USA Squad for World Series Kickoff Set
CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Defense, fitness, and mental toughness are three chief characteristics that Eagle Sevens coach, Al Caravelli, was looking for while nailing down the 12 man squad he will take to Dubai and South Africa for the first two stops in the HSBC Sevens World Series.
Caravelli and his staff have been hard at work since May, when the 2009-2010 Sevens World Series ended, scouting, evaluating and developing talent for this World Series season.
Several intensive camps have been hosted at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista over the last four months. These camps gave Caravelli an opportunity to look closely at over 50 outstanding athletes and also gave him the difficult task of paring it down to 12 who will travel and represent the USA for the World Series.
The squad Caravelli has selected for the first two events in Dubai and George reflects a special emphasis on fitness and defense. Mental toughness is also key and is a trait that Caravelli’s squad cultivated as they visited a Navy SEAL training center. The Eagles were drilled by the center’s training staff and by all accounts was a grueling but invaluable experience.
Three newcomers in total are in the squad. Miles Craigwell and Nu’u Punimata, of the Miami Dolphins and UEPT respectively, are two hard-hitting football converts. Craigwell was a defensive back and Punimata was an outside linebacker. Both were Sevens All-Stars this summer and can certainly be intimidating in defense.
The third newcomer to Eagle Sevens is Kyle Marshall. Marshall was the fittest player at camp and smashed all previous Eagle Sevens fitness records (even the Navy SEALs were impressed).
THE EAGLE SEVENS GUARD
The squad’s nucleolus is made up of power forwards Mark Bokhoven and captain Matt Hawkins. At pivot Caravelli selected two crafty playmakers in Nese Malifa and Shalom Suniula. At center, Mile Pulu will be an offensive threat in the midfield. Pulu proved he can be the difference-maker as he was named the MVP of the USA Rugby Emirates Airline New York All-Star Sevens last August. Pulu brings speed, power, and skills to the crucial center position. Ronald Suniula is another option Caravelli has at center. Out wide, speed merchant Zach Test, the powerful Marco Barnard, and veteran Jason Pye will be potent forces on the wings. Pye returns to the squad after a year away.
There is a very nice mixture of talent across the board and will certainly be a dynamic squad on both sides of the ball.
“I’m very pleased with the squad. This has to be the most difficult camp we have ever had as far as putting something in front of the players that challenged them; not only physically but mentally as well. The mental strength that these young men showed while training with the SEALs was inspiring.
“What we did in March was nothing compared to what they did yesterday. It was great for me as a coach to see which athletes used what they learned to take it further than they ever had,” said Caravelli.
LOOKING TO DUBAI AND GEORGE
The squad will depart for Dubai on Thursday where they will acclimate and train ahead of the World Series opener on December 3. The Eagles will face Argentina, New Zealand, and Zimbabwe in Pool B.
Following the Dubai tournament, the squad will fly to George, South Africa and prepare for the second stage of the Series where they will take on Samoa, Fiji, and Namibia.
“Our goal is to be a consistent team this year,” Caravelli said. “With that said, we want to be a team that plays in the cup rounds. We know we are a bit behind the other teams as far as game time, but the only way to get that is by playing. One thing for sure is we are very prepared.”
USA EAGLE SEVENS
Matt Hawkins* (Belmont Shore), Marco Barnard (KU), Mark Bokhoven (Denver Barbarians), Shalom Suniula (Brisbane), Zach Test (Loughborough University), Miles Craigwell (NYAC / Spearhead Academy), Nese Malifa (Glendale Raptors), Nuese Punimata (Old Puget Sound Beach), Mile Pulu (East Palo Alto), Kyle Marshall (Boston Rugby Club), Jason Pye (Provo), Roland Suniula (Unattached)
For more information:
Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby 7s | Dubai, UAE | December 3-4, 2010
Emirates Airline South Africa 7s | George, South Africa | December 10-11, 2010
NZI Sevens | Wellington, New Zealand | February 4-5, 2011
USA Sevens | Las Vegas, USA | February 12-13, 2011
Cathay Pacific Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens | Hong King, China | March 25-27, 2011
Adelaide Sevens | Adelaide, Australia | April 2-3, 2011
Emirates Airline London Sevens | London, England | May 21-22, 2011
Emirates Airline Edinburgh Sevens Festival | Edinburgh, Scotland | May 28-29, 2011