It's been almost two months since the Women's Eagles saw action in Hong Kong, and the team is looking to build upon their third place finish. The team has been placed in Pool C with Hong Kong runners-up Australia, China, and France. So, without further delay, let's look at those opponents, as well as the team that head coach Ric Suggitt is bringing to London.
First up for the Eagles is France at 6:52 a.m. et/3:52 a.m. pt on Saturday. The French have always been a tough team to read. They can play well at times, but at others they are just an ordinary side. Still, there is a bit of history between these two teams. The Eagles defeated France in the pool stage of the Las Vegas Invitational, but it wasn't by a large margin. You have to wonder if the long distance France had to travel to get to Vegas played a factor in their fitness, and if the same thing will happen to the Eagles in London. Otherwise, it is an evenly placed match but won the Eagles will need to win if they want to advance in the tournament.
The second match of the day features the U.S. vs. China at 9:14 a.m. et/6:14 a.m. pt. Two years ago you could say that the Chinese were one of the best teams on the circuit, however, their results have suffered as of late and they just haven't been what there were. They will always be a tough challenge and the Eagles can't take them lightly, but the Eagles should still be able to win. It will come down to a battle of forwards, and if the Eagles can hold even, they should be able to use their speed out wide to gain the advantage.
The last match of the day features the Eagles vs. Australia at 12:20 p.m. et/9:20 a.m. pt. Australia were runners-up in Hong Kong and have previously won the 7's World Cup. They are a well trained side, that like the Eagles, has gone full-time recently. They feature many of the same strengths as the Eagles but with a touch more experience and athleticism. It will be a tough ask for the U.S. to come out victorious and if they are going to do so, they will have to keep possession and play mistake-free rugby.
Head coach Ric Suggit has chosen to take a mix of some more experienced players as well as younger players. Stalwarts like Katie Dowty, Vanesha McGee, and Kelly Griffin return and will provide the team with leadership. At the same time, younger players like Deven Owsiany and Akalaini "Bui" Barivilala (who will make her debut) will be able to get some time and build up their experience. The team is very athletic and contains a lot of rugby-experience. That will be useful for putting away teams like France and China, while giving the team a chance against Australia. Here are the players on the team for London:
Kaelene Lundstrum (USA Rugby)
Deven Owsiany (USA Rugby)
Jillion Potter (USA Rugby)
Katie Dowty (USA Rugby)
Kimber Rozier (USA Rugby)
Nathalie Marchina (Berkeley All-Blues)
Vanesha McGee (USA Rugby)
Meya Bizer (At Large)
Kelly Griffin (USA Rugby)
Bui Barivilala (USA Rugby)
Ashley Okonta (Notre Dame)
Erica Cavanaugh (NOVA)
It is really hard to judge women's 7's because they don't play very often. The needs to, and will, change in the future. Realistically, it would be nice if the Eagles made it to the final of this tournament, but with teams like England, Canada, and Australia all competing, it will be very difficult. That being said, the Women's Eagles always compete and show well. It wouldn't be too surprising if the team was able to pull off the upset against Australia and against another team to make it into the final. Eight teams will qualify for the quarterfinals so it looks like the Eagles will get at least five matches at the tournament, this experience is invaluable. Here's hoping the team does well in London and does the U.S. proud!
To follow the team you can follow them on Twitter @USAWomenEagles and @USAEaglesRugby