When the 2011 USA Sevens takes place on 12-13 February defending USA Sevens champions Samoa will not only be looking to defend their title at the Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, but also kick-start the defence of their World Series crown.vSo far on the 2010/11 HSBC Sevens World Series Stephen Betham’s side are third with 52 points having lost to England in one final (29-21 in Dubai) and two semis (22-12 and 7-5 in South Africa and New Zealand respectively).

The match schedule for Las Vegas

England (above) and New Zealand lead the standings with 64 points each, and Betham knows the importance of at least reaching the final in Las Vegas to decrease the 12-point gap and maintain their hopes of defending the World Series title.

“At the moment it is not that easy but we have tried to set a target to win in Vegas. It was the point that we really got going last year and hopefully we can do the same this year.

The pool line-up for Las Vegas

“But like I said it is not easy. We have two teams in front of us who are playing really well, and we have Fiji in fourth place who are also playing well.”

How Samoa won it in 2010:

But Betham will remember that at the same stage last year his side had also failed to win any of the three Cup titles before an outstanding 33-10 victory over New Zealand in last year’s USA Sevens Cup final acted as the catalyst in their season.

Following their win in Las Vegas, Samoa went on to win the Australia, Hong Kong and Scotland Cup titles to help clinch their first ever World Series, and the coach believes his side are strong enough to repeat history again this year with the help of the Samoan community.

“It is our main goal to reach the final. We know if we don’t make the final it will be pretty hard from here on in. But the boys have refocussed for this weekend,” added Betham.

“In saying that it will be a different game on a smaller size pitch so we have to tactically sit down and work on different tactics for it. I think it will be another 50-50 chance but it just depends on how well we eliminate our mistakes.

“Not only that there is a huge Samoan community here in the USA which will give a huge boost to the boys but saying that we have lost our captain Lolo Lui so it will be interesting to see what happens.”

This year they face pool matches with Japan, hosts USA and South Africa on day one of the fourth leg on the 2010/11 HSBC Sevens World Series and will be favourites to reach the Cup quarter finals. But despite having never lost to Japan and just once to USA, Betham is not underestimating their Pool D opponents.

“It wont be easy. You don’t know what Japan will bring to the game, so you just have to play to your strengths and minimise your mistakes.”

Alongside the main HSBC Sevens World Series event at the USA Sevens in Las Vegas, some of the finest women players in the world will compete in the USA Women’s International 7s Tournament.
Hosts USA have named an exciting squad blending Sevens veterans, collegiate hopefuls and cross-overs from the 15-a-side Women’s National team as they prepare to take on the likes of France, Kenya, Spain, the Netherlands and bitter rivals Canada.

As well as striding out on the main Sam Boyd Stadium pitch on Sunday during a break in the men’s action, the women’s final will also be broadcast on NBC/NBC Universal, a further indication of the increasing appetite for both men’s and women’s Sevens as an exciting new Olympic sport.

“We have a lot of great athletes, at camp we saw a lot of our players show up in great shape, with great attitudes,” said USA women’s Sevens coach, Ric Suggitt. “I am really looking forward to Vegas and getting to watch the girls play not only as a coach, but as a fan,” he added. “It’s going to be an eye-opener for some of the players coming over from 15s to see how much space they have to run.”

Suggitt selected the home team based on performances in domestic and international competitions at various levels, but the side will almost certainly benefit from the experience that several of the players gained by playing at the 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup in England.

Victoria Folayan, Nathalie Marchino, and Christy Ringgenberg all proved match winners in that tournament and during the 2010 Women’s Premier League (WPL) season, Marchino finishing second top try-scorer in the WPL.

In addition, collegiate All-Star and three-time All-American Tyra McGrady was selected for the Sevens side again, while Penn State stars Deven Owsiany and Sadie Anderson, UNC’s Katie Lorenz, Minnesota’s Catherine Parkhill, and Stanford stand-outs Amelia Villines and Frances Wehrwein all add panache.

As well as being shown NBC/NBC Universal, the women’s matches will be webcast live on USA Rugby’s UStream channel, http://www.ustream.tv/usarugby.