NewsPerry BakerCarlin Isles

Meet The 12 Starters On The U.S. Men’s Olympic Rugby Sevens Team

by Lisa Costantini

The U.S. men’s Olympic rugby sevens squad has been named, and for most of them, this is not their first rodeo.

On Friday the 12 starters were announced by USA Rugby, one week after the entire Eagles roster was in Los Angeles, California for The Quest for Gold Sevens. The competition was the final chance to vie for a spot on the Olympic team and their last time getting critical international matches before heading to Tokyo.

Leading the team of mostly experienced vets will once again be head coach Mike Friday who has selected many of the same players from Rio. Madison Hughes will return as captain, along with six of his teammates from Rio. The squad — which includes five Olympic newcomers — will be working hard to better their ninth-place finish at the last Games.

The Eagles — who finished the shortened 2019-2020 sevens season in seventh place — will play their first game in Tokyo on July 26 and will have a challenge to advance out of their group that includes heavy-hitters South Africa, Kenya and Ireland.

This will only be the second time rugby sevens has been played in the Olympics. Rugby made its return to the program in 2016 in Rio, when the sport was played for the first time since rugby 15s was played way back in 1924.

Here’s a look at the squad.




Perry Baker competing against Kenya at the Madrid Rugby Sevens International Tournament on Feb. 21, 2021 in Madrid.

 

The 34-year-old has become a global sensation and a YouTube highlight reel thanks to his incredible exploits and speed on the sevens pitch. Baker’s abilities can be traced back to his experience as an elite football player both in college and then with the Philadelphia Eagles, where his football career was cut short due to injury. It was to rugby’s great benefit when Baker began taking the sport more seriously and he quickly found himself in the USA developmental system in 2014. Now one of the world’s top sevens players, the speedster is a point-scoring machine and a must-watch spectacle whenever he has the ball. His impressive list of achievements include 2016 Olympian, the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens, and a 2-time World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year.




Danny Barrett getting tackled during the 2020 Sydney Sevens semifinal against South Africa on Feb. 2, 2020 in Sydney.

 

At 31 years of age, Barrett is one of the most physical and decorated USA rugby players. At UC-Berkeley, Barrett earned All-American honors in both 15s and 7s, which gave an early indication to his future success in both disciplines. In 2014, he made his senior Eagles debut in both 7s and then 15s, earning him a spot on the 2015 Rugby World Cup squad where he started all four matches in England. On the sevens front, Barrett is a regular in the annual sevens series, was a key member for Team USA at Rio 2016, and felt right at home in northern California as part of the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens squad.

Maceo Brown




Maceo Brown scores a try during the bronze medal match of the HSBC London Sevens on May 26, 2019 in London.

 

A triple-sport threat at the age of 16, Brown juggled rugby with his love for football and basketball. The Arizona native’s impressive collegiate career led to All-American honors and recruitment into USA Rugby’s senior residency program where he was quickly groomed for the Eagles. The 25-year-old debuted with the senior team in 2018 and kept gaining experience through the COVID-shortened 2019-20 series season, and now sets his sights and return to competition with his first time selected to an Olympic team.

Madison Hughes




Madison Hughes scoring against Scotland at the 2019 Hamilton Sevens on Jan. 27, 2019 in Hamilton, New Zealand.

 

A lifelong rugby player, the 28-year-old Hughes began playing youth rugby in England before heading to a stellar career at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. His junior career included representing the USA in both 7s and 15s. A natural all-around athlete, Hughes made his senior sevens debut in 2014 and quickly became a team leader in points scored and tackles made. His natural leadership style led him to be named captain of the team, walking out the squad at the Rio 2016 Games, the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens and now for the Tokyo Games.




Martin Iosefo getting tackled against Argentina at the Madrid Rugby Sevens International Tournament on Feb. 20, 2021 in Madrid.

 

Another returning Olympian, Iosefo grew up in Hawaii before playing football and rugby at the University of Montana. After an impressive performance at the 2014 RugbyTown Sevens with the Collegiate All-Americans, he made his international debut at the 2014 Dubai Sevens Tournament and has been with the Eagles ever since — also having suited up for the 15s Eagles on occasion. The 30-year-old is known for this strength on both sides of the ball with the ability to score on offense while laying big hits on defense. Along with his experience at the Rio Olympics, Iosefo has represented the USA at the 2015 Pan American Games and the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens.

Carlin Isles




Carlin Isles getting tackled at the 2020 Sydney Sevens semifinal against South Africa on Feb. 2, 2020 in Sydney.

 

Blessed with lighting speed, the 31-year-old Isles has become a legend in rugby sevens. A prolific football player and track star, Isles’ talent saw him spend time with the NFL’s Detroit Lions and setting sprint records before focusing his efforts only on rugby.  He exploded onto the international rugby scene in 2012 and was quickly dubbed “the fastest man in rugby” due to his blazing Olympic-level speed. Isles has been a regular with the Eagles ever since with many sevens seasons under his belt on top of his appearances at the Rio 2016 Games and the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens. He is the all-time scoring leader in tries for the USA.

Matai Leuta




Matai Leuta getting tackled against Kenya at the HSBC London Sevens on June 2, 2018 in London.

 

The California native saw his rugby career take off after attending a recruitment camp in his home state, where USA scouts quickly saw his potential and fast-tracked the winger into the Eagles development system. Not long after, he made his senior international debut in the sevens series in 2015 with immediate success, only to see an injury keep him out of the Rio 2016 Olympic squad. Later that year, Leuta was named to the 15s developmental side, and eventually made his Eagles debut at the international 15s level. The 30-year-old, who will celebrate a birthday right before the Games, has been a key component of the Eagles sevens side ever since.

Folau Niua




Folau Niua competing in the bronze-medal match against France at the HSBC London Sevens on May 26, 2019 in London.

 

The 36-year-old flyhalf was born and raised in California and is the most capped USA sevens player of all time with an impressive 69 World Series tournament appearances. Making his international debut at the 2011 Pan American Games, he led the team in points that went on to win bronze. In 2013 he joined the Eagles 15s and was then selected to play in the Rugby World Cup 2015 in England. After playing in the Rio Olympics, Niua is now a sevens mainstay and helped the Eagles claim victory in 2018 at their first-ever series title on home soil at the USA Sevens tournament.

Ben Pinkelman




Ben Pinkelman getting tackled at the 2020 Sydney Sevens semifinal against South Africa on Feb. 2, 2020 in Sydney.

 

A talented youth and standout collegiate rugby player, Pinkelman has since reached the pinnacle of the sport in both 7s and 15s formats of the game — a rare feat for any rugby player. A 27-year-old from Colorado, his national team sevens debut came in 2016 and resulted in a selection to the Rio 2016 Olympic squad. Thanks to his subsequent impressive showings as a regular on the sevens series, Pinkelman was asked to train with the USA 15s Eagles — which eventually led to his selection to the USA squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Joe Schroeder




Joe Schroeder in action during the HSBC Rugby Sevens Singapore at the National Stadium on April 14, 2019 in Singapore. 

 

The 6’5” 230-pound Schroeder strikes an imposing figure on the sevens pitch. A talented multi-sport athlete in his youth in Indiana, Schroeder followed his older brothers into rugby and had an impressive high school career. The prop eventually joined the Eagles developmental system in 2017 and made his senior international debut later that year. The 28-year-old remains a regular on the Eagles sevens squad and will be making his Olympic debut in Tokyo.

Stephen Tomasin




Stephen Tomasin getting tackled by New Zealand at the HSBC London Sevens on June 3, 2018 in London.

 

Following in the rugby footsteps of some of his uncles and cousins, this first-time Olympian started playing rugby at 16. Now 26 he made his debut with the senior sevens team at the 2013 Gold Coast Sevens where he scored his first try in a playoff match against Spain. In 2018 he helped the USA to a sixth place finish at Rugby World Cup Sevens — their highest ever finish in the tournament. During the subsequent HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, he contributed to some historic results for the Eagles including achieving a world number one ranking for the first time. 

Kevon Williams




Kevon Williams making a run against New Zealand at the 2019 Hamilton Sevens on Jan. 27, 2019 in Hamilton, New Zealand.

 

Another first-time Olympian, the 30-year-old from Texas burst out of the college scene and eventually made his Eagles debut in 2016 not longer after the Rio Games. Williams became an immediate hit with the national team and has been providing key contributions to propel a historic run of success for the USA. The winger is a proven scorer and one to watch with his ability to put points on the board in a hurry and adds another dynamic element to the Team USA attack.
Head Coach Mike Friday also named 30-year-old wing, Brett Thompson as an alternate who will be traveling to the Olympics for the first time. Additionally, Naima Fualaau and Malacchi Esdale will be going as replacements.


Lisa Costantini is a freelance writer based in Orlando. She has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications, and has contributed to TeamUSA.org since 2011.
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