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The United States 7s team kicks off in Tokyo against Samoa at 9:22pm ET tonight. The Eagles are looking to finish in the top eight for the first time this season, and if not, at least make it to the Bowl Final for the first time.
Standing in front of them is a tough pool. In the last two tournaments – in New Zealand and Las Vegas – they had what were widely considered favorable pool draws. But in Tokyo, Samoa, Fiji and France, teams the USA is a collective 0-4 against this season, the Eagles have a tougher road to hoe.
However,the draw didn't change the way team has prepared, and it's not mitigated the players’ confidence.
"Absolutely there is confidence in the camp – we are Americans," said Ryan Matyas, who’s set to play in his fourth World Series tournament.
"And of course there is urgency – every player wants to improve. But our win percentage is higher than what is was last year, and what we want is a continuing upward trend in our results.
"Every draw is difficult. We did not prepare [different] for this draw than we do any other. We have had a great camp leading up to this tour. All the boys have been working hard and are ready to put that hard work into action."
The Eagles traveled to Tokyo with maybe their most inexperienced team so far this season. Veteran Mike Palefau is in, but out is leading scorer Carlin Isles. Veteran Folau Niua is out, and Series rookie Marcus Satavu is in. Veteran Shalom Suniula is out, and the still green Mike Te'o is in.
With Isles and Niua hoping to build 15s careers and Suniula not likely to return to the 7s setup anytime soon, coach Matt Hawkins has committed to filling their shoes with younger players.
"Of course winning is on our minds, that's why we're here," said Matyas. "And the fact that our win percentage is higher than it was last year, with younger players, is a sign that we are headed in the right direction."