CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Men’s Eagles Sevens Head Coach Matt Hawkins has announced the 12-man squad to travel to Japan and China for the next two legs of the 2013-14 IRB HSBC Sevens World Series: Tokyo Sevens and Cathay Pacific HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
The sixth and seventh legs of the Series coincide with the Men’s Eagles’ Rugby World Cup 2015 Qualifier playoff against Uruguay March 22 and March 29, respectively, though Hawkins said he was not missing any players due to qualifying duties.
“There was no one we had any conflict over,” he said. “I’m happy to support Mike in qualifying for the World Cup.”
With Carlin Isles and Folau Niua having signed for RaboDirect Pro 12’s Glasgow Warriors, two spots opened from the squad that traveled to New Zealand for Wellington Sevens in February.
Marcus Satavu, in Residency as part of the World-Class Athlete Program, and Mike Te’o will suit up for the Eagles for the first time this season, while veteran Eagle Mike Palefau will rejoin the team after a good showing at the Las Vegas Invitational.
“Satavu is coming in more as a utility player,” Hawkins said. “He can play in the forwards as well as the backs. We didn’t really have a utility player in Wellington.
“Te’o has been working really hard and he’s still a young guy with a lot of positives. He’s still just learning to be more consistent with his play, but he’s been consistent in the last couple of months and is being rewarded with that with this opportunity to go on tour again.
“Palefau has always been on our radar. He’s someone who isn’t currently with us but I had the opportunity to watch him at the Coral Coast and the Las Vegas Invitational. He’s someone I’d like to get in and see how he does with the program now. He’s training with the guys this week before we head out.”
Palefau was a member of the Eagles for the final four legs of the 2012-13 IRB HSBC Sevens World Series, during which the team maintained core status for this year’s Series with three Plate Final appearances (Tokyo, Glasgow and London). He stayed with the team during its IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 campaign.
“At the end of the day, you can’t buy experience,” Hawkins said. “A guy like Mikey brings that and it’s fantastic to have it. The more you have it the better off you should be. We’re hoping that the experience he brings to the table is going to be really important, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Remaining a core team for this year’s Series was not a guarantee last season, as the Eagles were battling with Scotland for the final spot without having to go through a separate qualifying tournament.
The Eagles defeated Scotland in the Tokyo Sevens Plate Final and Argentina in the Glasgow Sevens Plate Final to avoid the second tournament at London Sevens. In London, the Eagles fell to Fiji in the Plate Final.
This year, the Eagles will not have to worry about losing their place on the circuit for the 2014-15 IRB HSBC Sevens World Series unless they finish last out of the 15 current core teams. After five rounds, the Eagles are in 14th ahead of Spain.
Hear Hawkins discuss last season’s late push and this year’s motivation:
The Eagles are in Pool C with Fiji, France and Samoa, ranked third, 10th, and sixth, respectively. The first match for Hawkins’ men, against Samoa, will kick off from Tokyo Friday, March 21, at 9:22 P.M. ET. Watch live on Universal Sports and follow @USARugby on Twitter for match updates.
Pools for the Cathay Pacific HSBC Hong Kong Sevens will be announced following the conclusion of Tokyo Sevens.
Men's Eagles Sevens | Tokyo Sevens/Cathay Pacific HSBC Hong Kong Sevens Roster
Men's Eagles Sevens | Tokyo Sevens
v Samoa - Friday, March 21 - 9:22 P.M. ET
v Fiji - Saturday, March 22 - 12:18 A.M. ET
v France - Saturday, March 22 - 4:30 A.M. ET