Nate Ebner has a 50-50 chance of making the United States rugby sevens squad for this year’s Olympic Games, according to head coach Mike Friday.
Ebner announced he was taking a leave of absence from the New England Patriots in order to pursue his dream of representing his country in the Olympics.
He has since featured in the Hong Kong 10s, Hong Kong Sevens and Singapore Sevens, and Friday – who previously rated Ebner’s chances of making the squad as 10-20 per cent – says the odds of him joining the team in Rio de Janeiro have improved.
“He has a 50-50 chance now but if he stays on this trajectory then it’s only going one way and that’s up,” Friday told ESPN.
“He did really well in the 10s and showed an awareness to be in the right place defensively, at the breakdown and in attack. He wasn’t exposed in Singapore and was strong defensively. He needs to learn how to manipulate space in attack.
“He has surprised me, how quickly he has bedded himself down. It’s no mean feat to come in with three weeks training and not look out of place on the world circuit.
“His early catch is on point, how he reaches for the ball early, but we need to work on his passing and make it more efficient and increase the power and pace.
“He uses his wrists which mean the ball dips on a soft arc rather than a flat pass. We need to adjust his technique so he uses his core strength.
“We have Paris and London coming up and we have another tournament in Paris the same week of the London leg of the series. We will have a team in that tournament and we will try and maximise Nate’s game time.
“He might stay in Paris for that second competition if we don’t feel he’ll be a front liner in London as we need to keep him playing.
“I said to Nate there are no guarantees he will make the Olympics squad and he gets that. This isn’t a PR stunt, we haven’t got time for that. But it would be great for USA rugby if he makes it.”
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