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Todd Clever is coming home. After capping off his career in Japan, the Eagles captain will be playing with his old club, OMBAC, in the Pacific Rugby Premiership this spring. Makes a lot of sense – he has a young family in San Diego, and his brother is an OMBAC stalwart.
Clever appears to be bringing former teammate Yoshio Kimishima with him. With Brian Doyle and a couple of Irish imports, Eoin Joyce and Adam Clarkin, moving to OMBAC, too, the San Diego club looks like a force to be reckoned with.
But what else is on the horizon for the 32-year-old Clever? The Rugby World Cup is just around the corner and certainly his focus. Beyond that? Tough to tell if he’ll get another shot, or is interested in one, overseas. For the guy that’s played on the Sevens World Series, in Super Rugby, professionally for nearly a decade, and is about to appear in his third World Cup, what’s left to accomplish?
Perhaps it’s the Olympics. 32 is old for a 7s player, and with a long career in 15s under his belt, Clever’s training age is arguably older than 32. Still, he’s a great player, and he’s living minutes from the Olympic Training Center. While Clever and 7s coach Mike Friday haven’t had a conversation about his plans, yet, the captain’s return to American soil hasn’t eluded Friday.
“I would have to guess he’s probably got preparations in mind for World Cup 15s, and he needs to get his body in the right sort of place in order to make a real statement at that event,” Friday told Rugby Today.
“If we can assist that, and it works with us, I hear such good things about Todd from a cultural perspective as a leader, as a role model, and if he can assist and illustrate and share the learnings he’s had from traveling the world and playing rugby and make our athletes better professionals and assist in their development, then brilliant.”
Friday and Clever don’t really know each other, but the coach has watched the captain from afar, and he coached against him on the circuit.
“Back when I coached England, Todd was up and coming on the 7s circuit. I’ve watched the way that he made the transformation and moved to South Africa to play and Japan, and you have to be a good player to equip yourself in those types of environments,” said Friday.
“You see the way he wears the US Eagles shirt with passion – he just looks like a good bloke, and I hear good things about his behaviors and the way he goes about his business on and off the pitch, which I think is fantastic. He’s a no-nonsense bloke.”
Clever hasn’t played on the circuit since 2011, when he appeared in both Australia and Hong Kong. Before that, his last Series showing was in 2009. So it’s been a while, but current Eagles Nic Edwards and Zack Test have played with him.
If Clever is going to stage a 7s comeback, the first step would be him showing interest. The second would be him getting to work at the OTC, and the third would be him earning a spot at a high performance camp ahead of either the Asian or European stretches of the World Series in March and May, respectively.
“He can put his hand up for 7s, but just because he’s the captain of the Eagles 15s, it won’t carry over much sway in the camp. If he’s one of the best 12 players and he wants to put his hand up then he’ll go. If he isn’t, he won’t,” said Friday.
“He’s probably got a very clear plan about what he’s going to do. If he wants our assistance and he thinks he can add value to us, then of course, the doors never closed to anyone who’s a quality rugby player and eligible for the USA.”