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New Coach for 7s Eagles - Part III

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New Coach for 7s Eagles - Part III

So Matt Hawkins lost his job in part because his situation was untenable. He had very few players to start with, and had to develop experience, losing games in the process. But he exacerbated the problem by shutting out players he needed, picking the wrong captain, and not giving Carlin Isles more playing time.

I am not sure any of that is really the fault of Matt Hawkins. USA Rugby - specifically Nigel Melville - gave him the job. However, if we blame someone for hiring the wrong guy, shouldn’t we at least give him some kudos for recognizing it early enough?

And I think Matt Hawkins can be the USA 7s team coach again, in about five years. He needs time to get humble and to learn as well as teach. 

Now, who will replace him? I have received several no-doubt predictions, and those predictions name six different coaches with equal conviction, so someone has to be wrong. But the smart money seems to be on former Kenya and England Head Coach Mike Friday. Friday coached England for three seasons, during which they finished 2nd, 3rd, and 2nd in the World Series, and then Kenya in 2012-2013, during which they finished 5th.

If Friday is the one picked, he has to have a support staff. Key among these would be Alex Magleby, who is in charge of the pathway to the national team. Friday does not know the players who are coming up; it won’t be his job, really, to find them. It will be his job to create a cohesive team and win games. To worry only about that aspect of the team will be a first for a USA 7s coach, and a luxury I hope he appreciated.

(Addendum - Mike Friday took a job with London Scottish. It's now unclear whether he was even a candidate. So many insiders seemed to think he was the man, but they were, evidently, wrong; or there's more to the story - AG)

For Friday (or whomever) Job one will be to see whether Isles can come back and be a featured player on the team. Job two is to pick a captain, and I’d say you better make it Brett Thompson before he gets snatched up somewhere else (remember, Thompson’s father was born in Northern Ireland, so he might have an easier time hooking on with a pro club overseas). Job three is to establish a culture that says you haven’t arrived until you start winning tournaments; a culture that says that raising the shield above your heads means 12 teams did better than you; a culture that says that surviving relegation isn't the end goal.

And Job Everything is to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, a goal that right now seems out of reach.