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KC's Ed Mills dodging Glendale tacklers. Pat Clifton photo

The Kansas City Blues are making their second appearance at Nationals in three years. In 2012, they went 0-6 and finished 16th – dead last. It was Kansas City’s first trip to Nationals in 12 years, since they finished third in 2000, so the Blues were just happy to be back. That’s not the case this year.  

“I’m hoping that just the idea of being at Nationals isn’t as important anymore. We need to approach it like any other tournament. When we play our game, I’m confident we can play with any team in the nation,” said Blues coach Scott Kram.

“But if we get psyched out, we can definitely drop our level, so the important thing is to let these guys know they are as good. They’ve got to know it in their hearts now, because we’ve been playing some really good rugby this summer.”

The Blues have been approaching the boiling point of becoming a very good 7s team for the last couple of seasons. A nucleus of talented, hard-working, young players has remained intact and matured, and some big, strong, fast athletes have been sprinkled in.

Gannon Moore is one of those impressive athletes. He played running back at Southwest Minnesota State University, and he’s starting to get his rugby wits about him. He played in the Elite City 7s earlier this summer with Dallas and is a load to bring down.

The most dangerous individual athlete on the Blues’ roster, though, is Ed Mills. He played professionally for Dolphin in the All Ireland League and elsewhere, and he can create gaps in the midfield with his agility. Surround him with finishers like Moore and Atlantis vet Kenny Scott, a heady halfback like Kelly Mercer and solid forwards like Walt Elder and Kevin Schwartze, and the Blues are a formidable side.

Not only are the they more talented this season, the Blues have played most every tournament with a very similar lineup, something many clubs aren’t able to pull off due to availability issues and injury.

“Yeah, and it’s something we didn’t have two years ago at Nationals. We’ve got strong players from top to bottom,” said Kram. “I’ve been joking for years about it’d be nice to be able to cut somebody. This is the first year it’s happened. We actually have a pool of 15 quality players, so it wasn’t a joke anymore. It was a tough decision to make, and all those players deserve to be there.”

Unfortunately for the Blues, their first hit-out Saturday is against Seattle Saracens, the defending champs and odds-on favorite to win the whole thing playing practically on home soil. What has Kram told his charges to prepare them for a date with Goliath?

“Just to basically ignore the hype. We’ve got some great athletes on our team. They’re stacked from top to bottom. Do I think we can play with them? Absolutely,” he said.

“I treat it kind of like if you play Denver. They’re experienced enough that if you make mistakes, it can be a long 14 minutes. But if we play great defense, communicate and work together, anything can happen. We can take away their athletic ability by playing together as a team. We’ve been working on that for years, so hopefully that will come into play and we actually put it together.”