Eagles technically and tactically better than Fiji, USA coach Mike Friday says

By Michael Hudson

USA Sevens head coach Mike Friday is of the opinion that his team are better than the Flying Fijians this year despite finishing second in the 2018-19 HSBC World Sevens Series – nine points behind the world series champions.

Friday was talking to Neale Harvey of The Rugby Paper, when he was asked his thoughts on how close the USA were to matching Fiji. He said the Eagles are technically and tactically better than Fiji this year and he credited their improvement to the squad’s behavioural work off the pitch.

USA were top of the world series ranking for most of last season and Friday blamed his team’s inability to defeat Fiji in key matches for letting the Pacific islanders back into the title race. He, however, concluded last season was a brilliant one and said the USA needed to improve in some areas of their game.

‘Technically and tactically we were much better this year and we saw the fruits of our labour in a lot of behavioural work we did off the pitch paid off,” Friday was quoted as saying.

“However, we’ve still got a lot more to give and have gains to make on the mental side at times of intense pressure. If I’m honest, as much as I’d have loved the romance of winning the world series, we can point to some very significant moments in the season where we allowed momentum to shift Fiji’s way.

“We should have buried Fiji in our Hong Kong semi-final but had six scoring opportunities and didn’t take any. That defeat gave Fiji the belief they could get back into the series and then in the final game between us in Paris, we again had chances for a win but lost.

“We’ve come so far but there are still two or three layers to go on top of our game, although it was still a brilliant season.”

The English coach was also asked if he would like to get a job back home sometime and revealed he’s had interest from Premiership sides in the past. He said his current contract with USA Rugby runs till 2020 and he will decide his future around December.

“I’m contracted with USA Rugby until the Olympics so I’ll have to start making some decisions around Christmas time,” he said. “The odd Premiership club has had a look at me in the past but unfortunately you get labelled as a sevens coach, rather than someone who has actually spent quite a lot of time in 15s as well and understands a lot about rugby and managing men.

“Can I build teams? Yes. Would I back myself? Yes. But it doesn’t matter if I back myself, someone’s still got to give you a chance. I think I could do a job with England and you’ve got to aim high, haven’t you? The biggest thing that drives me is making people better and my track record is pretty good.”

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