Test looks back at Series, forward to Rugby World Cup Sevens

Test looks back at Series, forward to Rugby World Cup Sevens

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BOULDER, Colo. – Zach Test may not have equaled his career high in tries during the 2012-13 IRB HSBC Sevens World Series, but he played a major role in helping the Men’s Eagles Sevens win two Plates and earn an 11th-place finish.

Test, who led the Eagles in 2011-12 with 21 tries and in 2010-11 with 24, was nominated to three IRB Dream Teams – at Tokyo Sevens, Glasgow Sevens and London Sevens – and was named Player of the Tournament in London, where the Eagles finished runners-up in the Plate Final. With the added pressure of keeping core team status for next year’s Series in the back of the players’ minds heading into the final three rounds, Test and the Eagles put together their best performances of the season.

“We started to play together as a team,” Test said. “We finally figured out the type of plan we wanted and started executing. We started making better tackles, better ball decisions, and better finishes on the rucks--and we had the will to win.”

By reaching the Cup Quarterfinals in Scotland, paired with the host’s entry into the Bowl Quarterfinals, the Eagles secured their spot as a core team. While that may have been victory enough for a team that has struggled to win silverware throughout the season, the Eagles were not done.

“There was definitely a sigh of relief after reaching the Cup Quarterfinals in Glasgow,” Test said. “But we still wanted to get to the Cup Semis or the Plate Final and get another Plate. Yeah, the pressure’s off, but in the same sense, the pressure was back on to prove it wasn’t just a fluke, we’re actually playing good rugby.”

The Eagles won the Plate in back-to-back tournaments in Tokyo and Glasgow with big wins against the likes of Fiji – who finished third in the overall Series standings – and Wales – who finished seventh – proving the Eagles’ inclusion on the circuit was not a ‘fluke.’

Though they did not return home to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., with a trophy from the last round in London, the Eagles played arguably the toughest set of teams on their way to a third consecutive Plate Final appearance with two wins against South Africa, a team the Eagles had never beaten in the Series, and two late, heartbreaking losses to Australia.

“I can’t call any tournament the hardest,” Test said. “All the games were so close, all the teams were close to the same level. But I would say London was the most exciting because we had never beaten South Africa before and we had always been knocking on the door but failed to execute at the end of the games. Finally, we put 14 minutes together twice and came out with two wins.”

One of the reasons for the Eagles’ strong finish to the season was the partnership between Test and Nick Edwards, who led the Eagles with 20 tries. Test was not far behind him with 18 tries. In the final 18 matches – six each from Tokyo Sevens, Glasgow Sevens and London Sevens – at least one of the two scored a try in all but three matches, two of which were losses.

“Nick and I complement each other very well,” Test said. “We’re both just smashmouth guys who just like to run at you, try to make you miss and have you beat us. We really like a challenge and we want to get the best out of our opponent, whether it’s smashmouth or running around. We play very similar styles and are both on the same page with how we want to play.”

With other options in the experienced Luke Hume and captain Matt Hawkins, to the speedy Carlin Isles and Edwards, to the youth of Colin Hawley and Blaine Scully, the Eagles have all of the pieces to be a top-tier team in the sevens realm. Test knows it is not a one-man sport and credits his teammates for the individual accolades he has received.

“Playing alongside teammates who are doing their everything and playing their roles as a part of the team makes my own job a lot easier,” he said. “But it also comes down to experience; I’ve been on the circuit for five years now. The game kind of slows down for you and it’s easier to make decisions because you’ve been in most of the scenarios before. And especially playing with the guys you’ve been playing with for three or four years, it’s kind of second-nature knowing what they’re going to do.”

Before rugby, Test played college football at the University of Oregon, where he honed more than just his athletic abilities. Test said he was prepared in a professional manner, which helps him in Residency in Chula Vista as well as how to professionally represent his country on the international stage.

Test was named Athlete of the Month for June by the United States Olympic Committee. Read more here >>

Training full-time at the Olympic Training Center does offer its downtime, though, and Test and the rest of the Eagles attempt to make the most of it.

“We try every couple of weekends to have some fun together,” Test said. “Going go-kart driving, playing golf together, going to the beach. We do team activities outside of the Olympic Training Center, but a lot of the time the boys just want to chill out. We’re on the field in the sun for most of the week, so we like to be inside hanging out, getting some good sleep, watching some good TV shows; just kind of getting some alone time.”

Test’s TV shows of choice? Suits, Sons of Anarchy and Modern Family.

The Eagles are not quite done for the season, however, as the 2013 IRB Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow looms at the end of June. Training for the biggest sevens event (apart from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, of course) will be the main priority of Eagles Head Coach Alexander Magleby and his team, who do not want their late success on the Series to stagnate.

“We think that we haven’t hit our peak,” Test said. “We’re just finding our stride and there’s so much more this team can do. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“We had a meeting and we want to be world champs. We showed that and we just have to do the little things a little bit better; play six games 14 minutes through and we can be world champs. Whether we execute that or not is up to us in this next six weeks of training. We’re confident we can go out there and beat the rest of them, play good rugby, and try our hardest to become world champs.”

Follow Zach Test on Twitter @ZTesty5.

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