The Eagles are on to stop four of the World Sevens Series as the tournament heads to Sydney. The Eagles are coming off a very lackluster showing in Wellington in which they looked tired and unable to execute in key moments. Whether or not missing out on the quarterfinals is going to become a trend or an aberration (they are 1-2 in that department this year) could be settled this week. At this point in the season the Eagles are close to determining what type of team they want to be. If they have another run of bad results that is going to push them further down the table making it hard for them to make noise toward the end of the year.
It's not as if the Eagles don't have talent. They return a lot of their Olympic team and the core from last season. Players like Andrew Durutalo, Danny Barrett, Folau Niua, Perry Baker, and Madison Hughes need to lead the way and raise their game to another level. Still, they are missing some key players from last year like Zack Test and Maka Unufe. Right now they are still looking for players to step up and help fill those roles. Steve Tomasin has done well but they still need a Matai Leuta or Carlin Isles to come into their own as super stars.
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The tournament starts at 5:30 p.m. et/2:30 p.m. pt (with the Eagles vs. Argentina) and it can be seen on worldrugby.org.
The Eagles are unchanged from last week with the exception of Chris Coyle coming into the team as a 13th player. The team didn't have that last week and needed to call in Pago Haini when Brett Thompson was injured. Haini will be back on the roster this week as well but it's a game time decision who is on the 12. If Coyle is involved it will be following the calls from several fans who hoped to see him with the Eagles for awhile after playing for the Brumbies 7s team.
Last week players like Folau Niua, Danny Barrett, and Steve Tomasin had good weekends while players like Madison Hughes and Andrew Durutalo need to take a step up this week. The team also needs to find a way to get Carlin Isles more involved.
Squad: Andrew Durutalo, Madison Hughes, Folau Niua, Danny Barrett, Don Pati, Steve Tomasin, Perry Baker, Martin Iosefo, Matai Leuta, Connor Wallace-Sims, Pago Haini, Chris Coyle, Carlin Isles
Argentina (5:30 p.m. et/2:30 p.m. pt): Argentina had a so-so start to the season but turned it on in Wellington with a fifth place finish. The Pumas are a solid team that has seen success against the Eagles in the past. At the same time, the U.S. have had their fair share of wins against Argentina. When the U.S. has had success it's when they've starved Argentina of the ball and found speedsters like Perry Baker and Carlin Isles.
Canada (8:50 p.m. et/5:50 p.m. pt): This one should be a lot of fun to watch. Canada came from nowhere to finish fourth in Wellington. They made a lot of solid plays last week and so the ability that has put them in the top four before. Of any team on the Series they are most like the Eagles but don't have the same type of speedster the Eagles do. Again, if the Eagles want to win they need to take advantage of their speed. The two teams have yet to play each other this year.
Russia (2:23 a.m. et/11:23 p.m. pt): The Eagles have faced Russia once this year, beating them in the Bowl quarterfinals 40-0 back in Dubai. That was a great match for the Eagles and they will need that same type of effort again this weekend. Russia can have their moments but the Eagles have a lot more talent and depth. The U.S. need to punish Russia at the breakdown.
The Keys to the Match
Find Isles & Baker: The Eagles aren't scoring enough tries to consistently threaten the top teams on the Series. There are a lot of factors that go into a try but there is no question finding their speedy players helps. Opposing teams have really keyed in on stopping Baker this year and they are seeing some success. Without question Baker is scoring tries but he's not getting the same type of tries he's had before. Maybe the Eagles need to assert themselves but punishing a few people inside first in order to give Baker and Isles more space.
Accuracy: This is another one of those broad terms we like to use. Namely we're talking about restarts and passing. The Eagles missed a couple of opportunities on restarts last week because their kick was not accurate. Similarly, the they a few tries slip through and they gave up a few because too often their passing was not crisp. They need to make sure they spot on this week.
Mental Game: We spoke at length last week about the Eagles need to have a stronger mental game. By and large they seemed to do okay in that department with a few key comeback wins but overall they simply weren't sharp enough. There wasn't enough focus in every match. That has to change this week or even more questions will be asked.
This is a tournament the Eagles should do well. They have a favorable pool even if all of the matches will be tough. The odds of them making the quarterfinals are significantly higher this week than they were last week but it's all about execution. If the Eagles can pick up a win over Argentina that should set the tone mentally for what they can accomplish. They have been slow starters this year and need to overcome that this week. On the second week of a two week set we think they do just that.