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With Folau Niua singing with Glasgow, more pressure will be put on the young playmakers – Pono Haitsuka and Madison Hughes – to become primary decision-makers.
The challenges for the Eagles 7s team don’t end there, as the USA 15s team has its eye on a few players. Danny Barrett is under contract with the 7s team but was on a fast track with the 15s team last fall before school got in the way.
He is likely to be invited to the upcoming domestic camp, but so could others, as players such as Shalom Suniula could provide depth at flyhalf and scrumhalf, and Brett Thompson could be the big, bruising wing Mike Tolkin is looking for.
For a President’s Day Weekend camp, that won’t be a problem for the players, but come March, when the Eagles 15s team plays in their World Cup Qualifiers, and the 7s team looks ahead to Tokyo and Hong Kong, there could be players torn between the two.
As illustration, look at the USA squad that went to the 2013 Hong Kong 7s and then on to Tokyo: Carlin Isles, Nick Edwards, Andrew Durutalo, Shalom Suniula, Zack Test, Matt Hawkins, Folau Niua, Jack Halalilo, Luke Hume, Brett Thompson, Colin Hawley, Mike Palefau.
Isles was going to be a no-go this time around, but said after the Wellington 7s that “rugby has been a blessing to me” and that he would remain with the team. Edwards, Durutalo, and Test are all for-sure selections. Suniula and Thompson are likely to play, but could be called to the 15s team. Niua and Hume are now playing 15s overseas, Hawkins is coaching the team, Palefau is back in Seattle, Halalilo appears on the outs, and Hawley is back in the Bay Area.
That’s a massive turnover.