place Wales up second as they continue to grow in strength. Argentina currently sits at 5th in the Series standings - a mere 4 points above the United States - and will be the final battle of Pool D. Given their Cup Final loss to the Eagles in Las Vegas, the Argentinians will be fueled by a desire to establish their dominance.

Men's Eagles Sevens Traveling Roster | Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens

Perry Baker
Danny Barrett
Pat Blair
Martin Iosefo
Carlin Isles
Malon Al-Jiboori
Matai Leuta
Chris Mattina
Cody Melphy
Folau Niua
Ben Pinkelman (C)
Brett Thompson
Stephen Tomasin
Maka Unufe
Kevon Williams

Men's Eagles Sevens Staff | Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens

Head Coach - Mike Friday
Strength & Conditioning Coach - Jon Hood
Physiotherapist - Brian Green
Team Manager - Scott Novack

Men's Eagles Sevens Schedule | Pool D | Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens

LIVE on ESPN3
vs. France | Fri, Apr. 6 - 6:24 AM ET
vs. Wales | Fri, Apr. 6 - 11:38 PM ET
vs. Argentina | Sat, Apr. 7 - 3:38 AM ET

WHERE WE STAND

HSBC World Series Standing | 6th
HSBC World Series Points |  73
Most Tries Scored by Player | Perry Baker - 1st (32 tries) 
Most Points Scored by a Player | Perry Baker - 4th (162 points)
Most Conversions by a Player | Folau Niua - 5th (49 conversions)
Most Tries Scored by Team | USA - 5th (120 tries) 
Most Points Scored by a Team | USA - 5th (766 points) 
Most Conversions by a Team | USA - 4th (83 conversions) 
Restarts | USA - 5th (129 restarts) 

TO SUM IT UP

The Men's Eagles Sevens will face another challenge in their seventh stop of the 2017-18 World Sevens Series at Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens next week. Head Coach Mike Friday will select his starters from an extended traveling roster of 15-players in the days leading up to face France, Wales and Argentina. With added depth and a current placing in the Top 5 of 8 statistical categories, the United States has an edge against its opposition. Hong Kong Sevens will run from April 6-8 with broadcast information confirmed closer to date and live updates available by following @USARugby on Twitter. 

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