Premier Rugby Sevens Plays Key Role in Ben Pinkelman’s Return to USA National Team

Ben Pinkelman’s journey back to the USA 7s National Team included a pivotal stint in Premier Rugby Sevens (PR7s). Pinkelman, now appointed as the captain for the USA team at the Dubai and Cape Town events of the SVNS World Rugby circuit, attributes a significant part of his successful return to his time with PR7s.

After retiring due to back issues, Pinkelman initiated a comeback this year, aiming to aid the USA team in their Olympic qualifier. Representing the Pittsburgh Steeltoes, he led the team to the 2023 men’s final, eventually losing to the Rhinos x Loggerheads with a close score of 10-5. Pinkelman was officially named the 2023 PR7s Comeback Player of the Year, and he recognized PR7s as a critical stepping stone in his recovery process.

“PR7s was appealing because I knew it would be the best competition that I could get in the country leading into the qualifier. It was also nice knowing that it was only two games in a tournament, so my body would be able to ease into playing at a higher level again,” Pinkelman remarked.

His performance at PR7s showcased his expertise, especially his tactical understanding of the game and his capacity to elevate the team’s overall performance. Pinkelman’s familiarity with the Steeltoes coaching staff, including his teenage mentors Jason Kelly and Steve LaPorta from the Denver Barbarians, also played a role in his decision to join PR7s. During the 2023 season, which included the Steeltoes’ home debut on July 23 at Highmark Stadium, he netted two tries, 10 points, eight ball carries, and seven steals.

“They were coaches that I have nothing but respect for and would love to play for any time,” he stated.

High Expectations and Adaptation

Having been a member of the Sevens World Series all-season Dream Team, Pinkelman is well-versed in the demands of top-tier rugby. His expectations for PR7s were high, anticipating a level of organization, intensity, and athleticism surpassing that of club rugby.

“I expected it to be above club level in terms of organization, intensity, and athleticism, which was pretty accurate,” he explained. “PR7s is a good introduction to what the next level is going to take.”

Pinkelman highlighted the instinctive nature of Sevens rugby and acknowledged the initial challenge in regaining his reaction speed, which improved significantly by the tournament in Pittsburgh.

The Path to Readiness

Pinkelman outlined his strategy for getting back into top form, which involved gradually increasing the intensity of competition. “I needed gametime to get up to speed for the qualifier,” he said. “I started with club then moved to PR7s, then would be back into training with the USA 7s team full time. But every chance for live game time is valuable.”

Ensuring his back could withstand the rigors of high-level play was also a crucial aspect of his return.

Both PR7s and the Pittsburgh Steeltoes expressed pride in being part of the comeback story of an American rugby legend, underscoring the significant role PR7s plays in nurturing and reviving rugby talent in the United States.