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Team USA coach Mike Friday has named a 13-man squad to travel to Cary, N.C. for the Olympic Qualifier Saturday and Sunday, and Canadian coach Liam Middleton named a 14-man team. Both will only be able to suit up 12 on Saturday. In total, six overseas pros have been drafted into the ranks of the heavy favorites for the weekend.
There's still pool play and some semifinals, but the ticket to Rio will likely come down to 20 minutes between Canada and the USA. Now we know who will be running up against who in the much anticipated final, or at least almost.
The American team looks a lot like the one which claimed a first-ever World Series win in London last month. Gone from that squad are rookie Matai Leuta and Thretton Palamo, who was filling in on short notice for an injured Zack Test. Test's health is likely the reason Friday chose to name a 13-man travel squad and not a 12-man team, and in case an injury occurs over the weekend. The Eagles' all-time try leader suffered an ankle sprain in Glasgow, and whether or not he'll run out on the weekend still appears to be in question.
Re-joining the team are Chris Wyles and Brett Thompson. Thompson is coming back to the 7s national team for the first time since the 2013/2014 World Series, and Wyles is coming back for the first time since the 08/09 series. Thompson's been engrained with the squad at the Olympic Training Center and recovering from injury since returning from an overseas contract, and newly minted Premiership champ Wyles has played for Friday before, so both come in with a working relationship with both the players and coaching staff.
Canada named its squad for the weekend, too, and the Eagles rivals welcome back several former stars. Ospreys Jeff Hassler and Tyler Ardron are back, Agen winger Taylor Paris returns, and explosive halfback Phil Mack and the always tough Ciaran Hearn are back from injury. Those are some of the players that saw Canada finish sixth in the world a season ago. They'll lock horns with the team currently sixth, the USA, with a couple of familiar faces mixed back in, too.
|Nate Augspurger||Tyler Ardron|
|Perry Baker||Connor Braid|
|Danny Barrett||Justin Douglas|
|Garrett Bender||Sean Duke|
|Andrew Durutalo||Mike Fuailefau|
|Madison Hughes||Jeff Hassler|
|Martin Iosefo||Ciaran Hearn|
|Carlin Isles||Nathan Hirayama|
|Folau Niua||Harry Jones|
|Zack Test||Phil Mack|
|Brett Thompson||John Moonlight|
|Maka Unufe||Taylor Paris|
|Chris Wyles||Conor Trainor|