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Carlin Isles, Perry Baker, Madison Hughes once again lead U.S. Olympic rugby team

2020 Sydney Sevens

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 02: Carlin Isles of the USA is tackled during the 2020 Sydney Sevens Semi Final match between South Africa and USA at Bankwest Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

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A veteran U.S. men’s rugby team was named Friday for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

The 12-man roster is highlighted by six Olympians who were part of rugby sevens’ Olympic debut in 2016, including the man known as the fastest rugby player in the world: Carlin Isles.

He is joined by returnees Perry Baker, Danny Barrett, Madison Hughes, Folau Niua and Ben Pinkelman. Hughes will once again serve as captain.

Niua, 36, leads the team in experience with 69 World Rugby Sevens Series caps. He will also become the second-oldest Olympic rugby player compared to any teams prior to Tokyo; only France’s Victor Lardanchet was older in 1900, by a matter of months.

Barrett, Hughes and Isles also have more than 50 appearances apiece, with Baker at 47. Baker and Isles each have more than 200 tries in the Series.

Making their Olympic debut are Maceo Brown, Martin Iosefo, Matai Leuta, Joe Schroeder, Stephen Tomasin and Kevon Williams. Brown, Iosefo, Schroeder and Tomasin represented the U.S. at either the 2015 or 2019 Pan American Games.

Schroeder has the fewest World Rugby Sevens Series appearances with 12.

Rugby union or 15s was on the Olympic program four times from 1900-1924, with the U.S. men twice winning gold. It then returned five years ago, this time with a different discipline in sevens.

In Rio, the U.S. men finished ninth and the women fifth. This year’s women’s team, which only includes two returning Olympians, was named last month.

The U.S. men are expected to outperform their 2016 placement, especially following an astounding 2018-19 season that saw the team claim seven medals in 10 World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments -- tying the number of medals it had earned over the series’ previous 19 seasons and finishing second in the world that year.

In the 2019-20 campaign, however, the U.S. ranked seventh before the series was canceled after six of 10 stops due to the pandemic.

“This selection process has been incredibly competitive and that is a credit to the entire squad, especially off the back of what has been a hugely difficult year for the world,” coach Mike Friday, who also led the U.S. in Rio, said in a release. “We’ve worked hard as a group to adapt and overcome all the adversities we’ve faced both individually and collectively.”

The men’s tournament will be held July 26-28, with the U.S. facing South Africa, Kenya and Ireland in Pool C.

Brett Thompson was named alternate, with Naima Fualaau and Malacchi Esdale as traveling reserves.

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