BOULDER, Colo. – Head Coach Mike Tolkin and the Men’s Eagles coaching staff will work with 20 Rugby World Cup hopefuls at the United States Olympic Committee Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., next week.
Capped Eagles John Cullen, Olive Kilifi, John Quill, Louis Stanfill, Kyle Sumsion, Ben Tarr, Phil Thiel, Matt Trouville, and Nick Wallace will help integrate newcomers to the national team setup at the Forwards Camp Jan. 30 to Feb. 1.
“This is the first time we’ve done this, and from my recollection, it’s the first time that it’s been done with the Eagles for at least 10 years,” Tolkin said. “This is an area that we want to continue to strengthen.”
Bringing a wealth of knowledge on the subject is Forwards Coach Justin Fitzpatrick, who joined Tolkin’s staff in the fall of 2013. Holder of 26 caps for Ireland, including each of Ireland’s matches in Rugby World Cup 1999, Fitzpatrick played prop professionally for 18 years for London Irish, Ulster Rugby, and Castres Olympique.
“Generally speaking, we’re coming in [to an assembly] and building towards a test match, so we have to taper the work loads because we’ve got a performance element at the end,” Fitzpatrick said. “This is an opportunity for us to look at the domestic depth pool in terms of forwards and put them through a very rigorous scrummaging- and lineout-specific weekend where there is no match to hold us back in any of that training.
“We can really push the envelope and hopefully expand the learning curve with that.”
“We can put in some quality time just on set piece that we don’t often have available to us in camps and assemblies,” Tolkin said. “The scrum is an area that we want improvement in, so we feel that this is a really good investment of time and resources.”
In total, five flanker-specific athletes, three hookers, six props, and three second row-specific players will attend the skills camp. Ben Landry, Mike Lawrenson, and Angus MacLellan were each selected for the USA Rugby AIG Men’s Collegiate All-Americans’ New England Tour last summer, which propelled MacLellan to a roster spot with the Eagles at the 2014 Americas Rugby Championship and November Tour.
“It gives us a great opportunity to look at who’s currently in the domestic depth chart that’s been capped, that has been on a senior tour, but also what’s around the corner,” Fitzpatrick said. “We get to have a look at them and compare like with like over the course of the weekend. Those guys that have been capped to the younger guys; we can see where they are at these two technical areas and see whether they’re ready for the jump up or to give them appropriate feedback so they can go back into their programs so the next time they’re given the opportunity they can push themselves on a little further.”
Cullen, Tarr, and Trouville were among a number of Eagles who earned playing time during the most recent November Tour with multiple overseas-based professionals unavailable.
Titi Lamositele, the youngest capped Eagle, is unavailable for selection due to injury, but should begin more rigorous training in late February.
The Forwards Camp is the first of three camps specifically aimed at domestic players, hailing from such clubs as Glendale Raptors, Santa Monica Rugby Club, and Seattle Saracens, to enhance their upcoming club seasons. A full, 35-player assembly is also scheduled for late February in Florida.
“It’s hard to say [what I’m looking forward to the most],” Tolkin said. “The most obvious thing would be the South American Tour and the games and seeing new faces play. We get to harden up these guys a little more while gaining valuable international playing time.
“But I’m also eager for the camps, too, where our goal is to address the individual skill set and work on our playing style, which we’re hoping to build on. I am really looking forward to taking the next step in developing the game plan, and sharpening it up a little more.”
The Eagles forwards will get the perfect opportunity to put next weekend’s lessons into action when Tolkin’s squad travels to South America in April for matches against Uruguay and Argentina Jaguars. The trip will be the first time the U.S. National Team has traveled to the Tucuman region of South America, which has produced several professional props for Argentina.
Men’s Eagles | Forwards Camp
|Chris Baumann||Prop||Santa Monica Rugby Club|
|John Cullen||Second Row||Seattle Saracens|
|Zach Fenoglio||Hooker||Glendale Raptors|
|Alec Gletzer||Flanker||University of California|
|Olive Kilifi||Prop||Seattle Saracens|
|Ben Landry||Second Row||Seattle Saracens|
|Mike Lawrenson||Flanker||Palmer College|
|Angus MacLellan||Prop||Davenport University|
|Al McFarland||No. 8||New York Athletic Club|
|Brodie Orth||Second Row||Kansas City Blues|
|Ben Pinkelman||Flanker||Denver Barbarians|
|John Quill||Flanker||Dolphin Rugby Football Club (Ireland)|
|Mike Shepherd||Hooker||Seattle Saracens|
|Louis Stanfill||Flanker/Second Row||Seattle Saracens|
|Kyle Sumsion||Flanker||Brigham Young University|
|Ben Tarr||Prop||Glendale Raptors|
|Matt Trouville||Flanker/No. 8||Seattle Saracens|
|Nick Wallace||Prop||Glendale Raptors|
Men’s Eagles | Forwards Camp Coaching Staff
Mike Tolkin – Head Coach
Justin Fitzpatrick – Forwards Coach
David Williams – Strength & Conditioning Coach
Chris O’Brien – Video Analyst
Zach Vyhnanek – Physiotherapist
Brian Finn – Physiotherapist
Tristan Lewis – Manager
Sean Lindersmith – Assistant Manager
Nick Kennedy – Line Out Consultant
Didier Retiere – Scrum Consultant