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USA Men A Disappointing 3rd In Madrid

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The USA Men’s 7s team finished the Madrid 7s with a disappointing 3rd place, seeing their hopes for a better finish disappear thanks to a rout delivered by Kenya early on Sunday.

Coming into Sunday at 2-1, the Eagles had only to beat Kenya in the second game of the day to ensure a rematch with Argentina in the final. The USA had lost to the Pumas by just a try on Saturday. But one of the lessons of these types of tournaments is that jet lag and travel and the intensity of international competition really shows itself on Day Two. The Eagles were sluggish—more so mentally than physically—and when they fell behind reacted with a little panic in their step, which led to mistakes.

Kenya, which scored right at the beginning of the game, played superbly. They put a diamond-shaped group of support runners behind the ball and played vertically, and when the Eagles over-committed, sent it wide. Quick and very physical, they showed how World Sevens is better when Kenya is good.

The USA tackling was weak, but down 17-7 at halftime they were within a shout. However, when Perry Baker chipped ahead and gathered his kick, only to be tackled, he didn’t get up. The play went on and the Eagles almost scored (almost). But Baker was done, stretchered off with a leg injury and taken to the hospital. It’s a massive blow to the USA, and there’s hope he won’t be out for long, but he was done for the day, and the Eagles deflated after that.

Kenya 38, USA 7.

“Kenya out-muscled us and showed desire is a non-negotiable,” USA Head Coach Mike Friday told Goff Rugby Report. Friday used to coach Kenya and they love bringing everything against him. But the Eagles are good enough to reply. What Friday did do was leave most of his veterans on the sidelines, telling the younger players it was their problem to fix. 

“We missed too many tackles and were not physical enough with ball in hand or in defense,” Friday said in assessment. “I see that performance as a huge blessing for us that we are currently way off in our combat conditioning and ability to apply our physicality which we pride ourselves on. Young and experienced men need to recognize physical fitness is one thing, but combat fitness and resilience is quite another. This is the 70% piece I was talking about at the start of the week, and fortunately we have plenty of time to ensure we are on point when it really matters.”

So that left the USA 2-2 and against Spain for 3rd. This game could have gone very wrong. However, Jake Lachina stepped in to fire up the team. The West Point Scholz Award finalist raced around the outside to score early, and then chased down a Cody Melphy chip that he seemingly had no chance to reach, and did just enough to score his second. 

Spain exploited a gap and some overpursuit on defense to get one back, and then ran a nice switch move early in the second half to tie it up 12-12. The USA defense over-pursued a lot this weekend, sometimes sending three players on a ballcarrier only to see one of the simplest, and best, plays in rugby, the switch, catch them pointed the wrong way. 

Some lovely interplay between Tala Talapusi and Kevon Williams put Williams in under the posts for a 19-12 lead, and that was key because Spain raced past Maka Unufe on the wing to score right after. The try was out wide, though, and the conversion was missed, leaving the USA ahead 19-17. Finally someone else committed a dumb penalty, and when Harley Wheeler was dumped on his head the Eagles pressured. Their kick to touch missed touch, but they got the ball back when Talapusi stole a pass, and the ball was sent to Lachina for his hat trick. 24-17 over Spain isn’t world class, but it was a win, and some serious lessons to the players on how you can’t take anything for granted.

Argentina beat Kenya handily to win the tournament, Kenya 2nd, USA 3rd, Spain 4th, and Portugal 5th. We’ll see what happens in the second week of competition next weekend.



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The Fiji Times » World Rugby and unions confirm men’s July test schedule

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DUBLIN, 12 MAY 2021 (WORLD RUGBY) – A strong revised programme of men’s test matches is set to take place in July after all unions and World Rugby agreed a revised schedule within the existing window. The revisions have been made recognising an ongoing and complex global COVID-19 picture while aiming to limit further impact.

The British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa headlines a busy July programme that will see 25 of the top 30 ranked unions in action with several hosting or being hosted for the first time since the pandemic began, including world champions South Africa and Rugby World Cup 2019 hosts Japan.

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to cause disruption, the underpinning principle for the schedule was the fixtures agreed in San Francisco in 2017. Where it was not possible or practical to honour that schedule, the hosting rights were reversed with key arrangements met. Where this contingency has not been possible for COVID-19 reasons, World Rugby has facilitated discussions to confirm an alternative schedule for teams consisting of a minimum of two matches for unions who sought replacement fixtures.

This means that Argentina, Japan, USA and Canada will now travel to the UK and Ireland, New Zealand will host tests against Fiji, and Georgia travel to South Africa. The Samoa versus Tonga Rugby World Cup 2023 qualifier will also be hosted over two legs in New Zealand, creating a Pacific hub in the country across the July window. RWC 2023 qualifiers will also continue in Europe and get underway in Africa and South America.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “This has taken a monumental effort from all concerned. While there is light at the end of the tunnel in respect to COVID-19 in many nations, the challenges continue to be present, dynamic and impactful and therefore I would like to thank the unions, their respective governments, broadcast and commercial partners and players for their flexibility and full commitment to the process.

“Fans around the world can now look forward to an exciting bumper schedule of men’s test matches involving at least 25 teams, which will be a welcome sight for everyone. The road to Rugby World Cup 2023 also continues with key qualifiers for Samoa and Tonga and, of course, we are anticipating a fascinating British and Irish Lions series.”

World Rugby Vice-Chairman Bernard Laporte added: “Fans from all over the world will rejoice with this window of international rugby. I am delighted that match ups between northern and southern hemisphere teams can finally take place, this will act as a prelude to the exciting Rugby World Cup that we are all looking forward to in 2023.”

World Rugby and unions will continue to monitor the dynamic COVID-19 situation closely and respond if necessary, while any revisions to the November international programme will be confirmed in due course. World Rugby will also maintain its high performance support for emerging nations ahead of the July tests.”

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said: “Confirmation of the programme of July tests is the culmination of a considerable amount of detailed consultation and planning across the respective unions. It is also a reflection of the strong collaboration across the game that characterises our drive to strengthen engagement with all stakeholders to deliver a more aligned, meaningful and effective men’s international calendar beyond Rugby World Cup 2023.”

World Rugby and unions will continue to monitor the dynamic COVID-19 situation closely and respond if necessary, while any revisions to the November International programme will be confirmed in due course. World Rugby will also maintain its high performance support for emerging nations ahead of the July tests.

World Rugby continues to lead and facilitate focused and productive discussions with all stakeholders regarding the establishment of a globally integrated international calendar following Rugby World Cup 2023. International Rugby Players and the respective national leagues are central contributors within the dedicated working groups. Through these discussions, the sport is united in the mission to optimise the calendar for players, the international and club game.

Additionally, following the announcement of increased high performance support funding for RWC 2021 qualified and qualifier tests, World Rugby continues to be in discussion with unions regarding confirmation of a women’s test programme that will boost preparation for next year’s tournament.

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Irish Rugby | Ireland Sevens Squads Named For International Rugby 7s

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IRFU Director of Sevens and Women’s Rugby, Anthony Eddy, has today named the Ireland Men’s and Women’s Sevens squads for this weekend’s International Rugby 7s tournament at St George’s Park.

The three-day tournament is being hosted by GB Sevens and will take place between 15-17 May at the Football Association’s National Training Centre at St George’s Park.

A return to competition rugby is a welcome boost for the Ireland squads and an important building block as they gear up towards a busy summer schedule, with Ireland Men preparing for June’s World Rugby Sevens Repechage, the final qualification event for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Billy Dardis will once again captain the Ireland Men, with Eddy selecting a 16-player squad for this weekend’s tournament.

Munster Academy Players Alex Kendellen, Conor Phillips and Jack Crowley, who starred for Ireland U20s last season and this year made his senior debut for the Province, are all included for the first time having trained with the squad at the IRFU High Performance Centre in recent months.

Ulster’s Aaron Sexton, Ben Moxham and Jude Postlethwaite, and former Leinster centre Gavin Mullin, are also named in the panel alongside the likes of Dardis, Jordan Conroy, Terry Kennedy, Aaron O’Sullivan and Hugo Lennox, who have all featured for Ireland on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

Terry Kennedy

Ireland Men will face hosts Great Britain and USA, with each team playing two games per day and points to be gained towards the final standings throughout the three days.

Lucy Mulhall, meanwhile, will lead an exciting 16-player Ireland Women’s squad into their first competitive action of the season, as they go head-to-head with hosts Great Britain and France.

Having recently featured in the Women’s Six Nations for Adam Griggs’ Ireland, Stacey Flood, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Eve Higgins, Grace Moore, Brittany Hogan and Emily Lane are all included, while Méabh Deely, Aoibheann Reilly and Kate Farrell McCabe, who have all come through the IRFU Women’s Development Pathway, will hope to impress further on the international stage.

Commenting ahead of the tournament, Eddy said: “We are really looking forward to getting back to international competition and actually play some matches.

“This tournament provides a great opportunity to build towards the summer ahead and it is great preparation for the Men’s team leading into Monaco and the Olympic Repechage Tournament in June. Both our Men’s and Women’s teams will be exposed to some quality opposition throughout the tournament and the competition should be intense.

“We are very grateful for the opportunity and thankful for all the work that has taken place behind the scenes to allow us to participate in the tournament.”

The International Rugby 7s will be played behind-closed-doors and there will be a live stream on England Rugby channels, while there will be full coverage on IrishRugby.ie.

Ireland Men’s Sevens Squad For International Rugby 7s:

Alex Kendellen (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Aaron O’Sullivan (Blackrock College/Leinster)
Gavin Mullin (UCD)
Ian Fitzpatrick (Lansdowne)
Jude Postlethwaite (Banbridge/Ulster)
Conor Phillips (Young Munster/Munster)
Billy Dardis (Terenure College)(Captain)
Sean Cribbin (Suttonians)
Hugo Lennox (Skerries)
Jack Crowley (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Ben Moxham (Ballymena/Ulster)
Terry Kennedy (St Mary’s College)
Rory Scholes (Irish Sevens)
Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers)
Duran Krummeck (Irish Sevens)
Aaron Sexton (Malone/Ulster).

Ireland Women’s Sevens Squad For International Rugby 7s:

Claire Boles (Railway Union/Ulster)
Megan Burns (Tullamore/Leinster)
Amee Leigh Murphy-Crowe (Railway Union/Munster)
Méabh Deely (Blackrock/Connacht)
Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Katie Heffernan (Mullingar/Railway Union/Leinster)
Eve Higgins (Railway Union/Leinster)
Brittany Hogan (DCU/Ulster)
Emily Lane (Blackrock/Munster)
Maeve Liston (Blackrock/Ulster)
Kate Farrell McCabe (Suttonians/Leinster)
Grace Moore (Railway Union/IQ Rugby)
Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum/Leinster)(Captain)
Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (Old Belvedere/Munster)
Aoibheann Reilly (Blackrock/Connacht).

International Rugby 7s Schedule:

Saturday 15th May:

Men:

  • Ireland v Great Britain, 10am
  • Ireland v USA, 1pm
  • Great Britain v USA, 4pm

Women:

  • Ireland v France, 10.22am
  • Great Britain v France, 1.22pm
  • Great Britain v Ireland, 4.22pm

Sunday 16th May:

Men:

  • Ireland v USA, 10am
  • Great Britain v USA, 1pm
  • Great Britain v Ireland, 4pm

Women:

  • Great Britain v France, 10.22am
  • Ireland v France, 1.22pm
  • Great Britain v Ireland, 4.22pm

Monday 17th May: 

Men:

  • Ireland v USA, 10am
  • Great Britain v Ireland, 1pm
  • Great Britain v USA, 4pm

Women:

  • Ireland v France, 10.22am
  • Great Britain v Ireland, 1.22pm
  • Great Britain v France, 4.22pm.

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The future of English rugby is here

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Marcus Smith was playing well enough this season for Harlequins that his long-awaited first Test cap for England already felt like a certainty this summer. That was before Smith, still just 22, produced remarkable match-winning tries for Harlequins in consecutive matches against London Irish and Wasps.

Eddie Jones was sitting in the stands on Sunday at The Stoop and if he didn’t come away bowled over by Smith’s 28-point haul for Harlequins – equalling a club record for points scored in a match, tied with Paul Burke and Nick Evans according to leading rugby statistician Stuart Farmer – then perhaps the England head coach will never be enamoured enough with Smith to select him ahead of George Ford or Owen Farrell.

Even when the overwhelming amount of evidence this season suggests that Smith’s time with England has arrived, delivering on the promise that Jones first spotted when Smith was still a schoolboy in Brighton.

Speaking of Evans – now Harlequins’ attack/backs coach and a mentor to Smith initially as a team-mate and now on the training field – the former All Black admits that watching Smith carve through London Irish’s defence to snatch a victory two weeks ago in Brentford, followed by Smith combining with James Lang and Joe Marchant to crack Wasps open in the final minute on Sunday, hasn’t been good for his heart rate.

“It’s a hard gig being a coach, I’ll tell you what,” Evans laughs, before explaining to Telegraph Sport that while Smith’s solo try against Irish was “a bit of magic”, the winning score against Wasps was another sign of Smith’s ongoing development.

“This time [against Wasps], it’s just being in the right place. People probably undersell that ability. We talk with him about the ability to get two touches within a phase. I was always taught that and I try to teach him as well – if you can influence the play and get a second touch, more often than not you’re going to make a line break or a positive action. For him to be there on the back of Lang and Marchant on the left there, he was in the exactly right position that he needed to be to get us the victory.”

There’s no doubt that Smith is already an accomplished goal-kicker, with a success percentage in the high 80s this season and having already scored 244 points in the Premiership, while defensively he is no weak link. But it’s in attack where Smith has made a mockery of defences and established himself as one of the Premiership’s leading players this season, with his jet-black hair garnering cult status.

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