NEW YORK, NY- Rugby news coverage is a 24/7 game, so breaking news is always occurring. The much-anticipated hiring of Mike Friday as Head Coach of the USA Rugby 7s team, is one of those breaking bits of news. In the Weekend Preview, we noted that Friday’s hire was imminent, and now a few hours later… it has become official. Friday’s hire is the first part of an overall discussion regarding 7s and 15s players and test caps.
Before we get to the discussion, let’s focus on the big news of the day (and possibly the year): the hiring of Mike Friday. As it is now a done deal, here are some talking points on the deal.
1) Fans have been calling for Mike Friday to be hired after Alex Magleby stepped down as coach in 2013, RWU’s Matt McCarthy yelling the loudest. The reason this took so long is the cost of hiring an individual like Friday is not cheap and USA Rugby is not flush with cash. If you remember, a couple of week ago, we mentioned that Friday had signed with London Scottish to become their Director of Rugby. This means that he will be paid well by The Scottish and that will be his primary job while USA Rugby is in essence his second job. This was a key part of the logistics that had to be clarified and put in writing prior to his hire that was the hold-up in the announcement of his deal.
Friday is quoted as saying,
“I am naturally delighted and excited about the challenge of returning to the IRB World Sevens circuit and starting a new Sevens journey with the USA Eagles. The program will be run much like how I implemented the successful performance cycle program in the past, which will allow me the ability to continue in my role as director of rugby at London Scottish.”
USA Rugby Chief Executive Officer Nigel Melville, has a past with Friday. Melville was Friday’s coach at London Wasps, so the two renew you their relationship, with Melville still the boss of Friday. Melville for his part stated:
“Mike has had enormous success on the Sevens circuit and we are delighted he has accepted this new challenge. The players at the OTC have already begun working with Chris and first Men’s Eagles High Performance Sevens camp next weekend will help kick off the season.”
2) Immediately, this begs the question: If this will not be his first priority, how can he be the head coach and what will he be expected to do? This question is answered in 5 words; Chris Brown and Alex Magleby. As we mentioned in here, Brown will serve as assistant coach of the Men’s Eagles 7s at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. Prior to this position, his former role was as assistant coach and head of performance of the Kenyan National 7s program. Essentially, Brown was Friday’s right hand man in Kenya and he will reprise that role with the USA. This will make him responsible for the day to day operations of the 7s program and the players in Chula Vista and the overall player pool. Magleby, since stepping down as coach, has worked as National Development Director for USA 7s. His main duty has been to work on developing and identifying talent for the team. So Friday will be responsible for the philosophy, strategy and concepts of the 7s program, Brown will be responsible for the application of the strategy and concepts to the players at Chula Vista and the greater player pool and Magleby will handle the development of the player pool and discovering worthy candidates to add to that player pool. If it sounds like 3 men for one job, well that’s cause that is exactly what it is. If it sounds like Friday is somewhat more of a consultant/adviser than the coach, that is because he is, but his name carries weight and when you are trying to garner respect for an aspiring program, a big name catch is still a catch.
3) This now means that there will be 3 chefs in the kitchen trying to make a dish. Who is running the kitchen is gonna be important. Brown has worked for Friday before and will have no problem working for him again. How Magleby works with the other two and buys into the kind of players Friday wants and is looking for will be of key interest to all USA Rugby fans.
Player Development and Identification:
The hire of Friday and the signing of Thretton Palamo last week brought up a very important question that has been and is currently being vigorously discussed by the Rugby Rain Man Collective. The USA’s current player development and identification system is the subject of the debate. This debate revolves around 1) Mark Lawrenson signing with Counties Manukau of New Zealand 2) Palamo and Brett Thompson of the USA 7s team getting a 15s caps against Canada 3) Reports (all unconfirmed and possibly pure conjecture) that Saracens scouted Don Pati along with Palamo at the NRFL combine but couldn’t sign either unless they had a 15s cap. It was that cap that was holding Pati back from a contract and that Carlin Isles prior to returning USA 7s was in talks with Friday about playing for London Scottish but needed a 15s cap.
How does a mobile 6’7 lock like Lawrenson not get capped by the USA. He was in the country 6 years!! Yes, he was a student so he traveled to visit family back in SA, but the info he was being given is that since neither he, nor his dad or granddad were born in the USA, he had no hope of ever becoming an Eagle. Men’s All-American coach Matt Sherman, U-20 coach and National 15s Development Director Billy Millard and Eagles Coach Mike Tolkin, have to look at how they let him slip through the cracks. If we could start both Thompson and Palamo in a game against Canada to get them capped and help get them contracts why not Isles and Pati. Pati is quality livewire 9 that has struggled to achieve the heights that were expected of him in 2012 but he is still worth 2 minutes off the bench and same goes for Isles. If the USA has no pro league, the least it could do is help players that can play pro, go and play pro. In return, these players are now locked into the USA and they own a greater amount of loyalty and responsibility to be available for USA matches. A Welsh rain man asked “why don’t we have one test a year against Mexico or Guyana and use it to cap all our talented young players and fringe squad members like loads of other nations do!?!” Painfully all myself and other American rain men could reply is “we don’t know!”
That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp,Junoir Blaber, DJ Eberle, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Cody Kuxmann, Jaime Loyd, Karen Ritter , Jamie Wall, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.
And until the next time… stay low and keep pumping those legs!