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The 2012-2013 international 7s season might culminate in the 7s World Cup in Russia in June, but for the USA, and for Scotland, it's all about this weekend.
New Zealand needs to do little to clinch another World Series title.
Everyone else is just jostling for places 2nd through 11th. The battle -
the real battle - is for 12th.
Tied for 12th at 46 standings points, the USA and Scotland both want to avoid having to re-qualify for core status for next season. That qualificaiton tournament, to be held a week later in London, will feature eight teams vying for three core spots. You never know what could happen there.
Much, much easier would be to be among the top 12, and get renewed automatically. And for the USA, the job is simple - do better than Scotland. If they do better than Scotland, they finish 12th and return automatically as a core team for next season. Do worse, and they have to re-qualify.
There is a third scenario, but it is more convoluted. If both the USA and Scotland make the top eight in Glasgow, they caqn both make the top 12 if Canada has a horrible tournament and finishes last.
Forget about that - it's unlikely. Look instead on the USA v. Scotland contest.
The USA will play Russia, a non-core team the Eagles always have trouble against, Wales, currently 7th in the standings, but a team the USA has given all sorts of trouble, and France, ranked 5th but another team the USA has beaten, and can beat.
Scotland, who are, of course, playing at home, will face Portugal, a 14th-ranked team that has a habit of upsetting higher-ranked teams, England, which is 10th and has struggled, but has the ability to win a tournament, and New Zealand.
Scotland is going to lose to New Zealand. It's hard to imagine anything else. All of the other games are pick 'em contests. But if the USA wins two of those games, and England beats Scotland, then it's likely the Eagles have done enough.
But Scotland is playing in front of their home crowd, and the USA has a rotten record this year in the first tournament of a series of two. In the first tournament of a pair, the Eagles have 11 points in three events. In the second, 33.
They know all this. They know they have to make their tackles with a desperation. They know they cannot afford to run into isolation and get turned over in the tackle. They know they have to avoid penalties in the ruck. And they have to win their restarts.
When the USA has won games, they catch restarts, don't give up dumb penalties, and run toward support, not away from it.
They do that, as they showed in Tokyo, they can win games. With that approach, they shut out Scotland, beat Fiji, and beat Wales.
Without Mike Palefau, the Eagles will rely much more on Nick Edwards to punish tacklers with the ball in hand. Edwards, however, must pass more often to make his attacking skills work. They will rely on Shalom Suniula and Folau Niua, who, just in time, have found the right magic. Niua has made great strides on defense. They will need Zack Test, Colin Hawley, and Blaine Scully to dominate in the air. Scully was a bit at sea in his return to the Eagles after injury, but he has settled down, and is more patient as a player. That is good.
If Scully can be a dependable forward/back multi-position threat, and if Matt Hawkins and Andrew Durutalo continue their improved play, it can happen.
But, and the players all know this, it has to happen right now.
USA games Day One in Glasgow, with USA times:
Saturday, May 4
v. Russia 6:36AM ET, 3:36AM PT
v. Wales 9:42AM ET, 6:42AM PT
v. France 1:37PM ET, 10:37AM PT
Scotland games Day One, with USA times:
v. Portugal 8:04PM ET, 5:04AM PT
v. England 11:10AM ET, 8:10AM PT
v. New Zealand 2:21PM ET, 11:21AM PT