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Mike Friday has called upon 29 players to participate in the pre-Dubai high performance camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. Nov. 16-22. 11 of those players come from outside the residency program.
Pat Blair comes in from the Seattle Saracens. Formerly contracted at the OTC, Blair made big strides in his fitness over the course of the summer and was selected for the World Series opener in Australia.
All Americans Garrett Brewer, Martin Iosefo, Aladdin Schirmer, Kingsley McGowan and Madison Hughes are coming in, too. Iosefo is a Montana product, Brewer a St. Mary's grad, McGowan is still at St. Mary's, Schirmer is a student at Central Washington and Hughes a senior at Dartmouth.
Also joining are Zach Pangelinan, Sean Rafferty, Derek Lipscomb, Max de Achaval and Jack Tracy. Pangelinan has been in and out of the Eagle setup over the years, and he is a Tiger Rugby alum, like Tracy. Rafferty and Lipscomb have been stalwarts in the Northeast Olympic Development Academy, and de Achaval, a Denver Barbarian, has long been considered one of the best uncapped players in America in 7s or 15s.
Shadowing the camp are Tui Osborne and Nese Malifa. The former is a coach at Life, the new ODA, and the latter seems to be making the transition from player to coach. Malifa has struggled for years with injuries, which might be the reason he's listed in USA Rugby's announcement of the camp as a coach at-large.
“We have sought to educate and improve the understanding required to win games and then translate that onto pitch practice so the boys recognize the different pictures presented to them in order for them to make good decisions,” said Friday.
“The boys’ main focus leading into this High Performance Camp has been to push on with achieving the conditioning standards that Coach Chris Brown expects whilst focusing on improving the accuracy and consistency in the skills required to allow us to play the effective, accurate, tactical sevens rugby that we strive to play. We have certainly seen continuous improvement over the last several weeks in this regard.”
Rejoining the team are a few contracted 7s Eagles who have been busy with 15s duties. Zack Test and Andrew Durutalo played in the Americas Rugby Championship, and Folau Niua is currently on the fall tour in Europe. He is scheduled to return to the OTC after starting at fullback against Tonga Saturday.
“Over the last few weeks we have focused on rugby areas of improvement identified from Gold Coast,” said Friday. “We have had a good opportunity to collectively refocus following what was always going to be a difficult logistical period with the ARC commitments [of Andrew Durutalo, Folau Niua, and Zack Test] and the number of players we sent abroad to gain playing time in this period.”