The USA men’s 7s team that will play at the Glasgow 7s and London 7s will be named soon, with Alex Magleby potentially taking an extra player to handle any injuries the team might meet along the way.
All teams are finding out that the HSBC Sevens World Series has become more difficult to negotiate. Teams that win or come close in the first of a pair of tournaments are often finding them fade the weekend after.
(Of the 12 teams that made the semis in a first weekend, six failed to make the cup quarters the weekend after. Only one team, New Zealand, has made every semifinal round.)
The Eagles have actually bucked that trend. In Dubai they were bowl semifinalists, but a week later in the Cup Round. In Wellington they were last, but top eight a week later in Las Vegas. And in Hong Kong they limped to the Bowl semis, only to win the Plate a week later in Tokyo.
“I do think that’s in part a testament to the work [physio] Brian Green and [conditioning coaches] Dave Williams and Ryan Gallop have done,” said USA Head Coach Alex Magleby. “We have had very little soft tissue injury, and that’s good. In the second week we’re on an upward swing. But the question on the front end is, do we need to get a competition in before that first week, or some practice games in, or is it jet lag, or something we can address as coaches.”
The Eagles will be one of the later arrivals in the UK for Glasgow. Magleby likes having his players in their comfort zone in Chula Vista, but that also means they will have to acclimate to an eight-hour time difference quickly.
While at Chula Vista, Magleby’s big concern is making the training time count. The players are resting more now after a very long season.
“We have had a lot of volume, so the trick is to not necessarily work more, but work more on recovery,” said Magleby.
What he also has been trying to do is find ways to simulate the standards of play you find on the circuit. When a player consistently makes a break up the middle in training, that isn’t necessarily something he gets away with at the tournaments. Players need to learn that.
“I am really enjoying the guys,” said Malgeby, who has been through a long season himself. “It’s been a struggle at times, but we’re getting there. We are changing the culture; it has taken longer than I had hoped, but we are changing it.”
A big part of that culture change came between Hong Kong and Japan. While Magleby said the players have been very honest with their coach about the mistakes they make, sometimes it’s tough to admit it to your teammates. In an emotional jersey ceremony before the Tokyo tournament, players stood up and made pledges – I won’t miss tackles, I won’t turn the ball over the way I have been doing, things like that. It was a breakthrough of sorts, as the players acknowledged the issues they have been struggling with, and, once those issues were out in the open, resolved to fix them.
The result was winning the Plate, and the team’s third appearance in the Cup Quarters in one season, something they have never done before.
But even with that good news, it might not be enough, as the USA must do better than Scotland in order to garner an automatic spot in the core group of teams for next season.
And they will have to do that in Glasgow. A slow start and a better performance in London won't cut it. They need to perform on Week One.