Danny Barrett competes against Argentina at the USA Sevens rugby tournament on March 4, 2018 in Las Vegas.
It’s been a fun week for Danny Barrett, as he’s savoring a flood of congratulations and well wishes from around the world. The 27-year-old is forward on the U.S. men’s rugby sevens team, and he’s still on a high from the American squad winning its second HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament in the 20-year history of the series.
The Eagles Sevens delivered in the Las Vegas Sevens, capping off a strong tournament with a 28-0 win over Argentina in the March 4 final.
Barrett clearly relishes the win. But capturing a World Series tournament, on American soil, with a team playing through significant injury issues, makes it even more special for the Eagles Sevens.
“We were like a wounded dog, a dangerous animal out there,” said Barrett, who had two tries in the final. “We weren’t going to stop; a dog in that place is always going to fight. We were all going to fight for each other, go out there and give it everything. It didn’t matter who was up next to go; we all knew we had each other’s back. That gave us strength to fight and win. And that is what makes it special, we did this all here at home.”
The squad quickly returned to practicing, preparing for this weekend’s Canada Sevens tournament in Vancouver. The Eagles open against Uruguay, Canada and Australia in pool play on Saturday in BC Place Stadium, with the playoff rounds to follow on Sunday.
“We’re pretty focused on the next task at hand,” Barrett said. “We want to go out and get another one, and then another one, and another one. That’s what we want — to keep winning.”
Barrett doesn’t necessarily see Team USA’s first World Series tournament win since 2015 as a springboard. He assesses it as another step in the Eagles Sevens journey, tracking back to its less-than-satisfying ninth-place finish at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, when the sport made its Olympic debut.
Move forward to 2018, and the Eagles Sevens have improved to 15th in the World Rugby rankings, and sixth in the World Rugby Sevens Series.
“This is not about breaking through for us. This is the big thing for us, it is about us being better each tournament than the last,” Barrett, a native of Pacifica, California, said. “It’s not so much about becoming household names or everybody being famous for this. It is about being better, and maybe Tokyo (Olympic Games 2020) will be our time. We missed our chance in Rio, but everything is helping us get better.”
The Eagles Sevens’ upcoming schedule is packed, building to the Rugby World Cup Sevens on July 20-22 in San Francisco.
Having live World Cup rugby in the U.S., combined with increasing amateur popularity and now a World Series win, could set the sport up for a stronger profile with the public. Barrett was happy to see highlights from Las Vegas show up on ESPN’s SportsCenter top-10 plays, a sign rugby is making in-roads into the mainstream American sporting culture.
“We want to get new people into the sport,” Barrett said. “We’re a great alternative to football, basketball, soccer, baseball. We’re Americans, so we play everything. And of course, we want to be good at it. The energy of rugby is what hooks people. There is nothing like it when you are playing, or in the stands.”
Barrett explains the Eagles Sevens as a sporting example of American culture, one that hopefully anybody can see themselves reflected within.
“We are quintessentially American — we have a whole melting pot of cultures and backgrounds on our team. Like our country,” Barrett said. “We have people from everywhere, English-Americans, African-Americans, Tongans, Samoans … we’re all so different, but we are 7-12 guys, 25 in the playing group, that fit together like a puzzle. We love to have a good time. And the end of the day, this is kids’ game. We have fun.”Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes regularly for The New York Times and other outlets about sports. She has written for TeamUSA.org since 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.