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Ambitious 7s Season Starts with August Tournaments

Monday Aug 3, 2009 in Elite Level Rugby USA 7s

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(Kevin Swiryn is in the 7s team plans. Ian Muir photo)

During the long 2008-2009 USA 7s season, covering ten tournaments and 55 games, the head coach Al Caravelli used, by our count, 33 different players.

That’s a huge number, and many more than any of the core IRB World Sevens Series teams.

“It’s not ideal,” said USA Rugby CEO and President of Rugby Operations Nigel Melville. “We know the key to success is consistency, and lowering the number of players the program uses. If we are able to guarantee qualification as a core team before we go to the last two tournaments, then maybe we can bring in some younger players and blood them.”

Caravelli agrees, saying he wants to concentrate on using 15 to 17 players for the season.

Those 17 or so will come from the existing ranks of 7s players, although there will be some significant changes. Todd Clever, Chris Wyles and Takudzwa Ngwenya are not going to be back on the 7s circuit anymore.

Others, including Rikus Pretorius, Shalom Suniula, Justin Boyd and Marco Barnard are dealing with injury, while still others, Steve St. Pierre, Blaine Scully, Colin Hawley, Thretton Palamo and Zach Test, will be in college and not available for the full season. James Gillenwater won’t be available at all due to law school.

Take out the injured, the students, the overseas, those whose availability is iffy, and those whose time is basically up, you end up with only 12 players.

But with that list whittled down, Caravelli has a solid core of players to center a team around. What he’d like to do is ensure those core players, plus a couple of the most promising crossover talents (Leonard Peters and Dallas Robinson, most likely) are training most of the season for 7s.

Word is that a plan is afoot to make that happen, and Melville said he is working with a potential partner to put the 7s team on a steadier financial footing.

Caravelli will be scouting the USA National Club 7s and the National All-Star Championships for players. From there he will put together a camp of 40 or so players to assemble in Chula Vista in September. Most of those players will be ones who are relatively new to the program.

After that he will pick his core 20 and concentrate on preparing them for the season, starting with a warmup tournament in Australia. He expects to use some of the students when they are available (and if they make the team), but it’s clear this coming USA 7s season is going to be very different from the last one.

“We’re going to work to develop every player as a 14-minute player,” said Caravelli. “We’ve seen what happens when you get young players in the program for an extended period.”

Hopefully now the USA can do more with less.

- Alex Goff

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