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Mike Friday's selections for the USA Sevens are final, and he's included an inordinate number of forwards. Through much of the season, the scrum was an area of weakness for the team, as post-Olympic attrition and injury kept the Eagles thin there. Coming into the home stretch, Friday apaprently wants to make sure there's plenty of depth up front.
There are six players on the squad who play exclusively in the forwards, as well as two more who have logged a lot of minutes in the scrum this season in Stephen Tomasin and Martin Iosefo. Tomasin actualy leads the team in tackles this season, having hooked more often than not. He can cover at halfback and potentially center, and he may be needed to.
Only Madison Hughes, Folau Niua, Maka Unufe and Perry Baker are specialty backs, and they're all expected to start. Unufe, if he doesn't start, will spell Martin Iosefo at center and Perry Baker at wing. That leaves Tomasin as the most logical fill-in at both scrumhalf and flyhalf.
Pat Blair is back in the side for the first time this season. So is Ben Pinkelman. And making his international debut is Walt Elder. The big, ginger Kansan has been a key cog for the Kansas City Blues the last few years and is now training full-time at the Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. He should be expected to play exclusively in the scrum, too.
Danny Barrett, who we're used to seeing in the forwards, could be used at center, too. The same might be the same for Matai Leuta, if Friday finds himself in a pinch.
Even though the USA Falcons aren't participating in the Las Vegas Invitational, many of the most talented players in the country will be on hand, and Friday has helped place those who were in camp with the team and not selected amongst those in competition at the LVI. So if injury to one of his backs forces him to, Friday will have the pick of the LVI's litter to fill in.
Men's Eagles Sevens | HSBC USA Sevens
1. Pat Blair
2. Ben Pinkelman
3. Danny Barrett
4. Matai Leuta
5. Walt Elder
6. Andrew Durutalo
7. Folau Niua
8. Maka Unufe
9. Stephen Tomasin
10. Madison Hughes (C)
11. Perry Baker
12. Martin Iosefo