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Caravelli Wants Discipline, Defense

Friday Jul 24, 2009 in Elite Level Rugby USA 7s

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The USA 7s team, believe it or not, still has a shot at a medal at the World Games.

That’s because the organizers made pool play simply a seeding exercise, and now all eight go into the knockout stages. The Eagles play Argentina, and should they win, they enter the semis.

Their bracket is favorable if they can get by Argentina (which they have done in the past, but with some different personnel). After that it would be Portugal or Japan.

Yesterday, however, it was all tough, as the USA lost to Portugal, Chinese Taipei and South Africa. It was a lesson in international 7s for a very inexperienced team (aside from Jone Naqica, the most experienced player there is Thretton Palamo, who is 20).

“The team was very disappointed with their performance in the first two matches,” USA head coach Al Caravelli said. “We underperformed, turned the ball over and didn’t play to our pattern. Most of all, we let our guard down defensively. We needed to commit to the tackles and control the ball a bit more.”

A 50 percent tackle rate won’t win you games in international 7s. It didn’t help that Marco Barnard, who didn’t miss any of his tackles, had to come out with a knock on his head. And also bad was the fact that Caravelli wasn’t seeing any progress.

“We didn’t improve at all from the first game to the second,” he said. “But after that, against South Africa it was a completely different team. We lost, but they improved their defense immensely. I think it’s the attitude as much as anything else. Sometimes defense is just about attitude and wanting to smash the guy in front of you. When we played South Africa I told the boys they are going to run right at you, so they had to handle that.”

The pace of the game has been a wakeup call to some. Even Jason Pye, who has been in the IRB 7s before, was slightly taken aback. It’s been over a year since he played international 7s, and it took some adjustment. Colin Hawley, in his first 7s tournament for USA said he was very surprised at the speed of the game, especially at the breakdown, where you better get your job done quick or it’s over.

“I like this squad, it’s very very athletic,” said Caravelli. “But I need everybody today to be disciplined and stick to the pattern. “The team has great chemistry off the field. It has really bonded well in the short time it has had together, but as always, we need more time to work together on the field and that is just a luxury we don’t have in this tournament. What they are going through reminds me of Wellington in 2007 when we lost all five games but played very well a week later in San Diego. For us, next week is today.”

- Alex Goff

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