Matt Hawkins named USA Mens Rugby 7s Coach, Polar Bear Ready For Fight

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Junoir Blaber

Blaber

NEW YORK, NY:  Captain of the USA Mens 7s National Team, RWU corespondent and all-around good guy, Matthew “Polar Bear” Hawkins, is the new USA Mens Rugby 7s Head Coach. This hopefully ends what has been a wild 18 months for the USA Rugby’s 7s program. Here is the rundown of events:

Caravelli out/Magleby in: After a poor showing in the 2012 Las Vegas 7s, Coach Al Caravelli decides he needs to focus on family more and steps down. Dartmouth Head Coach Alex Magleby is announced as the interim coach. This is a huge shake-up in the program and specifically in Hawkin’s world. Listen to his thoughts on the change and his future.

Magleby in fulltimeAfter finishing the remainder of the 2011/2012 HSBC 7s World Series, Magelby is named the new fulltime head coach of USA Mens 7s. Magelby has a horrendous first half of the 2012/2013 series. However at  the halfway point of this season, the US catch fire. They make 3 straight plate finals, winning two of them consecutively. Things were clicking, players were named on all- tournament teams, with one named player of the tournament. There was a new found hope, excitement and expectations for USA 7s.

Magleby resigns: And as suddenly as he appeared, Magelby resigns from the post due to family and personal issues. RWU Corespondent Matt McCarthy grilled Magleby on his sudden departure.

Even Rugby Magazine chief Alex Goff threw out loads of names with Hawkins name not mentioned. Hawkins at this time had worked his way back into the USA 7s side was captain, helped lead the great 2nd half of the 2013 season and was one of the selected players contracted to USA Rugby 7s.

HOPEMatthew “Polar Bear” Hawkins appointed: A man that had been part of USA Rugby 7s program for 7 years since 2006, back when it was per-diem pay. Sacrificed so much as a dad (of 2 boys) and husband, an embodiment of the American Dream was now the new head coach.

Nigel Melville, USA Rugby Chief Executive Officer and President of Rugby Operations said in the announcement:
We wanted experience on the IRB HSBC Sevens World Series Circuit, and Matt obviously has several years’ experience on the circuit and has been part of the squad for a long time. The Series is very unique in many ways; it’s incredibly challenging. Matt understands the demands of the circuit and the demands of the year.”

Hawkins shared his thoughts at the press conference, on his approach:
My approach to the Sevens program ever since I first joined way back when in 2006 was: I want to do anything I can in my capacity to help the program be better and be more successful.Whatever that means, I’m happy to seek out that role and perform that role. This is that next role for me and I’m extremely excited about the opportunity and look forward to it.”

On his coaching experience:
“I’ve had a lot of coaching roles in the past five or six years, but within that I’ve had a pretty decent leadership role with the Eagles over the past three or four years.”

On taking over for Magleby:
“Mags is a really analytical guy and he understands that part of the game well. I think he created a good team culture amongst the guys, so I want to expand on that. I think Mags is a great guy, we’ve spent a lot of time together and learned a lot together. It was a great experience working with him and he’s one of the better coaches I’ve had in the past.”

Hawkins was congratulated by rugby fans and coaches all over the globe. Paul Treu, Head Coach of South Africa 7s team tweeted that “Hawkins has a great understanding of the game so if you combine that with respect of the players, I like his chances of success.” This can only bode well for USA Rugby. A couple of the finer positives for USA Rugby are

1) Hawkins lives in San Diego so he won’t be moving cross country like Magleby.
2) Intimately familiar with the USA program and the 7s landscape in the US and is connected with all the important domestic players, coaches and clubs.
3) Respected by players as he was just their captain.
4) Being coach means 1 more contract spot has been freed up.

It is the opinion of this writer that USA Rugby fans have been given hope and should have faith in the Polar Bear to do the job.

That is it for now, feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow the new 7s coach on Twitter at @Polarbearkzn and the rest of the staff @RugbyWrapUp, @JunoirBlaber, @Declan Yeats, @ckuxmann and @Ebstide52, respectively. And until the next time… stay low and keep pumping those legs.

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About the Author ()

Born in Osu, Accra, Ghana, West Africa, Junoir Blaber is a rare commodity; while most Ghanians eat, sleep and dream Soccer (football), Junoir is all about Rugby. A self-proclaimed Rugbyologist, he has been involved in Rugby as a ref, coach, administrator and player since Columbus discovered Ohio. His useful/trivial rugby knowledge qualify Blaber as RWU's Senior Correspondent & known in rugby circles as The Rugby Rain Man. He can also be found moonlighting for our American partners at MeetTheMatts.com.
  • DJ Eberle

    Congrats Matt!!! That’s awesome news!

    • Junoir Blaber

      It is isn’t it. Fantastic stuff

      • http://rugbywrapup.com/ RugbyWrapUp

        We’re like nervous parents!

  • Mad As Hell

    That is a shocking! What in the world are they thinking?! Mike Friday was available!!! Good lord!

    • Lord Rugby

      Mike Friday doesn’t live in the USA and doesn’t know any players that aren’t Eagles!

      • Junoir Blaber

        Polar Bear knows the USA scene so well and has been a part of it for so long. It makes a lot of sense.

    • Grant A Cole

      Mike Friday wanted to commute from San Diego to London and have that paid for.

      Gratz to Matt. We expect greatness and medals out of this combination. He has the ability, knowledge, and support (from the brilliant and talented Serevi organization). Anything less than a Top 10 finish in the 2013/14 HSBC 7s WS is unacceptable!

      • http://rugbywrapup.com/ RugbyWrapUp

        This is a bold move by USA Rugby but one that MUST work. We’re inches away from the Olympics and remember, only 12 teams make it. A Top 10 finish in the next HSBC circuit is tough sailing, but Grant is right.

      • Junoir Blaber

        Geez!! Congrats and demands, eh Grant!! I honestly expect a year similar to this. A slow start with a hot finish. It is a learning curve so we need to patient. He does provide some continuity from the Mags reign though.

        • Grant A Cole

          Not demands, expectations. The US rugby community made a mistake with Al & Mags that we cannot afford to repeat. We set the bar too low or did not define it at all.

          With 37 HSBC stops, stints coaching, experience in the Serevi and Tiger organizations, and a lifetime of playing under good coaches, there is absolutely no reason for us to set a low standard for Hawkins tenure. He has the knowledge. He has the support structure. He has some outstanding athletes in the ODAs to pick from and even better athletes coming up. As long as he sets a positive tone and a forward attitude, his teams should perform well. We should expect that.

          It’s time to be confident enough in our players and coaches to hold them to their potential.

          • Junoir Blaber

            I don’t disagree that we have the ability and potential. I can’t tell you how spiting angry I get when I look at the Canucks success. However, coaches always need time to bed in and settle into the team and talent and system, so there must be a lengthy honeymoon phase.

          • Grant A Cole

            Disagree on this one with you, Brother Blaber. Hawkins’ honeymoon with Eagles 7s was over when he made the switch from player to coach. He’s been there long enough, He knows what to do. It needs to be done.

          • Junoir Blaber

            Comrade Cole, you need to allow a coach time to implement their system and weed out players that don’t fit into their system

          • Grant A Cole

            I have and he has…announcements to come soon.

    • Junoir Blaber

      It seemed like a lock when he stepped down the other day.

  • jamieloyd

    Not gonna lie, regardless of whether Friday knows the players or not, this is a very left field selection from the U.S. Well done them for broadening their horizons, but I am very surprised they did not even give Friday a look in. Could work brilliantly, but right now looking equally as likely it might blow up in their faces.

    • Grant A Cole

      Friday got a look, he just wanted something USAR was not willing to permit.

      USAR wanted someone that would make their home in San Diego/Chula Vista.

      • Junoir Blaber

        We ain’t that rich!!

        • Grant A Cole

          B/c why?

          B/c our NGB is failing at insurance underwriting.

          • Junoir Blaber

            Don’t get me started on that. Allan Robson for CEO with Nigel handling Coaching/Player Development, is my wish.

    • Junoir Blaber

      He was definitely an option.

  • Working Class rugger

    Nice article. I particularly like the Hawkins poster. I swear I’ve seen it before. :D

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