Belly dancers and camels for USA in Dubai

Belly dancers and camels for USA in Dubai

The 2009/2010 IRB World Sevens Series is about to kick off in Dubai this weekend and promises to be more action packed then ever! I got to talk to USA 7s coach Al Caravelli about his team’s preparation ahead of the opening tournament. “This is the one of the most exciting team’s that I have seen assembled. We have several new faces to the circuit, but they have performed very well at our scrimmages so far” said Caravelli.

The 2009/2010 IRB World Sevens Series is about to kick off in Dubai this weekend and promises to be more action packed then ever!

I got to talk to USA 7s coach Al Caravelli about his team’s preparation ahead of the opening tournament.

“This is the one of the most exciting team’s that I have seen assembled. We have several new faces to the circuit, but they have performed very well at our scrimmages so far” said Caravelli.

The USA changed their routine this year by arriving a few days earlier in Dubai, a tactic that both England and South Africa have adopted.

“This allows the players to acclimatize a lot quicker, and we are constantly looking to be better prepared than our opposition” enthused USA Rugby’s Strength & Condition expert Dave Williams.

Seven’s friendships

The South African 7s coach Paul Treu and Caravelli have been working closely together for the past few seasons, with both their teams staying at the same accommodation in Dubai for those extra days. In fact the South Africans invited their American neighbours to watch the Ireland versus Springbok November international with them. This sort of sportsmanship is not common in the 15-a-side game, but is able to develop in the 7s arena.

Don’t get me wrong there was nothing friendly about their practice scrimmage the following day! Two South Africans had to leave the field via blood stoppages, which demonstrate the physicality of both teams. The relatively inexperienced USA side impressed Treu during the 4 period hit-out. This is a good sign of things to come for them in Dubai.

Poor Record

The USA have been slow Series starters in Dubai, with a below average record there. In 2007 they lost all 5 matches, and in 2008 lost four in a row, before winning the Shield by defeating Scotland and the Arabian Gulf. Including the Rugby Sevens World Cup earlier this year the United States have played 15 matches, winning just 3 in the Middle East.

2007/2008 Dubai:
USA 17 Zimbabwe 29 (Shield semi final)
USA 12 Canada 21
USA 7 Kenya 12
USA 0 Samoa 29
USA 7 Wales 22

2008/2009 Dubai:
USA 31 Arabian Gulf 7 (Shield final)
USA 17 Scotland 14
USA 12 France 22
USA 12 Portugal 22
USA 10 England 24
USA 12 Fiji 47

2009 Rugby Sevens World Cup
USA 14 Australia 24 (Plate quarterfinal)
USA 33 Georgia 5
USA 17 France 26
USA 12 Fiji 26

Strangely enough the USA have enjoyed their most consistent performances the following week in George South Africa, reaching the Cup quarterfinals in 2007/2008 & 2008/2009. Caravelli has determined with player input that the preparation and rest before Dubai is vital.

That is what the doctor ordered, and this week the USA have played 4 scrimmage periods against South Africa as well as Australia. Besides that the team has had one or two sessions together, with Jone Naqica taking the captains run on Thursday.

Wednesday evening was the tournament function in which all 16 participating teams attended. This is normally an event for the sponsors and people involved with the Dubai 7s. From a players perspective it’s a nice team dinner, and a chance to have another look at the opposing teams, as well as sharing a few laughs with friends on the circuit.

A highlight in Dubai each year is the famous desert safari! The players get free time early in the week, with the team manager organizing a 4x4 sand safari, followed by camel rides and a dinner in the desert with local belly dancers entertaining the rugby crowds. I remember one year we blew a tire on the sand dunes!

All to play for

This Friday the USA play against rivals England, Kenya and Russia. Each pool is more and more difficult and even Russia have a very formidable 7s side. It could go either way, the USA may stun Kenya or England to reach the Cup quarterfinals, or just lose out and end up in the Bowl.

South Africa is in a pool with Wales, Australia and the Arabian Gulf. They should emerge unbeaten, but with some close encounters. I predict the semi final teams will be New Zealand, Argentina, Fiji and South Africa. After that it’s too close to call!

Note: you will see the USA 7s side sporting some new sponsors this weekend! Adidas is the temporary kit supplier after Canterbury stepped down. And the biggest news is that the official tournament sponsor – Emirates Airlines – has just signed a deal with USA Rugby to become the official airline of the USA 7s side.

- Dallen Stanford played 54 matches for the USA 7s team throughout his career spanning from 2006 to 2009, including 13 IRB 7s tournament appearances. He was part of the Belmont Shore side that recently won the USA National Sevens competition.
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