Mike Tolkin is no stranger to the USA’s rugby rivalry with Canada, but when his team takes the field tomorrow (Saturday June 9, 2012) it will be different. It’s his first match as head coach of the USA Men’s National Team.
Tolkin announced his squad yesterday and it’s clear from his selections that Tolkin is addressing the needs of the team.
An experienced bunch of players will help the transition into the next Rugby World Cup qualification cycle, and a lot of eyes will be on a few skill positions and the players who will look to fill them.
While two veteran scrumhalves (Mike Petri and Mose Timoteo) were named to the squad, development of a future nine is essential. The man to fill that need might be BYU’s electric scrumhalf, Shaun Davies, who is on the USA bench tomorrow and may get his first cap for the Eagles if Petri comes off.
The flyhalf spot is one that is also getting a lot of attention.
Due to an injury to Toby L’Estrange in the Rugby Super League final and the Eagles’ flyhalf in the World Cup, Roland Suniula, sitting out a few practices due to injury, West Point’s flyhalf Will Holder was getting a lot of touches at camp, and looked good according to Tolkin. Holder eventually won the starting spot.
Holder is not only a handy distributor, he also is a solid goal kicker and will be the man looking to add the extras for the Eagles this weekend.
“We’re really looking forward to seeing Will play. He’s got the tools and he’s been developing well,” Tolkin said of the All-American.
As for the opposition, Canada is going to be well drilled and confident having won 34 of the 47 matches the two nations have played.
The key for the Eagles is to stay physical and competitive, but to keep disciplined the entire 80 minutes.
“In the past [against Canada] we’ve beaten ourselves. We haven’t had the composure we need to play with against them. I think if we play with composure, we’ll do well in this game,” Tolkin said.
On the rivalry and being able to keep emotions in check, Tolkin was clear that this type of test is just what the team needs to advance.
“I think that that game always brings out the best in our players. We want to take the field with passion and grit, use it in the right places, and let our mind dictate what our bodies do. Don’t let those emotions get out of control, harness them.”
Watch the USA play Canada tomorrow live at 2 p.m. EDT on www.coresportsnetwork.ca.