As the Rugby World Cup Sevens comes to a start tomorrow, we will see 24 teams go against each other in Moscow, Russia aimed to win the pinnacle of worlds sevens competition. The United States, one of the hottest teams in the Sevens competition, will be starting pool play against New Zealand, Canada, and Georgia. Before you enter into watching the competition, that will be shown on NBC Universal, you should know who to be spotlighting on the USA team.
(Disclaimer: parenthesis after the name are jersey numbers the players will be wearing)
Top 5 USA Eagles Sevens Players to watch during the Rugby World Cup
5. Maka Unufe (#12)
This 6’1, former wide receiver carries all the tangibles that could be expected from a former football player. He has the size to be able to break tackles, the speed to break away from the opposition and the awareness to be able to set up the field. There are two reasons he’s high on the list. First was his reluctance to make the pass when necessary, instead looking to use the dummy pass and try and break away for the big run between defenders. This move he does works against opponents, but it doesn’t work 100% of the time. If he were to lessen the use of this move and play a little bit better in possession, he might move higher on the list. Second, was the fact that he had not been with the Eagles Sevens team since they played in New Zealand on February 1st and 2nd. Regardless, Unufe’s break away ability will be extremely valuable for the Eagles, especially when playing New Zealand and Canada in pool play.
4. Carlin Isle (#1)
I know it’s crazy. The face of USA Sevens Rugby isn’t even considered the best person on the team. There is more than a valid reason. Carlin Isle has all the speed in the world to always be one of the most dynamic players in the World Cup. When given the space, Carlin Isles can turn an inch and make it into a mile. The threat he is on offense is phenomenal, but when it comes to defense he is an absolute liability. Carlin Isle is already small for the typical international Sevens rugby player, standing at 5’8’, 190 lbs, but for him to get manhandled as often as he does on defense is unbecoming. It’s understood that he still has a lot to learn about the game of rugby, but basic tackling is not something that is lost on other contact sports. At some point he’s going to have to learn to get low and just aim for the legs. Much like many cornerbacks in football do when they have guys two times heavier than they are come running at them at full speed. Until Carlin Isle can be more effective on defense, you cannot keep him on the field long term. In a close game, he is one stiff arm away from letting the opponents wing run in for a try. Carlin Isle’s threat on offense still cannot be ignored, and even with his liability on defense, he is always one small gap away from out running the opponents for an effortless looking try.
3. Nick Edwards (#2)
Get to know this name. I expect to continue seeing him on the Sevens circuit now that he has returned to playing. Edwards took over at wing for Carlin Isle, probably due to the liability that Isle faced when playing defense, and to the fact that Edwards has more experience. This guy is as dynamic as anyone when it comes to playing the sport. He is another former football player, turned rugger, who has found his niche in the breakaway run department. What differs him from his predecessors is that he is more likely to set the ball up for the next player when he is tackled. In addition, though his defense is not world class, there is not a whole lot of situations where he gets burned. Nick Edwards entered on to the scene during the Dubai Sevens Tournament on November 30, 2012, and has gradually become more and more confident. He appeared to have gained his stride at the Glasgow Sevens Tournament in Scotland when he just appeared unstoppable on scoring tries. He is the USA Eagles most important closer right now. This is why he takes the number three spot on my list.
2. Shalom Suniula (#4)
This is the captain for the USA Eagles Sevens. He is not extremely flashy, but he is widely efficient. Without this scrumhalf, the Eagles don’t get the ball in the position that they want. It was a night and day difference when Tai Ensoa was playing scrumhalf, and when Suniula is. Aside from the fact that Suniula is able to play defense very well, he has the ability to break away on long runs for tries. What makes Suniula so special is that his decision is superb. Those quick decisions make the difference between a turnover ball or an impossibly open try for a Hawkins or Niua to break. Suniula makes the number two ranking on this list because his field awareness is bar none to the rest of the team.
1. Zach Test (#5)
6’4”, former University of Oregon football player, of unsuspecting speed and power. This is probably the biggest not-so-secret weapon for the USA side. He is second on the team with 18 total tries in the HBSC World Series, and is always ready to add to that. If you watch Test run, it’s like watching a gazelle run with his stride. What makes Test particularly dangerous is his ability to make quick cuts and not lose any speed. Take that in consideration with his arm length and ability to stiff arm and most players have no chance against this guy. Test is the breakaway player that no one expects to break one for a long run. He has the ability to make the passes that create an amazing assist for any tries that happen. The USA will be relying heavily on Test to throw the defense off their games and create overloads.
I hope that you get the opportunity to watch the Rugby World Cup this weekend. USA opens up play against Georgia at 7:06am CST. You can find the schedule and online stream at RWCsevens.com, or you can catch it on TV at NBC Universal Sports DirectTV Channel 625. Enjoy and GREAUX RUGBY!
CEO/Founder of Gift-Time Rugby Network
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