Utah Warriors are the No. 1 seed for national 7s tournament

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SAN FRANCISCO — This weekend USA Rugby is hosting the Men’s Club 7s National Championship on Treasure Island, just off the Bay Bridge.
The No. 1 seed?
First-year club Utah Warriors.
“I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that we have a very strong team, perhaps the best team in the country going into nationals,” said team owner Sean Whalen. “I believe our 7s team is very dynamic and we have some amazing talent.”
The Warriors went 3-3 in their first season in the 15-players-a-side Rugby Super League, losing twice to eventual champion San Francisco Golden Gate. But as a 7s squad, Utah has gone 19-0 in 2011 — 5-0 in the Pacific Coast Region Qualifier. Understandably, Whalen is confident.
“We beat San Francisco twice in the qualifier, so I think we should be able to capitalize and beat them again,” he said.
The 16-team tournament starts Saturday with pool play of four teams followed by knockout rounds on Sunday. San Francisco, Glendale Raptors and Chicago Lions are in Utah’s pool. Utah opens with Glendale at 1 p.m. (MT). USA Rugby will be posting updated scores here.
The Warriors’ roster includes:
Jason Pye
Mike Palefau
Ryan Chapman
Teki Nau
Ryan Dunyon
Ben Nicholls
Daniel Nicholls
Maka Unufe
Chet Blasucci
Dru Palu
Sa Palepoi
Matt Byrd
OWNER PLAYS FOR THE FIRST TIME: Whalen played rugby for the first time in his life this summer — well, for 10 minutes.
“I’ve watched these guys from the sidelines and have been in absolute awe of their talent, and athleticism and my 10-minute rugby career came to an abrupt end with me blowing out my ACL,” Whalen said after playing 7s with Palefau, Pye, Byrd, Nau and Chapman.
“But in those 10 minutes I gained a completely new respect for the sport. Sevens is such a fast and explosive game. Fifteens is a game of plan, design and teamwork. When you watch either 7s or 15s and you see guys executing plays, it blows my mind how much these guys know about the game, and each other.”

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