Rugby’s Matthew Hawkins On Managing Carlin Isles, Olympics & The Will To Win In Vegas

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Great interview with Matt Hawkins in preparation to take on the most elite athletes on earth at the IRB Sevens / USA Rugby rugby tournament in Las Vegas 2014.

Location: Pre-Game IRB 7s Las Vegas International Rugby Tournament

Special thank you to: IRB and USA Rugby for providing us with the opportunity to conduct these interviews.

By: Michael Alvarez

Date: January 22, 2014

Top takeaways from the interview:

–       “At the end of the day, Americans, we are patriotic. We don’t like losing no matter what we are doing.”

–       Matt’s thoughts on his home country’s epic win in South Africa after Nelson Mandela’s passing: “I think South Africans are incredibly passionate, and more so for the sport of Rugby. I think Nelson Mandela took that passion and elevated Rugby in that country to a level no one realized or recognized. I think that last game showed that.”

–       On Carlin Isles: “I think at this point there really is no strategy for Carlin. He is a good player, not a finished product, but working towards being a finished rugby player. Now it’s just about managing him and getting him as much experience.”

 

@RugbyNation : Thank you Matt for your time. I’m a long-time fan and the owner of RugbyNation.com. I am grateful to USA Rugby for giving me the opportunity to be here to interview you guys. Please tell me a little about your last two tournaments and your strategy for playing in Las Vegas this weekend.

 

Matthew Hawkins: I think the last two tournaments, unfortunately the results didn’t go away. At the end of the day, we had a lot of youngsters and not too many leaders. It was an opportunity to show the guys what hard times look like. To a certain extent, there was an understanding that it was going to be really tough. A couple of our senior leaders left at that point. And, a lot of new guys had to step up into starting roles. The guys really understood what needed to be done. We aren’t a finished product, but we are closer to it. We are evolving. This weekend gives us an opportunity to establish for ourselves where we are in the development process, and where we have players situated, and if it is the right place for them.

 

@RugbyNation : I noticed Carlin didn’t get much playing time two or three tournaments back, but I believe he was on the field every minute during the last tournament. What’s the strategy behind that?

 

Matthew Hawkins: I think at this point there really is no strategy for Carlin. He is a good player, not a finished product, but working towards being a finished rugby player. Now it’s just about managing him and getting him as much experience. We are not just talking experience, but getting playing time on the field. You need to learn what is going on when it goes on, and how you prepare for that, but also how you adjust on the field for that.

 

Carlin is just like anyone any of the other twelve on the team. Any of them can start. That’s the whole goal of it. If you start to win it is dependent on strategy vs. who you are playing. But also, how are they doing form wise. If we’ve had a great tournament, and he is coming to the next tournament, I would be silly not to start him. He provides something different that the other twelve don’t, but the other twelve, each and every one of them provide something we need to win the tournament.

 

@RugbyNation : What made you want to move from player to coach? I bet you watch your players on the fiend and are just dying to get in there and get some hits in.

 

Matthew Hawkins:  I love the game. I’m incredibly passionate about it. Rugby runs through my family. It’s a huge part of who I am. Would I like to have continued to play and also in the Olympics? Absolutely. Who wouldn’t? We just reached a stage in our program where I was approached by certain people and was asked to make a decision. I am happy with the decision I made and am now living with that decision. I get out on the beach where I live and get a chance to play every once in a while and get that edge out. I get just as much out of it as a coach helping the guys getting to where they need to be.

 

@RugbyNation : Final question. You are from South Africa. I think the last tournament where South Africa won the tournament was epic. I wish I could have been there. What are your thoughts on the tournament, what it meant to South Africa, and what it was like to be there?

 

Matthew Hawkins: First and foremost you also have to take into consider that Nelson Mandela had just passed away. He was on incredible inspiration to a lot of people, not just South Africans, and a big peace he brought was that a sport can cross a lot of boundaries and races and can really bring a lot of people together. I was fortunate enough to be in South Africa during that time and the 1995 World Cup. I had an attachment to it. I think South Africans are incredibly passionate, and more so for the sport of Rugby. I think Nelson Mandela took that passion and elevated Rugby in that country to a level no one realized or recognized. I think that last game showed that. It was great to be there, and obviously not the best case with Nelson passing away. But, I think for us to be there and our guys to see it and understand that, was something that was really important to them. “Epic” is the right word.

 

@RugbyNation : Inspirational. The US won Gold in the last Olympics so we have to defend that. I wish you luck and I think you have a really great job as a coach.

 

Matt Hawkins: At the end of the day, Americans, we are patriotic. We don’t like losing no matter what we are doing. And, that’s what we are going to do. We have eighteen months before we have to qualify, and after that six to twelve months until the Olympics. So, we have to perform.