The HSBC USA Sevens is the fifth round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series with the first four tournaments all delivering different winners: South Africa (Dubai), New Zealand (Cape Town), Australia (Sydney) and Fiji (Hamilton).
South Africa currently leads the series, eight-points ahead of second place New Zealand and 15 points from third-place Fiji after their victory in round four.
As excitement builds ahead of the weekend’s rugby action in Las Vegas, teams will not only be battling for the HSBC USA Sevens title but also crucial Rugby World Cup 2018 seedings points which will determine the all-important draw for the tournament at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
With Stephen Tomasin and Madison Hughes still recovering from injury, Ben Pinkelman continues his role as captain of the home side USA, while newcomer Cody Melphy makes his debut. Melphy, who captained the Men’s Collegiate All-Americans to a bowl victory last August, has the unique opportunity to play his first senior tournament in front of a home crowd. Malon Al-Jiboori, after earning his first cap in XVs with the Eagles, will return to the sevens scene in search of his first try of the 2018 Series.
"It's disappointing that Hughes and Tomasin are injured but that provides others with opportunities who have been waiting patiently in the wings - working hard - to ensure they can add to the squad. We look forward to seeing the team's continuous growth and evolution with newer players that will wear the Eagle," said coach Mike Friday.
Wales have named a young team featuring three new caps this weekend. Aberavon duo Jacob Flynn and Mike Wilson and RGC's Afon Bagshaw are brought into the team for their first taste of World Series rugby, while there is a return for Angus O'Brien and Jack Maynard. Wales be without the services of the experienced likes of Ethan Davies, Lloyd Evans, Lloyd Lewis and Morgan Williams, who remain at home as they return to fitness.
"We have a large number of injuries that have not been able to recover with the tight turnaround," said coach Gareth Williams. "This gives us the opportunity to work with and expose a very young group at World Series level. It's real exciting getting these boys involved so early in their development, and we'll have a good go at the teams in our group."
All Blacks Sevens coach Clark Laidlaw has named debutant Ngarohi McGarvey-Black and said the team had prepared well for the tournament. "We think it's a strong team - a team that's got good strength and depth on the bench, with guys who will come in and make a difference."
Laidlaw said McGarvey-Black was ready for his debut and they had great confidence in him, despite some obvious nerves. "I think he’s pretty excited and pretty nervous at the same time. He’s preparing well, the guys are making him fit in well and feel welcome and helping him get up to speed on how we want to play the game. It’s hard because it’s a little bit earlier to play him than what he thought but we've got every confidence in him or we wouldn't have put him out there."
Top-of-the-table South Africa make a number of changes, giving young players the opportunity to prove themselves on the World Series stage and keep the intensity high. Also returning for the Blitzboks, having missed the tournaments in Sydney and Hamilton due to a knee injury picked up in December in Cape Town, is Siviwe Soyizwapi.
“I am really pleased to be back in the squad and playing with the boys. It is another fantastic opportunity for all of us to go out, express ourselves and contribute. That is an exciting feeling to know that we will be out there playing for our country soon. There are a couple of guys who have been here many times and a handful will be here for the first time, but we all have one aim, to deliver our best on the weekend,” said Soyizwapi.
A buoyant Kenya team is boosted by the return of their record try scorer Collins Injera at the USA Sevens. Injera, 31, who is second on the all-time World Series try scoring list, returns to the team for the first time since the opening round in Dubai last December where he was forced to return home due to a hamstring injury.
One change has been made to the England side that will again be led by Tom Mitchell. After making a big impact for his team in the opening two round of this HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, Harry Glover returns to the squad alongside an otherwise unchanged team that played in Hamilton. “We’re really excited about the unique challenge that playing in Las Vegas will bring next weekend,” said England coach Simon Amor. “We’ve worked extremely hard as a squad in preparation for Las Vegas and are looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead. We’re also really pleased to have Harry Glover back in the squad with the excitement that he brings. ”