Earlier this month, the U.S. mens rugby (7’s) team defeated Olympic champion Fiji in the semifinals before shutting out Argentina 28-0 to win the USA Sevens Rugby Tournament in Las Vegas.
Action packed day three at the #USA7s
It was Team USAs second tournament win in the 20-year history of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, following a 2015 victory in London. The win comes just months before the Eagles host the celebrated Rugby World Cup Sevens on July 20-22 in San Francisco and has thrust the team into an increasingly illuminating spotlight.
The Philadelphia Eagles winning the Super Bowl after all of those years of coming up short and the way their fans were over the top in supporting them was kind of like the our team winning the cup in Vegas, American rugby superstar Perry Baker told The Shadow League in an exclusive interview.
Baker is a former NFL player who had a cup of coffee with the Eagles in 2011 and knows the pulse of Philly funksters.
Like the Philly fans…The fans in Vegas were absolutely crazy, Baker says while projecting an obvious pride. “Here it is (several weeks) after Vancouver and they are still talking about Vegas and posting pictures online about us.
Rugby has never been a sport that garnered much attention in America until athletes the caliber of Perry Baker and his teammate Carlin Isles decided that playing rugby and playing it fast is a great alternative to the NFL.
We caught up with Carlin Isles and Perry Baker on this year’s HSBC Sevens World Series to find out about two of the most exciting players on the tour. Follow World Rugby on social media: TWITTER.COM/RUGBYWORLDCUP FACEBOOK.COM/RUGBYWORLDCUP WWW.TWITTER.COM/WORLDRUGBY FACEBOOK.COM/WORLDUGBY INSTAGRAM.COM/WORLDRUGBY
Isles, dubbed the fastest man in rugby, has clocked an insane 100m personal best of 10.13 and is close friends with American sprint stars Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman. Its likely that Isles could compete in both sevens and track & field in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Baker aka the Speed Stick meanwhile, is the reigning World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year after blazing his way to a super lit 57 tries (scores) on the 2016-17 circuit. Hes become the electrifying force pushing USA Mens Rugby up the world rankings, where they currently sit sixth in the World Rugby HSBC Seven Series standings.
Legend has it that @SpeedSt11ck is still out there, orbiting in space somewhere above Sam Boyd Stadium.
Sevens rugby games are very short, with just two seven-minute halves and a two-minute break between. Players are running constantly from the first to the last whistle of the match. It requires an athleticism that wasnt as essential to old style 15s rugby.
Perry has impacted the entire sport on a global scale with his blend of athleticism, flair, speed, agility and power. Hes the best among a rush of athletes from traditional American contact sports like football who are picking up rugby and boosting its overall athleticism, competitive spirit and global appeal, while enhancing the American talent pool at the international and pro level.
USA beat New Zealand in the HSBC London Sevens Cup quarter-finals, with Perry Baker scoring four tries in the win. Follow World Rugby on social media: Official Website!
When I first started playing Sevens, it was like certain teams that you wouldn’t mind playing because they were an easy win, Baker told The Shadow League. “But now it’s not like that. Everyone is competing, You can’t count any team out at all. You have to bring your A Game each time. So I think that is what changed.
His lightening quick style has influenced the way other teams now construct their squads.
Guys are just becoming better all around, across the board, Baker told TSL. Then again, having Carlin Isles and myself, two very fast guys…they are adapting to that too and trying to get the same stuff.”
Speedster x 2 #USA7s #Champions @USASevensRugby
I know Canada has a guy that was playing football, said Baker, and they brought him in and he has speed and he’s learning the game. So teams are adapting all the way around.
When the USA upset traditional rugby powerhouse New Zealand at the Dubai World Sevens in 2015, it was Baker, who with virtually no time left, avoided three tackles to score a try and tie the game.
USA beat New Zealand at the Dubai 7s to advance to the cup quarter finals Follow World Rugby on social media:Official Website! http://www.rugbyworldcup.com,SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube Channel For More Great Videos https://youtube.com/user/irb,Follow us on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/rugbyworldcup,Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rugbyworldcup and https://www.facebook.com/worldrugby,Follow us on Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/worldrugby,
It showed a resilience in his makeup that has served him well this season as he missed some HSBC seven series action, nursing a concussion suffered 30 seconds into the first tournament.
It was devastating at first because it had been so long since our last tournament playing together, Baker recalls. I was crushed and I watched the rest of the tournament and I was like, Man I want to be out there playing with them. Nothing went right that tournament. We didn’t win a single game. I didn’t know if it was because I wasn’t there or if the guys were worried about me or what. I just felt like I had so much pressure on me because of that.
Holding the fate of American rugby in the palm of your hands can be pressure for anyone.
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I came back to the states and just contemplated things and said to myself, Hey man you just came off Player of the Year. There’s a lot of pressure on you. I know people are waiting to see you play so just go out there and youll be fine. I was just happy to get the opportunity to go out there and play again.
With Baker back in the fold killing, World Rugby Sevens Series title partner HSBC announced earlier this month that it has commissioned a documentary following the USA Rugby Sevens team.
The multi-episode series will follow the teams attempt to win the Rugby World Cup Sevens on home soil and skyrocket the profile of American rugby. The series titled ‘The Pioneers’ is already in production and will premiere later this year ahead of the tournament.
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The stakes are also higher now for American rugby with the 2020 Olympics on the horizon. America will be entering the Tokyo Olympics with aspirations of winning the gold medal. Before Team USAs loss to No. 1 Fiji in the final match of pool play at the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games, it had been 92 years since Rugby was included in the Olympic schedule.
The face of Baker and the magnitude of his accomplishments, along with the rising success of USA Rugby at the mens, womens and youth levels has already helped to grow a sport that Baker says will continue to become more popular as it is exposed to more people.
And with rugby the exposure is on a global scale, Baker told TSL. You have me, a Player of the Year right here in the states and that’s helping to grow the game. Were going out and helping coaches and kids in the various programs. Social media of course has also helped. Its probably the biggest way because I get so many messages through different people trying to get involved with rugby. So we’re not just playing for the love of the game, but also for expansion of a culture and movement.