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Perry Baker missing as veteran returns to lead USA SVNS

By Chris Jones
USA's Ben Pinkelman is tackled by Jamaica's Ronaldeni Fraser as he scores a try against Jamaica during the Rugby Americas North (RAN) Sevens tournament at Starlight Stadium in Langford, British Columbia, Canada, on August 20, 2023. Rugby Americas North Sevens is a rugby sevens Paris 2024 Qualification Event. (Photo by Don MacKinnon / AFP) (Photo by DON MACKINNON/AFP via Getty Images)

Ben Pinkelman has been handed the captaincy of the USA Eagles as they launch their HBSC SVNS campaign in Dubai, but they will be operating without veteran speedster Perry Baker who has been rested after helping clinch qualification for the 2024 Olympic Games in France.

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The Eagles are in the same pool in Dubai as double Olympic champions Fiji, Great Britain and France and head coach Mike Friday is looking forward to the new 12 team format for the competition having seen his team earn their Olympic place at the RAN Sevens Qualifier in Langford, British Columbia.

Baker, who is third in the all time sevens try scoring charts with 263, is 37-years-old but remains a key figure in the squad and is set to feature later in the competition.

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Friday said: “We are very much looking forward to the challenge of this new 12 team format, which will not only be even more insanely competitive and unforgiving but in this Olympic season and with global rugby stars like Antoine Dupont gracing the pitch, the excitement and competition will be at an all time high.

“We very much have an exciting young squad of players bookended by the returning veteran players of Ben Pinkelman and Madison Hughes, who will make their return after two and half years.

“We are under no illusion of the task that lies ahead in Dubai and Cape Town, and we have to give these young men the support and confidence to attack the challenge. With the power and speed we possess, if we can control our possession and we certainly have the capability to compete and beat any team.

“Minimizing unforced errors will be important as these young men find their way and a robust work ethic and resilience to stay in every battle.”

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Madison Hughes returns to the USA lineup and is targeting a third Olympics having taken a break from Eagles representation after the 2020 Olympics. Ben Broselle also returns following an injury sustained last January that sidelined him for the rest of the year.

With the USA having failed to qualify for this year’s Rugby World Cup in France, it falls to Friday’s sevens squad to restore the Eagles rugby reputation on the world stage.

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The Simon Raiwalui verdict on the reimagined Pacific Nations Cup

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