Perry Baker column Sevens atmosphere makes you want to perform


I honestly had no idea I had finished with nine tries on my comeback from concussion in the HSBC World Rugby Seven Series in Sydney. While I was delighted to get the ball in my hands again my sole focus was on trying to help my USA team get as deep into the knock out stages as possible and we have arrived in Hamilton for the next leg determined to build on our achievement in Australia having made the semi-finals.

The atmosphere in Sydney was amazing and to play the host nation on Australia Day was a wonderful experience and the fans made it an occasion to remember. Now we are all preparing for the noise created by the New Zealand fans here in Hamilton which is hosting this next leg of the Series for the first time.

For the USA squad it is all about building on our performances in Sydney and with a quick turnaround, the coaches have tailored our build-up to take that into consideration. Having been concussed in the opening minute of our first game in Dubai and then sitting out the Cape Town leg, I can tell you my body has been delighted that the coaches have gone easier on us in training this week. They do a great job in terms of prepping us for the next round, ensuring our bodies are in the best possible condition and it is all about communication. We let the coaches know exactly how we feel after Sydney and I can tell you I was exhausted!

I told our coaches that I felt pretty tired not having been in game mode for those first two rounds and I played a lot of minutes in Sydney and the coaches have told me it is now about getting that game time in my body to get rid of the rust and regain that rhythm. I do feel a little sore but have been getting massages and with the coaches not running us into the ground, I am feeling ready to go again.

I was so excited to be amongst my team mates again and playing in front so many fans who get right into the competition is electrifying and it is something you can really feed off. There was even a HSBC Beach Club complete with sand created in the stadium in Sydney! The atmosphere makes you want to rise up to and perform in that kind of arena and it really is a lot of fun for the players. Hamilton is a smaller stadium and that will increase the noise and the good weather has been great and everything is set up for another special rugby occasion.

We were taken to the set from the Lord of the Rings while here in Hamilton and I have to admit I have never seen any of the movies although that is now going to change. It really was fun to check it out and now I am going to catch up with the trilogy.

We lost to Argentina in the bronze match in Sydney and the strength of the competition is really good and you don’t know who is going to win because so many teams are capable of delivering big results. South Africa are the No1 team in the series but they know just how many teams are coming hard at them in the competition and nothing can be taken for granted. Australia won their event in Sydney and I know New Zealand will be super motivated to do the same in Hamilton this weekend. New Zealand are always in the mix and it will be fascinating to see how things pan out.

Ever since our coach Mike Friday and his staff arrived, they have worked to change the mind set of our squad and we are all committed to being a top four team in HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and we totally believe that is the case and are fighting to prove that every time we compete. With the World Cup in San Francisco this year, it is vital to get the best seeding possible and create some real momentum in what will be our “home” tournament.

We believe that in Hamilton we can get past the semi-finals and now it is about delivering that on the pitch this weekend.

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