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Friday, December 9, 2016

Cape Town 7s Preview: Eagles Look For Top Eight


The Eagles didn't perform the way they wanted in Dubai. A slow start cost them a chance to make the top eight. They rebounded from a subpar match against Scotland and half against Uganda but then played well against South Africa and did really well on day two to take home the Challenge Trophy. If the Eagles can play like they did on day two then they have a chance this week. However, with matches against Australia and South Africa they face a tough task.

When the Eagles had success in Dubai it came from winning the battle and the breakdown. Andrew Durutalo showed glimpses of his vintage self and it paid dividends for the team. Martin Iosefo also had a nice match. The U.S. needs more power running like that if they are going to be successful. The more defenders are drawn into the middle the more space there is for the speedy wing players. Will it happen? It's possible but lots of things are going to have to come together to make it happen.

Take the jump to read more.
The tournament will be aired on worldrugby.org.

The Team

There is only one change to the team from Dubai. Madison Hughes is getting a much deserved rest and in his place comes Anthony Welmers. Hughes wasn't the only player to look tired in Dubai but now with a tournament under their belts you can expect more from the likes of Danny Barrett, Perry Baker, and Andrew Durutalo. All of those players seemed to find their groove as the tournament went along and that should be more emphasized this week. Of the new players to the team Don Pati was very serviceable in Dubai while Steve Tomasin seemed comfortable in a more expanded role. Kevon Williams also came on and did well. We think we'll see more of Williams and his speed this week.

Squad: Perry Baker, Danny Barrett, Andrew Durutalo, Alec Gletzer, Martin Iosefo, Matai Leuta, Folau Niua, Don Pati, Steve Tomasin, Maka Unufe, Anthony Welmers, Kevon Williams

The Opponents

Australia (5:27 a.m. et/2:27 a.m. pt): Australia were the Plate (or whatever you want to call it) champions last week. They only lost once all tournament, to Wales 21-12 in the quarterfinals. However, they did have a couple of tight results in pool play against Japan and Kenya. On their way to the Plate they beat New Zealand and Wales. This is going to be the rubber match for the Eagles in the pool. If they want to finish in the top two they need to beat Australia.

South Africa (9:10 a.m. et/6:10 a.m. pt): The Blitzbokke are the only unbeaten team on the season after winning the Dubai 7s. Outside of their two point win over the U.S. they stormed through pool play. It's that close match that the Eagles will take hope in. The U.S. can beat South Africa but at home it's going to be tough.

Russia (12:34 p.m. et/9:34 a.m. pt): The U.S. played Russia in the Challenge Cup quarterfinals last week and were runaway winners. The Eagles could know whether they are in or out of the quarterfinals by this point. Either way, they need to beat Russia for positioning and momentum.

Keys to the Match

Wing Space: Teams have really focused in on isolating Perry Baker with Carlin Isles out injured. Baker did well to try new things to find space for himself, like his kicks over the defense. They worked to a certain degree but he's going to need to perfect that in order for defenses to move off him. Additionally, if Kevon Williams can get going that will help. At the same time, getting the ball out to the wings quickly is important. It was too slow in Dubai.

Restarts: Last week we saw how important restart are in the game of 7s. The U.S. won matches (i.e. Russia) by holding on to the ball. More of that and they are going to be alright.

Yep, they pretty much find space for Baker or Williams and win restarts they can beat anyone.

The Takeaway

It's going to be difficult for the Eagles to make the quarterfinals. Australia are such a good team, a beatable team, but a team favored over the Eagles. The same goes for South Africa who will be very difficult to beat at home. If the U.S. can pull off an upset against either one of those teams then anything can happen. Even though the Eagles don't seem like a team ready to break out we think they make it this week. They have always thrived when underdogs and they are definitive underdogs.




1 comment:

  1. Was really impressed the way Perry has elevated his game. Not only that kick, but his rucking, tackling, and offloads are making him a much more dynamic player than the speedy wing label. He's the indispensable player right now. Was surprised at the poor passing from the team overall, and even other teams in the tournament. Must be first tourney jitters. Still waiting on Maka to break out. He's so promising but just hasn't broken through with consistent performances. Would like to see Kevon Williams. He looks fast. Tomasin's a worker. Hope they can advance this time.

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