Men's Rugby Preview

Rugby Sevens enters its second-ever inclusion in the Olympic Games after making an exciting debut at Rio 2016. Previously, the 15-a-side version of rugby was part of the Olympic program in the 1900s where the United States men won gold in 1920 and 1924.

Since its inclusion in the Olympic Games, rugby sevens has seen tremendous growth with an increase in 17 million fans worldwide, with Tokyo expected to garner an additional 30 million according to Neilson reports. In 2018, Rugby World Cup Sevens became the first ever U.S. hosted Rugby World Cup, bringing 200,000 fans to AT&T Park in San Francisco and engaging another nine million viewers across NBC broadcasts.

In 2019, the USA Men’s National Rugby Sevens Team reached their most successful season in history. In 10 tournaments, the group claimed seven medals including one gold at their home tournament in Las Vegas, four-straight silvers, and two bronzes. In a single season, the team tied the total number of medals they had ever won in the decades-long history of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. They also held the No. 1 world ranking for eight out of 10 stops – having never been higher than fifth place – dropping to No. 2 in the final tournament to 2016 Olympic gold medalists Fiji. The U.S. was the only men’s team to make all 10 semifinals and the first to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, now scheduled for 2021.

At the season-ending awards, the Eagles Sevens again won big. Head coach Mike Friday was honored as Coach of the Series while three players were named to the season Dream Team: Ben Pinkelman, Stephen Tomasin and Folau Niua.

Danny Barrett also won the UL Mark of Excellence award for several notable performances. One of which included Barrett jumping up from an on-field injury to make a tackle so his teammate Carlin Isles could score. Barrett also made SportsCenter’s Top 10 when he overcame three New Zealand defenders in route to a try on their own home turf in Hamilton.

Later that year, at the 2019 World Rugby Awards ceremony, Stephen Tomasin and Folau Niua were both nominated as World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year. The U.S. have won the award the past two years by way of Perry Baker in 2017 and 2018.

Before the 2020 season abruptly concluded due to COVID-19, the squad added another bronze medal in Sydney after battling numerous injuries and a new competition format. The season ended with the USA in seventh place with full roster on track to be healthy and ready for 2021.

Updated on July 16, 2020. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.

USA Men Trademark Speed: Since the emergence of standouts Perry Baker and Carlin Isles, the U.S. has set the tone for having some of the fastest rugby players in the world. Baker is a two-time World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year in 2017 and 2018, while Isles is a former Olympic-caliber sprinter, and has reached top speeds of 25.7 miles per hour, and finished the 2018 and 2019 seasons as the leading try scorer above all 16 teams. Both Isles and Baker are reaching 200 career tries and sit tied as the program’s highest try scorers in history.  Rookie Marcus Tupuola, third-year Kevon Williams and veteran Stephen Tomasin also add their own flair of pace with a number of deceptively fast breakaway tries. 

Coaches Excel with Culture: Culture made the biggest impact in the USA Men’s Sevens heightened success. The bulk of the men’s player pool consists of players from vastly different backgrounds with varying personalities who have spent most of the last Olympic cycle together. head coach Mike Friday placed a focus on helping players learn how to communicate clearly and openly, as well as react to one another’s differences appropriately on and off the field. The inner community which was built by learning how to make a diverse group come together as a collective made the biggest impact.  

Martin Iosefo (born Kapiolani, Hawaii) 
Iosefo is very skilled with the ability to draw in defenses, has a thrilling high jump and shows excellent footwork and ability to dummy past defenders on the field. He is also a 2016 Rio Olympian who played in the recent world cup in Japan. 

Ben Pinkelman (Centennial, Colorado)
Pinkelman is an incredible offensive and defensive player, and is everywhere on the field: making tackles, winning turnovers, scoring his own tries – his work rate and leadership are unmatched. Pinkelman is additionally a 2016 Olympian and played in the recent Rugby World Cup in Japan. 

Stephen Tomasin (Redding, California)
Tomasin was a World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year nominee in 2019, and can be seen breaking tackles and making a number of crucial runs, playing with pace and power. 

The USA men qualified for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 by finishing second in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in 2019. This is not impacted due to COVID-19 and the U.S. will be a top four seed when the Games begin in 2021, regardless of the previous season’s results.
Coaches will evaluate players through the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2021 in both competition and high performance training camps. Selections will be made by end of June 2021.
The HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series was cancelled due to COVID-19 while the 2021 season remains under review based on the pandemic and global travel restrictions.