Premier Rugby Sevens' Impact Evident as Pan American Games Get Underway
SANTIAGO, Chile — As the Rugby 7s tournament at the Pan-American Games initiates on Friday, Nov. 3, Premier Rugby Sevens (PR7s) exerts a notable influence on the participating teams, extending beyond the United States’ borders. Observers are focusing on several standout athletes:
In the women’s division for the USA, Naya Tapper, the 2023 PR7s MVP finalist, not only takes the field for the Eagles but also serves as the captain. She is complemented by Alena Olsen, a seasoned halfback from Southern Headliners, and Sammy Sullivan, the 2023 USA's emerging talent from Pittsburgh Steeltoes. Olsen is recognized for her 16 carries and defensive contributions.
The Rocky Mountain Experts contribute two key players, whose performances in the 2023 PR7s season were exemplary. Spiff Sedrick’s increasing playtime with the USA team is a testament to her PR7s experience, underscored by her 16 tackles. Ariana Ramsey, returning from an ACL injury, showcased her capacity to create scoring opportunities, evidenced by her offensive statistics (16 carries, three tries) and defensive prowess.
For Canada, three Northern Loonies players, victorious in the 2023 PR7s Championship — Caroline Crossley, Shalaya Valenzuela, and Carissa Norsten — don the national jersey, alongside Asia Hogan-Rochester of the Steeltoes. Crossley and Valenzuela made notable contributions with two tries each, and Norsten demonstrated her strength as a carrier.
The Brazil women’s team includes Bianca Silva, a Loonies champion recognized for her agility, veteran Luiza Campos of the Texas Team, power-runner Mariana Nicolau from the Experts, and Rafaella Zanellato, a new star from the Golden State Retrievers. Campos’s kicking accuracy, Silva’s three tries, Nicolau’s nine tackles, and Zanellato’s consistent performance (17 carries, 11 tackles) round out their strengths.
Representing Jamaica, Jasmine Rampton from the Experts brings her experience from England, and at just 20, her participation in PR7s is deemed crucial for her and the Crocs.
For Mexico, Jenn Salomon’s robust play with the Headliners stands out, alongside the strategic Isabela Gonzalez of the SoCal Rhinos x Loggerheads, who is expected to lead.
In the men’s category, the USA team includes players aiming for regular spots on the Eagles 7s via the World Rugby SVNS series, many of whom participated in PR7s at the encouragement of Head Coach Mike Friday. Darell Williams of the Experts is noted for his impactful physical play. His teammate Pita Vi is emerging as a creative force, while SoCal’s Tucker Trickey’s try-scoring and defensive statistics (four tries, 11 carries, 12 tackles) highlight his abilities.
Noah Brown's relentless defense for the Loonies and Ryan Santos's strategic growth in PR7s are also lauded. Orrin Bizer, the top men’s collegiate 7s player for 2023, leveraged his strength in the men’s league with the New York Locals. Additional PR7s participants include Jack Wendling and Faitala Talapusi from the Retrievers, and Sam Walsh from the Headliners.
Canada’s Ethan Hager, a Steeltoes player, exhibited exceptional endurance and tackling skills, earning him national team selection. His scoring ability was evident with five tries and eight conversions.
Jack Rampton represents Jamaica, bringing his extensive experience from the Rhinos x Loggerheads to an ascending national team.
For Brazil, Robert Tenorio utilized his size and strength gained from playing with the Texas Team to enhance his performance.
PR7s has provided these athletes with valuable playing time against notable international competitors. For many American players, this exposure served as an essential proving ground, while for other nations, the integration of PR7s athletes into national squads has prepared them for the demanding competition in Santiago.