CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Fresh from the U.S.’s best performance at a World Rugby HSBC Sevens World Series stop since 2010, Mike Friday and staff have reconvened at the Olympic Training Center for the March 8-14 Men’s Eagles Sevens High Performance Camp.
The Eagles defeated Canada, Japan, and Portugal and went 1-0-1 against Series-leading South Africa at USA Sevens in February to gain 15 points in the overall standings. With the third-place match appearance in Las Vegas, the Eagles jumped Scotland into seventh place in the standings. Friday’s team has been drawn in Pool D at Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens with England, Kenya, and Wales.
Eleven of the 12 Eagles selected for USA Sevens will attend the latest High Performance Camp, as Martin Iosefo is unavailable due to school commitments in Montana. Kinglsey McGowan is also unavailable for camp with class obligations this week at D1A Rugby power Saint Mary’s College.
“Martin needs to focus on his studies for this next period and I am very supportive of his studies and feel it’s important that players have other interests and goals to keep them fresh, motivated, and driven,” Friday said.
The OTC will welcome back familiar faces in Shalom Suniula and Brett Thompson, the latter on contract. Thompson signed with Edinburgh Rugby in the RaboDirect Pro12 following his first cap with the Eagles 15s team last summer but now returns to California after leaving the club. The wing is unavailable for the upcoming camp as he recovers from injury. Suniula has not been available for selection to previous camps, but did attend the second in August 2014 and will fight for a place in Hong Kong and Tokyo next week.
Suniula and five Eagles in residency at the OTC recently attend the Men’s Eagles’ Spring Camp in Florida, at which Mike Tolkin and staff deliberated selections for the Eagles Select XVs’ upcoming tour to South America. Men’s Eagles Sevens Assistant Coach Chris Brown joined Danny Barrett, Andrew Durutalo, Folau Niua, Zack Test, and Maka Unufe in Florida, where he collaborated with Tolkin and the rest of the XVs’ staff on player identification, monitoring, and progression.
“It was productive to have Coach Brown in Florida to observe the camp and interact with our staff,” Tolkin said. “The closer we can work together, the better both our teams and players can benefit. Navigating the crossover road isn’t always easy, but this makes that process much easier.”
Former AIG Men’s Junior All-American center and San Mateo product Lemoto Filikitonga was another attendee of the camp in Florida. Currently with the Spearhead Academy and Metropolis Rugby Football Club in Minneapolis under the tutelage of Eagles backs coach Nate Osborne, Filikitonga played for the Eagles Select XV at the Americas Rugby Championship last fall and will make his High Performance Camp debut at the OTC this weekend.
Nate Augspurger, who has played on the circuit in recent years and featured at World Club 7s at Twickenham Stadium with New York City Sevens, will also attend his first camp with Friday.
“Nate has continued to grow at Old Blue and in the Northeast ODA training environment under Coach [Steve] Lewis,” noted USA Rugby Director of Performance Alex Magleby. “Look forward to seeing him back at the OTC stronger, wiser, and a more experienced leader than before.”
“These are all guys that have been on the radar and this will allow me to draw comparisons on where they are physically compared to the group and to assess whether technically and tactically they can compete,” Friday said. “These boys are talented players but the world circuit is a few steps up from the club scene in terms of speed of the game both physically and in thought.
“I am hoping they will bring added competition to the group and will have the desire and drive to try and compete for a place and, if not successful, still want to persist and compete for the next one. Resilience and desire are big traits that we expect and want in the environment.”