Friday names USA squad for Wellington 7's

By sportsnewsarena correspondent
Jan 27, 2022

Michael Friday, coach of the U.S. Sevens team has given the nod to national team recruitment team stand out Ahmad Harajly from Detroit when he named the final squad for Wellington Sevens, the fourth leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series.

Harajly and Mataiyasi Leuta were the two athletes invited to last week’s men’s Eagles Sevens High Performance Camp from the first National Team Recruitment camp at the Olympic Training Center.

“The recruitment camp boys - obviously they worked so hard to get there and sacrificed a lot to get to the combine - just continued that work ethic and behavior-wise, and with the culture, they slipped in seamlessly,” Friday said.

“It just illustrates there are no sacred cows; nobody’s safe. You’ve got to earn your opportunity and Ahmad has managed to do that,” he added.

Having played rugby for six years, Harajly had the necessary skills and knowledge to stand above the other 55 athletes (excluding Leuta) and the recruitment camp, including the American footballers and similar cross-to-rugby athletes.

Nick Edwards also returns to the Eagles for his first appearance on the Series since Gold Coast Sevens in October 2014 which was the first leg of the current season. Former AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American Madison Hughes will captain the squad to New Zealand.

Though only two replacements were made in the squad, Friday commented on the improvement in competition for places in the team at the Olympic Training Center.

“From a camp perspective, it was a significant improvement, but more in the collaborative education on and off the pitch to solve problems and solve the bits where we need to get better,” he said.

“It wasn’t just coaches telling; it was a problem-solving two-way street, which was very refreshing and pleasing and just another small step in the evolution of where we are. It felt a far stronger environment than it’s felt previously. People have a real sense of where they fit to add value and what happens if they don’t.”

The U.S. Eagles are currently placed ninth on the log after three tournaments. In New Zealand, they have been drawn in the same Pool as South Africa who lead the Series with 59 points with the U.S. on 26, Japan and France.

After playing in New Zealand, the Eagles travel to Las Vegas for the home leg of the Series.

Elsewhere, the wome's team for the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series will begin their campaign next month n Sao Paulo Sevens in Brazil.

The team was also named with two substitutes promoted. AIG Women's Collegiate All-American Kristen Thomas of the University of Central Florida will travel with the Eagles for the first time. She joins fellow Floridian and WCCA Dana Meschisi also making her first appearance.

"Thomas has good size, speed, and she's got a great attitude," Suggit said of his newest  Eagle. "We've had her out here for about half a dozen camps already. We'je just been monitoring her progress and were fortunate enough to get her out for the last half of her school year.

"She still has classes that she's going to take and she's going to be able to finish off her degree, but that was the biggest concern for all of us - that she was able to do both. She's been able to do that and we're happy to have her out."

The inclusion of Meschisi and Thomas meant two players would not  travel to Brazil.

USA has been drawn in Pol A with France, New Zealand and Spain. 

The squads

Men: Perry Baker, Danny Barrett, Garrett Bender, Andrew Durutalo, Nick Edwards, Ahmad Harajly, Madison Hughes, Martin Iosefo, Carlin Isles, Folau Niua, Zack Test and Maka Unufe. Reserves: Zach Pangelinan, Alladin Schirmer. Fixtures: USA v Japan, USA v France, USA v South Africa.

Women: Kathryn Johnson, Kelly Griffith (captain), Megan Bonny, Hannah Lopez, Jessica Jevelet, Lauren Doyle, Victoria Folayan, Alev Kelter, Joanne Fa'avesi, Dana Meschisi, Melissa Fowler and Kirsten Thomas; Fixtures: USA v New Zealand, USA v France, USA v Spain.