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Excitement, Not Nerves, Dominates RWC Run-up

  • 19 Jul 2018

Captain’s run photos: Jackie Finlan

The USA Women’s 7s team held its captain’s run today at SFGG’s Ray Sheeran field on Treasure Island. The 12 Rugby World Cup Sevens (RWC 7s) players

There’s no pool play in the new tournament format, and those teams that lose their openers will be immediately rerouted to the 9th place bracket. That’s some added pressure, but USA Women’s 7s coach Richie Walker indicated that the team was successfully channeling it as excitement. That conversion was on display during the tail-end of today’s warm-ups, as players contested perhaps the tensest, most emotive game of rock-paper-scissors ever played, and then quickly transitioned to an urgent, high-intensity captain’s run.

That ability to turn it on quickly will be needed tomorrow, when the Eagles face China, a team with which the USA has had little experience in recent years. Walker expects to face an opponent that is similar to Japan, just with more size and speed, and the key will be setting the tone immediately and then relying on that strong, proven finish.

The USA obviously has some things going for it – hometown crowd, family in town, short trip from San Diego – but was hit with a last-minute shock when Alev Kelter was ruled out for injury.

“It was difficult to tell the team. We just found out right before we boarded the bus to jump on the plane,” Walker said. “I checked in with Alev, you know, to make sure she’s positive but also to make sure she’s still part of this team and we brought her with us. … Bringing her was definitely an advantage instead of leaving her at home. She was even out here training today so that gave added smiles and laughter in the van on the ride here [to Treasure Island]. Even though she’s not staying with us she’s still part of us. And the girls walked down this morning and saw her waiting to jump in the van with us, and so they were really excited to still have her around.”

Kelter’s positive voice punctuated the team’s movements, and it was also heard in a more intimate, moving message last night in Oakland. Women For Rugby – a new non-profit focused on fundraising for the USA Women’s 7s program – held its kickoff event at CCIG Phil Tagami’s Rotunda Building.

“We had a jersey ceremony last night and [Kelter] led it. And the girls were so honored to get it from her,” Walker said of the Women for Rugby fundraiser at the Rotunda Building. “She had a great speech last night and she was so excited and honored to give the jerseys. … They gave her big hugs when she gave them their jerseys, and the smiles on their faces as they were coming to get it just said it all.”

Max Haynes photo. See more.

Kelter, Ryan Carlyle, Lauren Doyle and Joanne Fa’avesi were all part of the Team USA’s Rio Olympics squad (current captain Nicole Heavirland was a traveling reserve), and tomorrow’s RWC 7s is easily the biggest event for the 7s Eagles since the Summer Games in Brazil two years ago.

“They don’t need any advice right now. They know exactly what they need to do,” Kelter said of the class just below her. “They’re prepared and that’s what they can go into tomorrow with. … [W]e all have amazing experiences that we can use, and together we’re going to do that.”

It all starts tomorrow. Learn more:

#USAWomen7s #2018RugbyWorldCup7s

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