Friday, February 5, 2016

Sydney 7s Preview: Eagles Aiming For More

Last week we stressed that as the Eagles entered the Wellington 7s they had higher expectations placed upon them. No longer would it be satisfying to just make the Cup quarterfinals. That's what happened to the U.S. as they still managed to be a top eight team and pick up some big wins in the process but still had a subpar weekend. That expectation for higher performance hasn't one away this tournament either. If anything, the U.S. will be called on to bounce back.

One of the hallmarks of the team under Mike Friday is that the team typically does slightly better on the second week of a tournament series. That's always been the case but Friday has a way of motivating the team to get them in the right frame of mind. If there is one thing about this Eagles 7s team it's that they are competitors who like to compete hard. They know they could have done better in Wellington so expect them to come out firing in Sydney.

Take the jump to read more.

The Team

The team has been forced into one change due to the injuries of Kevin Swiryn and Brett Thompson. Martin Iosefo, who was himself recovering from a knock, is into the team and will give the team plenty of power. They could use another bruiser to help compliment Danny Barrett. Like last week, this team has all the tools to be successful. They have power, speed, and strength in the air. The kickers had an off week last week but they are more than capable.

Squad: Carlin Isles, Matai Leuta, Danny Barrett, Ben Pinkleman, Zach Test, Martin Iosefo, Folau Niua, Thretton Palamo, Nate Augspurger, Madison Hughes, Perry Baker, Will Holder

The Opponents

Wales (8:50 p.m. et/5:50 p.m. pt): The Welsh have had a very disappointing season with two Bowl semi-final appearances in Dubai and Cape Town and then a Shield semi-final appearance in Wellington. It seems as if they aren't stocking the squad since it will be a Great Britain side for the Olympics that isn't likely to feature too many Welshmen. The team has been competitive but has also had some pretty poor losses. The U.S. should be able to get out of the gate early for the win.

Japan (12:48 a.m. et/9:48 p.m. pt): Although the Japanese were winless in pool play in Wellington they did turn it on during day two with a surprise result over France and then a near win over Scotland. They have players that can be dangerous and if you get lackadaisical they will make you pay. This could be either a trip-up match for the Eagles or a big blowout. A win, if they beat Wales, likely secures another Cup quarterfinal.

England (4:19 a.m. et/1:19 a.m. pt): This is going to be a good one. England finished in fourth place in Wellington and as a result moved past the Eagles in the standings. One of their wins in Wellington came over the Eagles in what was a very poor performance from the Eagles (#cursedjersey). No question that the U.S. will still have that fresh in their minds and will want revenge. That's easier said than done against a good England side but it's very possible. The U.S. has seen some success against England recently.

The Keys to the Tournament

Possession, Possession, Possession: If there was one thing glaring from the Eagles last week it was the lack of possession. Whether it be from the restart not going 10, a poor penalty, or a handling error, the U.S. continued to cough up the ball and give their opponents time. England and Fiji crushed them on that.

Be Lethal: If you look at the match against Fiji last week the U.S. actually probably should have won that match. If it wasn't for three quick mental errors from the U.S. the Fijians wouldn't have had a try. Not only does the U.S. need to avoid that but they have to be the ones being deadly on turnovers.

Kicking: Here were are talking about kicking once again. After praising them last week the U.S. kickers didn't have a great time in Wellington. Not only were some conversions off (scoring in the corner doesn't help) but restarts were all off. That needs to be fixed ASAP if they have any chance of doing well.

Restart: This is usually a strength for the U.S. but it let them down in Wellington. They need their ball hawks to get after it on restarts. They miss Garrett Bender and Andrew Durutalo in this category. Someone is going to have to step up and take charge in this department.

The Takeaway

No draw on the Series guarantees you a spot in the Cup quarterfinals as we've seen this year. However, the Eagles have a great shot of beating both Wales and Japan early and then gaining confidence to beat England. Momentum really helps a team eliminate those mental mistakes that plague them. We think that the U.S. will use the positive momentum from their day two in Wellington into a strong showing in Sydney. 

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