USA Rugby creates 12-city sevens event to aid search for Olympic talent
USA Rugby on Thursday announced the creation of an “all-star” men’s sevens tournament, likely to be staged in June. Twelve city-based teams will compete in the event, with the winner joining New York City in in London on 16 and 17 August.
The new tournament is set to be played in the build-up to the men’s 15-a-side US Eagles team’s 7 June fixture against Scotland at the BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. Sevens, the shortened form of the game, will be included in .
Nigel Melville, the chief executive of USA Rugby, said the aim of the new tournament was to “get 144 of the best sevens players this country has to offer in one place, to showcase themselves and vie for selection into the Olympic sevens pathway”.
New York won the plate competition at the first World Club 7s, which was staged last year. San Francisco also competed, with a team that included , the sprinter-turned-rugby player who last month signed a professional deal with the Glasgow Warriors. This year, a similar event will take place in , a week before the Twickenham event.
Teams will represent Austin, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC. USA Rugby has also named the coaches who will seek to select the best players from the regions surrounding their cities. They include Justin Fitzpatrick, the former Ireland international who is now the Eagles 15s forwards coach, who will take charge of Seattle, and Paul Holmes of the Ohio-based , which aims to produce Olympic athletes. He will coach Columbus.
“I think it’s going to be great,” said Holmes. “I just hope everyone uses it for what it is, and that’s to get good American players in a better spotlight and better competition.”
Qualification for the 2016 Olympics will be decided through the HSBC World Sevens Series, in which the USA compete as a core team, and a series of regional qualifying tournaments. this year announced an expanded squad of 25 players working full-time at in Chula Vista, California.
Richie Walker, named as coach of the San Diego team, said: “We can put collegiate players in with club players and get them some experience. It’s almost an international stage, because the only step forward is the men’s Eagles sevens.”
One such collegiate player, Dartmouth’s Madison Hughes, has trained with the men’s Eagles squad this season.
Women’s sevens will also be played in Rio. Last month, in the aftermath of the Sochi Winter Olympics, it was announced that had joined the women’s training squad on an initial one-month deal.