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New Coach for 7s Eagles - Part II

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New Coach for 7s Eagles - Part II

The leadership void on the USA 7s team I think, also exposed a tactical problem with the USA 7s team at present. They relied too much on a player or two knowing what to do, rather than an approach and a system that put them in the right place. We’ve seen it happen at every level - a player new to the game or the team is set up for success by more knowledgeable, better players, but he takes a long time to realize that’s the case. Then when those knowledgeable players aren't there, the player in question struggles.

Tactically the USA was supposed to be working on a defensive system, but it’s not at all clear that what Andre Snyman was asked to provide - defensive structure - was ever adopted. The players made their tackles, and were working hard, but they seemed to get exposed too often.

Offensively, the Eagles went into contact far, far too much, and didn't have the wherewithall to dominate contact in order to win ball quickly and spready it wide. At their worst, they were ponderous. At their best, they recycled quickly and mixed speed and power. Speed ... OK, let’s talk about Carlin Isles. 

Coaches can often over-think things. They don’t like the idea that after all their work developing a system, the answer may well be, “give it to the fast guy” or the tall guy, or the big guy.

But sometimes that is the answer. If he had the ball and five meters to go until the sideline, Isles was virtually unstoppable. But more than that, Isles should have been given schemes and tools to cut up inside, to step in at first receiver (seriously, that would have freaked some defenses out). And he should have been given time. Hawkins was forced, at some point, to start Isles and bench his captain, Edwards. The results were good, but he didn’t like it, and eventually Isles seems to have gotten fed up and signed with the Glasgow Warriors.

The Warriors then started winning 7s tournaments by giving the ball to Isles.

Some time ago I wrote a column on some other website somewhere (can’t remember where) that said, in part, that the fancy tap penalty moves in 7s are sometimes a waste of time. When you have the opportunity to tap quickly, I said, and the other team is backpedaling, then tap and pass to Isles. Job done.

Soon after, the USA did that exact thing in one game, and Isles ran 80 meters to score. Top coaches around the world shook their heads at the USA as they saw Isles score 17 tries despite playing less than half of his team’s minutes.

“I’m not expert,” said one expert, “but why wouldn’t you try to give him the ball?”

And, for that matter, why wouldn't you work as hard as possible to coach Isles up in aspects of the game where he needed held?

Next up: Now What?