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Matt Hawkins met with players last week and contacted a few more who were out of the country to ensure they were the first to know about Hawkins taking the USA 7s team coaching job.
As reported earlier in RUGBYMag.com Premier, Hawkins may well work as a player-coach – that hasn’t been confirmed, but he said playing is not the priority, coaching is.
This coming weekend, Hawkins will be with Dave Williams and Ben Gollings at the National Club 7s Championships scouting players. While most of the squad is signed through the end of 2013, there are a couple of spots open – especially if Blaine Scully hooks on with Leicester – and Hawkins does have a squad to fill out.
“What I want is real competition for places,” said Hawkins. “I want to put the pressure on. You saw how the team performed at the end of the season when the pressure was on because of the threat of relegation. That’s how we have to approach it every week.”
Hawkins is employed by Serevi Rugby as a coach for their camps, and will continue to work with that Seattle-based organization. Gollings also works for Serevi and it’s highly likely that Hawkins will call on the former England star, or Waisale Serevi, or others, to work with him.
But Hawkins also stressed that he’s not a Serevi-only guy.
“I want to bring everyone into the process,” he said. “Tony Pacheco with the All Americans is very important to the program, and the coaches with the ODA programs that Alex Magleby started working with are important, too.”
Previous USA coach Alex Magleby identified several teams around the country to serve as Olympic Development Programs or Academies. They are expected to provide international-level training and competition for players hoping to break into the Eagles, and should provide, along with the All Americans, the main source of players for the national team.
“We have that system started, but now what we need to do is put systems in place and create a plan for what we’re doing with all of the ODAs,” said Hawkins. “That’s something I am really interested in.”
As for when the players come onto the field, it is unlikely they will see many drastic changes. Hawkins knows what worked for the USA team last year, and, he said, the team’s playing style will be what the team is comfortable with.
“My job is to have a look at our players and see what style is best for us,” he said. “For a while we were playing a lot of different styles. I want to get us playing one style and playing it really well. I don’t want us to be mediocre. Once we perfect one style, we can get a little fancier.”
More than anything, Hawkins wants the team to carry itself with confidence and professionalism.
“For me, nothing changes; wherever I have coached, players know who I am,” he said. “We are a close squad, but this is still a business and we have a job to do.”
The Eagles will begin their season with August 17 with most of the squad playing for either New York or San Francisco in the World Club 7s in London, and the Serevi RugbyTown 7s in Glendale, Colo. featuring the All Americans and several hopefuls with Tiger Rugby, Serevi, USA Falcons, Northeast, and military select sides.
After that, the Eagles will come together for the official beginning of training. The IRB World Series opens October 12-13 at the Gold Coast 7s in Australia, but the Eagles will play a warmup tournament at the Fiji International 7s the week before.
The Fiji 7s includes: Samoa, Argentina, Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, France, Kenya, Niue, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Tahiti, Tonga, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates and USA.