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In January 2001, at Mar del Plata, Argentina, the USA were ranked 24th out of the 24 teams competing in the third, Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament. The Eagles qualified for the event by finishing third in the prior Americas Qualifiers, held the previous May in Santiago, Chile.
Before the trip, the team received a spate of disappointing news starting with the resignation of Coach Tommy Smith. This bad news was followed by three of the starting players bowing out of the tournament. Fortunately, New Zealander John McKittrick assumed the coaching duties. Three new players – Mose Timoteo, Matt Kane, and Craig Sim – received the late call up to fill out the squad.
The event featured four pools of six teams each.
The initial Pool D match against Samoa was played in the 35,000 capacity Jose Maria Minella Stadium. The more experienced South Sea Island squad overpowered the USA, winning easily 49-19.
The Eagles bounced back with a 19-0 shutout win against Hong Kong, a team that had been reduced by corrective eligibility regulations.
Reality hit the USA when they were whitewashed in the next game by the Wallabies 49-0. The Aussies ran in seven tries with hooker Ed Carter scoring a hat trick.
In their most competitive match, the Eagles lost to a young Wales side 19-10, also in Pool D. Down only 12-10, during an attack inside Welsh territory, the USA lost the ball to Gareth Barber, who sprinted untouched in for the clinching try.
The Eagles picked up their second, and last win of the tournament, with a pool victory over Portugal 20-15. The Eagles started brilliantly with four tries in the first four-minutes to go ahead 20-0. The squad then held off a resurgent opponent to advance into the Plate competition.
Spain defeated the Eagles 26-5 in the Plate opener, which sent the USA home. The Eagles surprised all by finishing in the top sixteen places.
For the record, New Zealand beat Australia 31-12 in the Cup final with the great Jonah Lomu notching three tries. Aussie coach Glen Ella said of Lomu, “He used our blokes like speed bumps.”