You are here

USA MNT 15s Head Coach Mike Tolkin enjoyed a trip to Georgia (the state, not the country) this past weekend and out of that trip came the final confirmation of his coaching staff.

Tony Smeeth will be the attack/backline coach, Dave Hodges will return as the forwards coach, and Dan Payne returns to coach contact and continuity. Chris O’Brien is back as the kicking coach, while Dave Williams remains strength and conditioning coach, Tristan Lewis the manager, and Paul Goulding steps in as video analyst.

Of note in this list is the return of Hodges, who was in doubt as budget cuts threatened his position. That an agreement was reached is positive news, as Hodges brings crucial real-world Eagle and pro rugby experience to the table. Also of note is that there is no scrum coach on the list. Tolkin still wants one; he just hasn’t found one yet. Hodges, who has shown he knows a little bit about it, will likely start work on this aspect of play, but Tolkin will almost certainly bring in a specialist at some point this year.

Tolkin met with his staff during the weekend, going over his plan for the team and how he wants the group to work together.

“It was productive, very productive,” the coach told “”We got a lot done. They are all great guys and I’d call it a good, enthusiastic motivated group.”

The coaches discussed players, strategy, and ideas. Tolkin likes to have debate among his staff, and certainly everyone set forth the ground rules on how they will work together. Clearly it’s a different atmosphere from the previous coach, because if it weren’t, at least one of those on staff wouldn’t be there.

Not in Marietta but a key component will be Luke Gross, whose position as head of player development has him becoming the grand Keeper of the Depth Chart.

But the scrum remains the topic of conversation. If there are two aspects of play where the Eagles can improve on and drastically improve their results, it is probably goalkicking and the scrum.

Tolkin values the scrum and practicing it, and that’s part of the battle. But he does want the right man in to handle it.

“We need someone who’s there most of the time, and I am trying to get someone domestic,” he said. Tolkin said he doesn’t subscribe to one specific scrummaging philosophy, but he isn’t looking for any wild ideas, either.

“I want someone with a sound philosophy, but who’s not wedded to it,” he said. “Scrum coaches who have run into problems are people who can’t adjust to their personnel or other factors they run into.”

So you heard it here, scrum coaches, the Eagles are still looking.