BOULDER, Colo. – Twelve of the best American high school rugby players in the country will leave for the U.K. on March 24 to prep for the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s tournament in London. The USA Rugby High School All-American Sevens team will compete in the open division of the tournament that kicks off on March 29.
The Rosslyn Park Sevens will be the second tournament for the HSAA7s this year. A run to the Cup final in the Las Vegas Invitational in February has given the team momentum and HSAA Head Coach, Salty Thompson, expects the team to perform well in a tough pool in London.
The HSAAs will face Welsh side Dyffryn Taf, Lycee Francais Charles De Gaulle, King Edward VI, and Nottingham in Group G. The Americans must win their pool if they hope to advance to the elimination rounds of the tournament.
Thompson knows that the team will face a stern challenge at Rosslyn Park, noting that many of the teams have highly competitive programs with long and proud rugby traditions, such as Nottingham H.S. and King Edwards VI.
“We’re going into deep water, it is going to be a huge challenge for us,” said Thompson of the open division of the tournament that is comprised of 21 pools with five teams in each pool. “To win this championship you have to play nine games in two days. It could end up being the survival of the fittest, literally."
The 12-man roster will get fully rotated the first day due to the demanding schedule. The HSAAs could play up to five games on day one if they win their pool. If they don’t, their tournament is over.
While wins are great, Thompson is always keeping an eye on the long-term development of the athletes as well as the HSAA program as a whole. The USA Rugby High School All-American program includes both fifteens and sevens teams, but players aren't limited to just one version of the game as Head Coach Salty Thompson sees sevens as a great development tool for new players. Case and point, a three-week South America tour in July for the HSAA fifteens team is an added carrot for an impressive performance in the London sevens tournament.
Some of the HSAA players may even put a hand up for National Team selection. Following the announcement in November 2011 that USA Rugby will contract its sevens athletes, many of the HSAAs are on the National Team radar and could earn a contract in the coming years.
The All-Americans may get a glimpse of another career path when they watch current Men’s National Team star (and former USA Men’s Eagle Sevens player) Chris Wyles’s professional team Saracens take on the Harlequins at Wembley Stadium in front of an expected crowd of more than 70,000.
BOY’S HIGH SCHOOL ALL-AMERICANS | ROSSLYN PARK SEVENS | MARCH 29-30
Nu’u Aiava (Hilo Reign; Hilo, Hawaii)
Dylan Audsley (Tempe Rugby Club; Phoenix, Ariz.)
Gavin Brown (North Central High School; Indianapolis, Ind.)
Jake Feury (Morris Rugby Club; Rockaway, N.J.)
Christian Hess (Los Angeles Cougars; Los Angeles, Calif.)
Jeremy Lutali (Wilson H.S./Belmont Shore; Long Beach, Calif.)
Sean Mahon (Glen Ellyn Ducks; LaGrange, Ill.)
Sam Peri (Lamorinda; Moraga, Calif.)
Anthony Salaber (Dixon Rugby Football Club; Dixon, Calif.)
Bradley Shaw (Columbus RFC Indiana; Columbus, Ind.)
Vili Toluta’u (Mana O Maui Rugby; Kahului, Hawaii)
Zach Webber (Utah United; Salt Lake City, Utah)