x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

US coach hails new find Peters

The sevens side may have been regarded as a soft touch on their past trips to the UAE, but Al Caravelli is warning the rivals to gear up for a shock.

DUBAI // The USA sevens side may have been regarded as a soft touch on their past trips to the UAE, but their opponents at this weekend's Dubai Rugby Sevens had better prepare themselves for a shock, according to their coach. Al Caravelli is set to unleash his side's new secret weapon onto the world stage when the tournament starts tomorrow, and their pool opponents - England, Kenya and Russia - had better take heed: He tackles like a "Mack truck".

An International Rugby Board world series event is a tough baptism of fire for someone who only took up the game five months ago, but Leonard Peters already has an impressive sporting pedigree to call upon. The 27-year-old rugby novice played eight games for the NFL's Chicago Bears last year, having earlier captained the American football team at the University of Hawaii. As a defensive back, he has adapted quickly to rugby's destructive side, and his tackling skills are "beyond exceptional", in the opinion of his new boss.

"He has great footwork and he hits like a Mack truck," added the former Argentina and US sevens player Caravelli. "After he was traded from the Bears to the Vikings, he reached a crossroads in his career where he was not getting a lot of game time. "His father is Samoan and he told him to look at rugby. He reached out to a mutual friend and said 'Can I even try and play this sport?' He said: 'I know the coach'.

"He gave me a call and said this guy is very athletic, does not know how to play and has never seen rugby before, but we could give him a try. "He came into one of our camps and was definitely a fish out of water. "In five months he has made strides that, if you watched today, I don't think you would be able to pick him out." @Email:pradley@thenational.ae