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The USA 7s team's reward for breaking into the Top 8 and making the Plate Final, is to be put into Pool D with New Zealand, Scotland, and Samoa.
Well, thanks a lot.
For this Matt Hawkins-coached team Hong Kong is important as they try to consolidate their position in the standings – the Eagles entered Tokyo 14th in a standings where #15 gets relegated for next season, and improved their lead 11 points, and in the process also passed Portugal for 13th. Getting away from the dreaded 15th spot is huge, and now it seems inevitable that Spain will be the team that drops out.
"I never brought it up," Hawkins said of relegation. "It never was a concern for me. I believed in our staff and our players and our plan and in what we were doing. If I didn't, then maybe I would have been worrying about relegation, relegation, relegation. Instead, we have been following our plan, and knew if we continued to improve and play well, that would reflect in the standings."
So Hawkins is not worried about what points the Eagles might or might not get in Hong Kong.
"Everyone is playing well," Hawkins told RUGBYMag.com. "You saw the way Japan turned up and played in Tokyo. And in the promotion tournament you're going to see some really good rugby there. So we know any pool will be tough. From our and we target three games and we have to win two at a minimum to go through to the quarterfinals."
And then what? While the Eagles spent much of the first half of the season winning the Shield, the lowest of the four trophies at any tournament, winning the Shield does require you to win the final two games of the weekend. It's still tough to do, and winning the Shield, rather than licking your wounds and going home, has a benefit, said Hawkins.
Over this season the guys have learned to win on Day Two are discovering that as they learned to win on Day Two," he said. "And I am really proud of the guys and how they handled themselves [in Tokyo]. That game against Samoa, showed what these guys can do, and showed their character. They showed the character of the guys back at the Olympic Training Center."
Hawkins said the team can do better, but he added that he was pretty happy with how things were going, as evidenced by how he didn't change the starting lineup, and how little he used some subs.
But he wants more than just one weekend.
"I viewed our program and what we had – talent, staff, structure, infrastructure – we didn't have that was sustainable and didn't meet the demands of the World Series," said Hawkins. "So that was my job to get there, but unfortunately I didn't have the summer to start that so I was managing that while we started the World Series, and we're starting to see it come through. We've got good players. We've got guys who can play good rugby. They need opportunity to develop that and that's what we tried to create in the Olympic Training Center. You saw the fruits of some of the hard work the guys have been putting in over the last six months. We're developing something that's getting better but is also sustainable and can go the distance."