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Matt Hawkins makes his Sevens World Series debut as a coach, and is already fielding questions about his decision to be a player-coach.
But he's got bigger concerns than answering those questions. He's got a mixed group of players, seven of whom were on the squad the last time they played together, two of whom are back after long absences, and three of whom are debutants.
"It's been a good couple of trainings so far this week," Hawkins told RUGBYMag.com. "There are a couple of pieces that we need to work on. Our set piece work is the biggest priority this week."
Hawkins is working on a new system, one that builds on former Coach Alex Magleby's desire to challenge defenses with physical runners, and then exploit space. It was a tough beginning for the team, as then went 1-3 in their warmup tournament in Fiji. But then, that's why they call it a warmup.
The USA will face New Zealand at 5:30PM Pacific Time, 8:30PM Eastern Time on Friday, October 11. That game kicks off the entire 2013-2014 World Series.
"It's huge [for me]," said Hawkins. "It's the next step into the next
chapter in my life. I am excited, nervous, but looking forward to getting
out there. [Playing New Zealand] is a great way to start. If you're going
to measure yourself, measure yourself against the best. We know we can play
them, and we can get close to beating them."
Hawkins has said several times that the urgency of facing relegation last season forced the USA into playing their best rugby. He wants to see that urgency now.
"The biggest thing we took out of the end of the season is, that's the level we can play, so that's the level of rugby we should expect from us," he said. "So I say to everyone, 'hey guys, we can be that good.' This weekend will show if we're continuing moving in that direction."
Follow the Sevens World Series on RUGBYMag.com. We will provide USA game reports right after the games happen, and overviews, as well as highlights on our Universal Sports player.