USA 7s halfback Shalom Suniula has passed a fitness test on his calf, and will accompany the USA Falcons as they fly out Thursday to the Cayman Islands for the North American, Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) 7s.
Suniula and Nate Augspurger will co-captain the squad that includes a mixture of regular USA players and some hoping to break into the Eagles' World Series team. Suniula is coming off being dropped for the Gold Coast 7s.
"Being dropped was one of the best things that could happen to me," Suniula told RUGBYMag.com. "It allowed me to step back and reevaluate what I am doing, and also examine how the team plays without me. I hope to play my way back onto the Eagles, but I also know there are a lot of other guys gunning for those spots."
The entire squad is this:
It is a forward-heavy team, with six of the 12 being forwards.
"I think that's great to have two full forward units," said Falcons Coach Tony Pacheco. "It's going to be very warm and humid, and the guys will be working very hard. I think we will need all of them."
Some of the forwards will be expected to play a little in the backs, with Ben Nicholls showing the ability to play some hooker, and also in the midfield. Jack Halalilo, probably the most experienced player aside from Suniula, can also handle a little time in the backs.
Pacheco knows his team will have really only a day and a bit to get acclimated.
"It's a long flight but the time difference isn't too bad, and we don't play our first game until 11am on Saturday," he said. "However, we have to hit the ground running."
Pacheco is coaching the team but it's been made clear also that there are some expectations in terms of selection. USA Head Coach Matt Hawkins has said he wants to see Carlin Isles and Ryan Matyas get a lot of playing time. There will also be a huge competition between Suniula, Augspurger, and Tai Enosa to see who can nail down a spot on the Eagles going to Dubai and South Africa.
But for now, the USA Falcons will be worried about handling some tough and athletic Caribbean opposition, many of whom want to see how they measure up against the speedy and jovial Isles.
"We are going there to win, but we are also developing players," said Pacheco. "I am excited to see these guys and how they do. I am looking forward to what Mike Ziegler can show us, and how players like Ben Nichols handle this environment. We have a system we want to play in, but I also want them to be free. I am OK with a guy making a decision that turns out not to be the right one, as long as he makes it going 100 percent. I want to see these guys really play."