The USA Women’s Eagles Sevens have landed in South Africa and are currently stationed in Stellenbosch for pre-training ahead of the Rugby World Cup Sevens, scheduled to kick off in Cape Town, September 9-11.
Last competing on the World Rugby stage in May during the France Sevens in Toulouse, the United States have been occupying the summer with intensive training and international scrimmages at the Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista, CA. In a relatively unchanged roster from the French tournament, veteran Naya Tapper returns to the squad for the first time since the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series stop at Seville, Spain last January. Organized in a pure knock out format, the USA will take on Poland for their opening match at 6:33 AM ET. The Rugby World Cup Sevens will be live on the NBC Family of networks with the entirety of the competition streaming live on Peacock.
Given the pure knock out format, the USA will enter every game from the beginning of the tournament facing elimination. 16 teams will file into the initial bracket, where first round winners will move on to the Championship bracket and losers to the Challenge Bracket. The field of teams include the full slate of HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series regulars, along with a number of new nations. The USA qualified for this Rugby World Cup Sevens after their results four years ago at home in San Francisco for the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018, alongside New Zealand, Australia and France. The USA opponent in round one, Poland, qualified through the Rugby Europe Sevens Championship in July. While not a series regular, Poland and the USA have matched up this year during pool play at the Malaga Sevens in January. The United States won that match, 31-7.
The last Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2018 was an experience to behold for the USA, as it was the first Rugby World Cup event to be hosted on American soil, staged at a sold-out Oracle Park in San Francisco. The USA played well to reach the semifinal of that tournament, before falling to eventual champion New Zealand in a close 26-21 affair. They would eventually finish just off the podium in fourth place, a mark the team intends on beating this time around. 7 of the 13 players traveling to Cape Town in 2022 were also rostered on that 2018 squad, bringing a fair amount of experience back to the pitch for the USA side. Naya Tapper returns to the squad for the first time since January, while Colorado Gray Wolves star Sam Sullivan is named to the roster before appearing on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, and just a few months after making her USA Eagles debut with the 15s squad in New Zealand for the Pacific Four Series. Veteran Lauren Doyle will again runout as Captain, as she nears 10 years with the USA Eagles Sevens program.
Since last completing the sevens circuit in France just over 100 days ago, the Women’s Eagles Sevens have been in a hyper-focused training environment at the Elite Athlete Training Center and recently hosted Canada and Brazil for a full-on exhibition tournament to ensure the squad had some international match play during the long hiatus. Now in the ground in South Africa, the USA will also run out for scrimmages with France and Ireland ahead of competition to continue sharpening game plans. With a majority of the Rugby World Cup Sevens field getting competition time through the Commonwealth Games, it was important for the USA to also compete in international match play and remain at the top of medal contention in Cape Town. While Bydwell and the team may be less than satisfied with the results of this year’s Series, they remain a lethal team with podium potential and the BRAVE name to play for.
Head Coach Emilie Bydwell’s comments ahead of the Rugby World Cup Sevens:
“After feeling disappointed and dissatisfied with our performances across the last two stops of the World Series, we entered into the summer training block with renewed hunger and ambition to improve as a team both on and off the field. We know we have the athleticism, talent and character to be consistent podium contenders but we need to be prepared to compete at every opportunity, fight for eachother and nail the technical skills required to unleash the qualities that makes this team so special. We are very thankful to Brazil and Canada for making the trip to San Diego. The matches reaffirmed to us that when we commit to our game plan, we are exponentially more threatening as a unit and can ultimately express our individual super strengths more effectively.
The camp here in Stellenbosch has been excellent so far, we have everything that we could need at the facility and the city is beautiful to explore. Our theme for the first week of this campaign is all around pressure, how we work with that pressure as individuals, how we communicate in pressure situations and finally how we manage pressure as a team to maximize our opportunities and not fracture. We will have the perfect pressure test on Saturday when we have the opportunity to scrimmage Ireland and France - knowing that both teams present different challenges that we need to be prepared to adapt to and solve.
The knockout format aligns perfectly with this idea of mastering pressure, and also with the challenges that are coming down the road for us with Olympic qualification. In both the Rugby World Cup Sevens and this coming season, every game matters and every opponent can contend regardless of previous record or standing. We needed to develop the mindset that every game is its own game and bring the focus, intent and effort required to each situation. No better way to start training for this than a single elimination tournament on the World’s biggest stage!”
USA WOMEN’S EAGLES SEVENS ROSTER | RUGBY WORLD CUP SEVENS 2022
|1. Cheta Emba (she/her)||22||2018|
|2. Ilona Maher||17||2018|
|3. Kayla Canett||14|
|4. Nicole Heavirland||28||2018|
|5. Sam Sullivan||Yet to debut on Sevens Series|
|6. Lauren Doyle (C)||34||2018|
|7. Naya Tapper||25||2018|
|8. Jazamine Gray||6|
|9. Nana Fa’avesi (she/her)||23||2018|
|10. Alena Olsen||9|
|11. Kristen Thomas||32||2018|
|12. Kristi Kirshe (she/her)||13|
|Traveling Reserve - Alex Sedrick||5|
USA WOMEN’S EAGLES SEVENS TRAVELING STAFF
Head Coach | Emilie Bydwell (she/her)
Athletic Trainer | Nicole Titmas (she/her)
Strength & Conditioning | Trey Ford
Sports Psychologist | Peter Haberl (he/him)
Team Manager | Liz Strohecker (she/her)