RWU: Nigel, thanks for taking the time to speak with us.
NIGEL: No problem, its been a tough summer for our fans and they need to know we are dealing with the challenges before us to turn the Eagles in to a winning team. We all appreciate their support and understand that means winning!
RWU: Saturday’s loss to Canada, despite the narrowest of margins (13-11), has some USA fans angry, frustrated and calling for changes. Will there be changes forthcoming?
NIGEL: Well, a loss is a loss, whether you’ve lost by 50 or by 5. The team played considerably better in Toronto than they did in Charleston, but international rugby is about winning games. The Coach [Mike Tolkin]will now review the performances of the team through June and August and provide the Board with a report that will include the coach’s perspective on the next steps for the squad.
RWU: And what of the coaching staff? Some are calling for a skills and handling coach.
NIGEL: The coaching and Management of the team is the responsibility of the coach, if he [Tolkin] wants to add new staff to his back-room team he can, if he wants to make changes, that’s his call.
RWU: Are these coaches paid?
NIGEL: Yes, but they are not all full time. With a maximum of 9 or 10 games a year they will want to coach more regularly than that; for example Dan Payne is the forwards coach but also coaches at Life.
RWU: But they aren’t full-time, right? These coaches have day jobs while for other nations these coaches mostly have paid positions on pro rugby staffs, correct?
NIGEL: Yes, that’s correct. But not all countries have their staffs working for pro teams.
RWU: Well, let’s compare the Canadian program, then. What is it that they are doing so well that has them 38-13 since 1977 against Team USA? Is it their coaching or version of a Super League with their Provincial Rugby – which we’ve recently disbanded – that makes for the advantage?
NIGEL: Well, that’s not really the case in regards to their Super League, many of their players play in Europe like ours and one interesting point that has been missed by many is that they use their sevens squad to play for the fifteens team more than we do. Sevens players are full time, very skillful and available. Mike [Tolkin] brought in Falou Niua and I thought he played well. There are others available, but the coach picks the team – it’s his call.
RWU: Is the reason we don’t utilize our 7s players more a function of the USOC (U.S. Olympic Committee) contracts for the 7s players? Are they restricted?
NIGEL: No. The selection of the side is up to the Head Coach and his staff.
RWU: So a Carlin Isles, for instance, is eligible if chosen?
RWU: Okay… Now we know that you have to get off the phone so we’ll wrap this up: What is/are the next step or steps for the Men’s 15s squad?
NIGEL: We will review the program with the coach, the coach will take a side to the America’s Rugby Championship in October, a chance to see and work with potential new squad players. The Eagles will then play the Maori All Blacks in November followed by two games in Europe against Georgia and Russia. The World Cup Qualifiers will be in April against Uruguay (dates and venues to be confirmed).
RWU: And the Maori could be the toughest team you’ve played outside of the Rugby World Cup since 2011.
NIGEL: Yes, there are no easy international games these days and the Maori will be no exception.
RWU: That is a tough road, indeed… We appreciate your time and we’ll see you in November in Philadelphia. Go Eagles.
NIGEL: Thank you… I understand the frustration of the fans, but I can assure you we are working hard to turn the Eagles into a winning team. That may require a few changes here and there, but the nucleus of the squad has huge potential. They are great athletes and committed to the game and the Eagles.
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