USA Sevens Men

Written by Pat Clifton    Thursday, 30 January 2014 21:31    PDF Print Write e-mail
Isles Still on Fence, Will be in Wellington
Sevens - USA Sevens Men

The decision between focusing on his future with the Detroit Lions and playing rugby is one Carlin Isles is still wrestling with. He signed a futures contract with the Lions and is slated to join the team for offseason activities after May’s NFL Draft. Sunday in front of NBC cameras, Isles said USA 7s was probably his last rugby tournament, and it appeared it would definitely be his last for the rest of the 2013/2014 World Series.

However, Isles is still training with the 7s team in Chula Vista, Calif. and has decided to make himself available for at least one more tournament – Wellington Feb. 7-8 – while he contemplates staying on the rugby path or making a run at the NFL. The choice between NFL money and rugby money seems like an easy one to most, but Isles isn’t most, and his decision is not all about money.

Most sprinters don’t qualify for the Olympic Trials only to forgo the Trials and switch sports. Most kick return specialists who walk onto their DII college football teams don’t get a shot at the NFL years later. Most don’t lead a developmental team under the watch of the National Team coach in tries at a highly competitive international tournament, earn a training contract, get called up to the IRB World Series and score 23 tries in 13 tournaments (and limited playing time, no less) all within 18 months of picking up a rugby ball.

Isles has a fiancée and wants financial security, but there are other factors in play, too.

Cloaked in Isles’s statements to RUGBYMag minutes after USA’s winning of the Shield in Las Vegas was frustration with a lack of playing time. Isles is apparently not the only contracted player frustrated.

Also weighing on Isles’s decision is the team’s performance. The Eagles are squarely in 14th place on the circuit, and if Olympic qualification began today, there’d be no reason to expect the USA to be one of the 12 teams participating in the Games. Remember, Isles was drawn to rugby because of its inclusion in the Olympics, and he turned down a 15s contract overseas, partially because he wanted to stay on the Olympic pathway.

Isles is also a religious man, evidenced time and time again in interviews and Facebook and Twitter posts, and he values the platform to praise God he’s found as a rugby star. He won’t likely have the same media exposure as an NFL practice squad member.

If Isles's decision proves to be between sitting on the bench for a losing rugby team with an outside shot at Olympic qualification or sitting on the bench for an NFL team with an outside shot of having a lucrative career, Isles is likely to pick the latter. If his decision is between starring on a competitive rugby team with a realistic shot at making the Olympics or sitting the bench for an NFL team, he may just choose the former.

By deciding to stay with the team for Wellington, Isles has given himself a little more time to identify and weigh his options.

Written by Alex Goff    Thursday, 30 January 2014 17:32    PDF Print Write e-mail
Latest From USA 7s Team - P
Sevens - USA Sevens Men

Player moves are still in the offing with the USA Men's 7s team.

Written by Alex Goff    Tuesday, 28 January 2014 19:53    PDF Print Write e-mail
Promotion Makes Vegas Weekend Special for Nu'u
Sevens - USA Sevens Men

This past weekend at the USA 7s had a special meaning for Nu’u’ Punimata, as the Eahles 7s player also was promoted to Sergeant in the US Army.

Nu'u Punimata. Dobson Images.The promotion ceremony was held on the field on Thursday.

“We did it right after our captain’s run,” Punimata said. “It was a bit of a surprise for me. I knew I was supposed to bring my uniform, which I did. I can’t describe what it means to have veterans come out to promote me, and Major Wags (Tom Wagner, the team manager) with my family and my teammates, it was great.”

Punimata first joined the USA team after his strong performance for Old Puget Sound Beach in the 2010 National Club 7s Championships. He played into 2012 but was felled by injury. After that, Punimata enlisted in the Army National Guard, and is now part of the US Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP). He returned to the Eagles under that program this season.

“I am fortunate to be back,” said Punimata, whose father, former longtime Army man Nic, helped coach the Armed Forces teams at the Las Vegas Invitational. “The boys are really starting to buy in with what Coach Hawkins is putting out for us. He’s trained us hard to execute his game plan, and the team chemistry overall is fantastic.”

Written by Pat Clifton    Sunday, 26 January 2014 19:48    PDF Print Write e-mail
No More Rugby for Isles?
Sevens - USA Sevens Men

Carlin Isles might have played his last rugby game. The now famous track convert was signed to the Detroit Lions practice squad ahead of the team’s last regular season game in December. Within a week of Isles joining the Lions, the team sacked then-head coach Jim Schwartz, but Isles has signed a futures contract with the club.

That means Isles, if he’s not cut, will be participating in the Lions’ post-draft workouts and camps. Futures contracts are a way for teams to lock up players they’re interested in before the official league season begins March 11. Only players not on an active NFL roster at the conclusion of the previous season are available for futures contracts.

Isles indicated in front of NBC cameras Sunday that the USA’s 31-0 win over Spain in the Shield Final might be his last rugby game. It will be his last of the 2013/2014 IRB 7s World Series, as Isles is going to turn his focus toward making the most of his shot at the NFL dream.

Isles began playing rugby the summer of 2012 and has ascended to the National Team in record pace.

“The past two years have been a true blessing for me. Rugby in general has opened up a lot of doors and has treated me and welcomed me with open arms,” Isles told RUGBYMag. “I love rugby, I love everything that comes along with it, and I love my support group and the people who support me and my teammates, but sitting back it’s just been a crazy roller coaster and a true blessing.”

If the USA’s Shield performance is indeed Isles’ last rugby game, it’s a fitting microcosm of his year-and-a-half-long career – he started just one game, routinely came on when the Eagles were already in a hole, and he proved the team’s most potent weapon. In the history of the World Series, no player has compiled a more impressive highlight reel in as short a window as Isles, yet he’s struggled to see any consistent playing time. Despite being largely relegated to the bench, Isles scored 23 tries in 13 tournaments. Only Zack Test has scored more in the same span.  

“It’s been a frustration for me, but I don’t worry about it,” said Isles of the lack of minutes. “One thing I just tell myself is whenever I get in and get a chance, there’s certain things I can do to help my teammates. The main thing is keep my teammates first, and it doesn’t matter if I get a minute’s time, two minute’s time, just be grateful for the time that I get. But it’s been frustrating at times because I know I can play the game, I know I can contribute a lot. But the coach is always right, so I just suck it up and help my teammates.”

If Carlin’s rugby career is truly over, if the fastest man in world rugby, the one who has brought unparalleled attention to rugby in the United States, the one so many fans have pinned their Olympic hopes to never plays rugby again, frustrated is exactly how America’s rugby public will feel.

Written by Pat Clifton    Sunday, 26 January 2014 16:16    PDF Print Write e-mail
Eagles End on High Note
Sevens - USA Sevens Men

Team USA salvaged an otherwise disappointing weekend by winning the Shield Sunday at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Americans blanked Spain 31-0 in the final to finish the tournament 3-3. Two of the 15th-ranked Eagles’ wins came against Spain, putting a little more breathing room between them the 16th-ranked Spaniards.

The Eagles took the lead on their first possession, winning a lineout inside their own 22. They spun it wide to Nick Edwards, who got the start at wing. He fended one Spanish defender and cut back to beat another for the long-range score. Folau Niua converted to put the USA up 7-0.

Shortly after Zack Test turned the ball over in a ruck, Stephen Tomasin came off with a knee injury, which he’d accrued in the Shield Semifinal. Nu’u Punimata subbed on in his place.

The Eagles took their new possession into the attacking end, again on the legs of Edwards, who this time was dragged down short of the try line. Following a penalty in the tackle, Niua skipped a pass over Spain’s last defender to a wide-open Brett Thompson for the score. Niua converted again, making it 14-0. Edwards was hurt in the tackle and replaced by Carlin Isles.

Zack Test added to the tally and his all-time USA try record just before the half when Punimata scooped up a loose ball and dished to him in space. The conversion was missed, making it 19-0 to the Eagles.

Carlin Isles extended the lead a couple of minutes into the second half as a pair of offloads from Andrew Durutalo and Shalom Suniula put him in a massive gap for a 60-meter try. Converted, it put the Eagles out 26-0.

Spain nearly got on the board in the final minute, but a last gasp defensive effort from Suniula forced a knock on. Off the ensuing scrum, Test launched a kick 40 meters up field, recovered it, and ran in for his second try at the death.

The Shield trophy is the Eagles’ second this season. They also went 3-3 and finished 13th in the season opener in Australia.

USA 31
Tries: Test (2), Thompson, Isles, Edwards
Cons: Niua (2), Suniula

Spain 0


Page 7 of 98