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(The original version of this article incorrectly stated Carlin Isles came into the National Team under Al Caravelli. He was brought in by Alex Magleby.)
Rugby Canada, evidenced by the video below, is openly looking for crossover athletes for its men's and women's 7s programs. Canadian coaches will be traveling across the country holding talent identification camps throughout the fall.
The move is interesting, not just because of the timing (why now, instead of anytime in the last five years since the announcement of 7s coming to the Olympics?), and the fact that Canada is doing pretty well in 7s without the crossover push, but because it's transparent.
In the United States, the acquisition and training of crossover athletes has been more clandestine. Women's Eagles coach Ric Suggitt has gone more aggresively after top-level crossover athletes in the last year or so, but on the men's side, at least since the conclusion of Al Caravelli's tenure as head coach, the term crossover has been treated like a dirty word.
Carlin Isles is the last true crossover to make his way into a USA men's jersey. He debuted for the Eagles under Magleby in 2012, and not until Perry Baker was signed to a full-time training contract earlier this summer has another crossover gotten as close to a cap, and Baker's been playing rugby for several years at this point. Baker was originally offered a contract at the Olympic Training Center in 2012, but declined, as he was still pursuing a football career.
Prior to Isles, there was more willingness to give crossovers a shot on the National Team. Tommy Saunders, Miles Craigwell, Leonard Peters and Bennie Brazell were all high-level football players that were expedited to the National Team, like Isles. Garrett Bender, Nu'u Punimata and Brett Thompson played college football, too, but Punimata and Thompson are rugby legacies and Bender was discovered through club rugby. Likewise, Zack Test and Kevin Swiryn were discovered through rugby, even though they were decorated in gridiron.
The success rate of USA's crossover efforts could certainly be called into question, as only Craigwell and Isles have played for long stretches of time with the National Team. Peters, if not for some family issues, might have been a long-term Eagle, too. But Saunders and Brazell were busts, and other crossover projects, like James Aldridge, haven't resulted in caps. That said, there's no arguing American rugby has benefited from the conversions of Isles and Craigwell.
USA Rugby and Rugby Canada, despite dealing with so many similar issues, have often taken different approaches toward high performance. And this is just another example of differing tactics, but one worth keeping track of.