Polar Bear looks to 'new chapter' with USA
By Tom Chick (@tomchick85)
USA Sevens’ new head coach Matt Hawkins is ready for “the next chapter" in his life at this weekend’s Gold Coast Sevens.
Heading into the opening round of the HSBC Sevens World Series Hawkins is one of nine new coaches, and yet his appointment is a little different.
Several former players have been called upon by their nations (Santiago Gomez Cora for Argentina and Simon Amor for England), but Hawkins is the first player/coach since Waisale Serevi won the Series back in 2006.
“It is definitely up there, it is a huge step and that next chapter of my life,” said Hawkins. “It’s the next stepping stone so I am really excited and fortunate to find myself in the situation.
“I think from my perspective I am not looking at that [comparison with Waisale Serevi] at all. Waisale is someone I have a connection with and still do some work with him.
“He is a great guy and a wealth of knowledge, but this is a role right now, and I have always said whatever role I can fulfill for the USA programme I will do it because I want to see it succeed. Right now it is this role and I will give it everything I have got.”
Baptism of fire
The first challenge for Hawkins in his first match in his coaching career is a baptism of fire against reigning World Series and RWC Sevens champions New Zealand.
The USA has never beaten Gordon Tietjens’ side, but came closest at the World Cup in Moscow, but Hawkins believes there is no better way to start for his side.
“It is a great way to start, you always want to test yourself against the best, and measure yourself against them, which is what we always strive to do,” he added.
“Based on World Cup performances, and some others last season, we know we can play them and we know we can get close to beating them. We now just need to go out and beat them.
“The biggest thing we took out of that match in Moscow was that was the level we can play and should expect all day every day.
“We know we can be that good and play with the best in the world, but we now need to act on that. This weekend will show if we are continuing that movement, or if we need to go and evaluate.”
Neither was Hawkins just a player. He replaced Alex Magleby after the Rugby World Cup Sevens having captained the USA last season.
Leading the side on the pitch may have been the ideal preparation.
“I think we have a unique situation in the USA where a lot of the guys who have been involved fulfill leadership roles and I have been fortunate to fulfill that.
“I have had a lot of coaching experience outside the circuit in the last six years so it was an easy transition. Obviously I am still playing a bit, so we are working through that, but I am excited about the challenge and working with the guys.”
In announcing his first squad there was a recall for Miles Craigwell, but the majority of the squad remains similar to the one that won three Plates in the last four rounds of last season with the likes of Nick Edwards and Zack Test ones to watch this weekend, and Edwards taking over the captain's armband.
Follow @usarugby or @irbsevens for all the latest on the USA Sevens side, and the upcoming Gold Coast Sevens. Matt Hawkins is also on Twitter, @polarbearkzn.