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Why previously unheralded USA have risen to number one in Sevens

By Perry Baker
USA Sevens team. (Photo by Power Sport Images/Getty Images for HSBC)

Mike Friday, the USA Eagles head coach, has transformed our whole Sevens programme and five successive HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series finals appearances with back-to-back titles in Las Vegas is testament to his vision and hard work.


Mike and his team of coaches and staff have masterminded our rise to the top of the table and given everyone in the squad the belief we can win the title and then aim for gold at the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year. This is all like a dream and it is one I don’t want to wake up from.

I like to think of Mike as our guardrail because he keeps us on track and moving in the right direction to achieve our goals and he won’t take any personal credit and gives it all to the players. Ben Ryan rightly received lots of praise while he was in charge of Fiji, taking them to Olympic gold in Rio. However, Ben was working with players from a country where rugby – and sevens in particular- is a national sport. Mike is operating in the USA where many people still don’t know anything about the game and he changes everything for a Tier 2 team and puts them into a position where they are No1 in the Sevens rankings. That speaks volumes for Mike and shows how smart he is and it is great time to be involved with USA rugby.

Of course, our success in the HSBC Series, along with the strides being made by our 15s who are competing in this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, is helping raise the profile of rugby at home and we saw clear evidence of this in Las Vegas where the fans were incredible and invaded the pitch after we beat Samoa to retain the title. The party went on all night long!

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In case you missed it: News RoundUp – 8th March 2019

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I was part of the television commentary team and had to fight really hard to control my excitement as the guys powered their way to the title. I was so pumped because I know what the squad had been through. A lot of fans were asking when I was going to be back and it is going to be a race against time to make Hong Kong or Singapore and it will all depend on when I get the metalwork taken out of my mouth following the double break of the jaw I suffered in Hamilton.

As a squad, we always believed we could reach the top and everything we have been doing is aimed at playing consistently. Five successive final appearance this season confirms just how far we have come and we have also dealt with injury problems during that period. Having grabbed the No1 position in the Series we have set our sights on staying there to give us a wonderful lead into the Olympic Games. It took a bit of time for people to get on board and see that we can become No1 and now we are expected to get to the final and people have to understand just how hard it is to reach five in a row.


The excitement generated by our win in Las Vegas is something that we can build on to get more players involved in the game at all ages in North America. At the HSBC Canada Sevens in Vancouver, where the USA squad will be aiming for more success this weekend, they are putting a lot of work into the successful HSBC Rookie Rugby Programme which since 2017 has introduced an amazing 90,000 Canadian youngster to rugby, including 43,000 girls.

Any programme aimed at boosting playing number benefits greatly from having a player who captures the headlines and in Canada that is the incredible Ghislaine Landry, who was initially told she was too small to play rugby and is now the all-time leading points scorer on the women’s Series. Ghislaine is this season’s top points scorer to highlight her amazing consistency and HSBC have put together a film charting her rise to the top of the women’s game and it has been released to coincide with International Women’s Day.

The women’s Sevens series is currently led by New Zealand with USA and Canada battling for top spot and the competition is really intense. This really is a great time to be involved with Sevens and Vancouver is going to be another example of why the sport has become so popular.

You may also like: Eddie Jones speaks to RugbyPass exclusively ahead of Italy Six Nations game.

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