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Joe Taufete’e likely never scores those two tries in the now famous win over Scotland if Mike Tolkin doesn’t fly across the country to watch a Belmont Shore match and give Taufete’e his first cap and select him for the 2015 World Cup. Tolkin, the former USA head man who just finished coaching Major League Rugby’s first expansion team, Rugby United New York, in their first exhibition season, as well as help lead his alma mater, Xavier (NY), back to High School Nationals.
Tolkin came onto the Rugby PatCast, a regular podcast hosted by Rugby Today head writer Pat Clifton, to discuss RUNY, the Scotland scalp, its heroes, and the unsurprising collapse of RIM. Tolkin also touches on the ailments of the age-grade programs, emphasizing their importance and outlining a vision for the future, and the guys honor the memory of the late John Kelly, father of former Eagle, Cal and Xavier great Seamus Kelly.
Below are some excerpts from the show. Follow this link for the full episode.
“It is the most historic win without question. You go back to those Olympic Games, that’s kind of like the dead ball era of rugby – great in its day, awesome to win those Olympic medals and that part of our history but the Scotland game it’s the first tier-one, major rugby nation that we’ve won. It was a great win. Not only was it a win against Scotland, but it was a win that gook a lot of determination. They closed out a close game where Scotland was really pushing at the end. Got a little break missing the conversion but they earned that break.”
“I recall when he was brought in, I was an assistant under Eddie O’Sullivan when he just started his transformation from lock to front row after being at Cal. He definitely had a big learning curve ahead of him, and struggled, but kept putting in the work and went overseas and really tried to make his craft better over time. I’m glad he got rewarded with a professional contract and that he’s back on the Eagles contributing.”
“I saw him as a 20-year-old hooker, and he was really, really athletic. The Belmont guys had pointed him out and said here’s a guy to maybe keep your eye on. Really athletic. Had a lot of weight to lose. Had to get fit, but I always kept my eye on him. He obviously moved up through the ranks, started shedding some weight, but he always stood out as a real athlete. We just kept our eyes on him, and people gave us reports, and an opening came, and he was a guy to fill the position. He was a good, promising young player.
Even in that camp, I remember Dave Williams worked with him every day doing fitness and really busting his balls. He still had work to do through and after that World Cup, but he was a great athlete. I remember there was a big run in the South Africa game when he came, about 40 meters, that just kind of gave a glimpse of what he was capable of.”
SURPRISED RIM FAILED?
I wasn’t surprised at all. I had very low expectations. It was in the summer before the world cup when we played in the Pacific Rim tournament in our build up to the World Cup, and we were training at Stanford. This is when Keck and Chang came up with this RIM idea and they were showing up to practice. They would talk to the guys and this was going to be to help the players and get money… Very low expectations that anything would happen, and that’s exactly what happened. It became a disaster. There was no input from anyone who actually was day-to-day in the game, who was really dug into what was happening and was on the scene, whether it be me or whether it was other people who were directly involved.