Friday, December 8, 2017

Cape Town 7s Preview: Eagles Look To Turn It Around

The bright side for the Eagles as they move on from their winless tournament in Dubai to the Cape Town 7s is that they can only go up from here. Dubai was a disaster plain and simple. The team recognizes it, the coaching staff recognizes it, and everyone who watched recognizes it. Still, the core of the team remains intact and it's a team that excelled last year. There is no reason to believe that the Eagles can't make it back into the top eight this week. Not all of their problems from Dubai have gone away but they can be changed.

The Team

The Eagles have been forced into one change as Perry Baker failed a head injury assessment last week. The team could have simply brought in 13th man Naima Fualaau but instead have opted to go with Kevon Williams. The Denver Barbarians speedster played with the Eagles at the Silicon Valley 7s and did well. He's now had a number of years high-level rugby under his belt and he could form a good one-two partnership with Carlin Isles. The rest of the team stays to the same.

Take the jump to read more.

Squad: Carlin Isles, Ben Pinkelman, Danny Barrett, Matai Leuta, Joe Schroeder, Malon Al Jiboori, Folau Niua, Maka Unufe, Steve Tomasin, Madison Hughes (C), Kevon Williams, Martin Iosefo; Alternate: Naima Fuala'au

The Opponents

New Zealand (5:05 a.m. et/3:05 a.m. pt): The U.S. played the All Blacks last week and lost 22-12 but it wasn't every really that close. New Zealand looked like the New Zealand of old thanks to a finals appearance. Even though they lost to South Africa New Zealand was able to show up in the rights spots all weekend. That doesn't bode well for the U.S. this weekend.

Australia (8:04 a.m. et/5:04 a.m. pt): Australia finished in 5th place by beating Samoa. They only lost to England (Cup quarterfinals) and Fiji (pool play) all weekend. Both of those losses were by just a try. Even though the U.S. haven't played them on the Series this year they did play a tight final against Australia in the Silicon Valley 7s. There will be good continuity from that tournament on both sides.

Spain (11:50 a.m. et/8:50 a.m. pt): In their first tournament back as a core team Spain finished as runners-up in the Challenge Cup. They are definitely re-energized and ready for the task. They beat France in pool play and then Russia and Argentina in the Challenge Cup. This is a team the U.S. should beat but you never know after last week.

Keys to the Tournament

Play with Energy: Maybe because it was the first tournament of the season and many of the players had some time off but the Eagles looked sluggish. They simply need to have better energy than their opponents. That's what has brought them wins in the past.

Play Better: This sounds really stupid to write. However, we could probably list ten things here but none of them aren't things that are obvious. Kicking, restarts, handling, defensive spacing, and more are all on the list. It's not like the Eagles don't know how to play well, it's just that they need to get it done.

The Takeaway

If the Eagles don't do well there are no reasons to sound the alarm bells. As we mentioned in the opening the fundamentals of the team that finished 5th last year is still there. Maybe they just needed a Series stop under their belt to keep going. We think that's exactly what happens this go around. The team should be able to turn it around and make the top eight. 

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