Perry Baker returns as USA Sevens prepare for final European push

By Alex Dudley

Mike Friday has named his 14-man squad for the final two legs of the HSBC World Series in London and Paris. Their goal is clear – Olympic qualification and the championship.

The most notable name that jumps off the sheet is Martin Iosefo, who will be returning to the set-up following his absence from the Singapore leg owing to injury. Meanwhile, World 7s Player of the Year for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, Perry Baker, returns. Danny Barrett is also included in the squad.

The USA were unlucky in their opening four competitions; finishing second on each of these occasions. They finally tasted success for the first time this season in Las Vegas. However, since then their form has dipped, finishing fourth, third and fourth again.

Mistakes and turnovers were the biggest reasons for the drop in form, but undoubtedly they have missed some of their star players. This, however, has seen the emergence of new stars such as Kevon Williams; who is playing possibly the best rugby of his career.

Olympic qualification seems inevitable, with only a major turnaround depriving them of a place in Tokyo next year. They need to finish in the top four to clinch a place in the 2020 Games. Their championship hopes will cling on their ability to maintain their season form.

Interestingly, Friday has opted to bring an extra reserve for the final legs in Europe, which could potentially be a sign that the question marks remain over the fitness of their returning stars.

Friday doesn’t believe that his team will fail in their challenges. Speaking to USA Rugby, he said: “It’s great to have the opportunity to pick from a fully-fit squad for the first time this season except for Maka Unufe.

“This gives us great confidence as a group as if we illustrate the same work ethic, desire, and resilience with the squad we have landing in London. Our attacking game can excel if we are both accurate and hungry.”

However, the US coach has also admitted that he knows that there will be challenges ahead. He concluded: “We are under no illusion of the task that lies ahead. We are excited about that opportunity and challenge, and we are determined to leave London in the same position on the table as when we arrived.”

The USA have been drawn in Pool D alongside Australia, Wales and Spain for the London Sevens, which begin on the 25th May.

Main photo credit: USA Rugby

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