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On Friday afternoon, the twelve captains for the first HSBC World Rugby 7s competition gathered at the arch at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo. Following the Rugby World Cup 7s in San Francisco a few months ago, the women kick off the new season at Rugbytown USA. The American squad, captained by Lauren Doyle with newly appointed head coach Chris Brown at the helm, was placed in Pool B and play England, China, and New Zealand in group play on Saturday.
With an automatic qualification to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for the top four at the end of the season, every tournament means so much more. Team USA finished fourth at the RWC7s and will look to build on their success.
After Richie Walker stepped down in August, Chris Brown was named interim head coach after serving as the assistant coach for the men's 7s program. Brown was officially named head coach a few days ago and will bring a fresh focus to the women’s side.
Abby Gustaitis, Cheta Emba, Jordan Gray, Nicole Heavirland (C), Alev Kelter, Lauren Doyle (C), Kris Thomas, Naya Tapper, and Ilona Maher are the veterans returning to the World Rugby 7s stage while newcomers Alena Olsen, Lauren Thunen, and Stephanie Rovetti will be making their first appearances.
Team USA will try to feed off the home crowd once again when it takes the field on Saturday. “We are preparing for the home crowd and the vibe that we get,” captain Lauren Doyle said. “We roll with that and get the energy from the crowd.”
The focus for these past few months has been working on the small things to make a greater impact. “The big thing with the USA... is learning how to play rugby, instead of just being athletes. Our main goal coming back into preseason is really hounding in on rugby.”
As for this weekend’s pool play opponents, Doyle believes that playing England, China, then New Zealand will build into a crescendo into the playoff rounds. “I think it’s going to be a good build and hopefully lead us into the quarterfinal game strong.”
According to Doyle, the keys to standing on the championship platform on Sunday will be moving the ball efficiently and playing good defense with solid tackling. “I hope we just get the ball rolling and just go up and up and up."