Tolkin happy with Domestic Camp, Qualifier preparations

Men’s Eagles Head Coach Mike Tolkin liked what he saw at the recent Domestic Camp at Life University in Marietta, Ga., Feb. 20-23.

Twenty-seven domestic players trained with Tolkin and his staff, including assistant coaches Phil Bailey, Justin Fitzpatrick, Billy Millard, and Chris O’Brien, and finished the camp with a scrimmage against Life University.

“We had to dig deeper into the pool because a lot of players scheduled to be there had signed professional contracts overseas,” Tolkin said. “But overall we like the fact we were able to get exposure to those players so they could get a taste and see what they look like in terms of possibilities [on the team].

“We had some good competition down there. We got a lot accomplished, we were pretty physical, and we got a game in to help evaluate better.”

With three scrumhalves at camp, Tolkin had Shaun Davies play for his club team in the scrimmage to make sure the others had valuable time on the field.

Tolkin also highlighted the camp as a good way to see some of the players who may not make the 30-man squad for a test assembly, while the amount of competition available is also limiting the times players are available for a camp.

“That makes it more valuable,” he said. “Guys are really having to compete one-on-one against each other. Spots aren’t as readily available as they used to be.”

Men’s Eagles Sevens players Danny Barrett and Shalom Suniula rounded out the camp roster, which was missing a few players due to injury and other commitments. Adam Siddall, recently named to the Residency squad at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., also attended the camp.

“Adam’s spending time with Belmont [Shore Rugby Football Club] and staying in shape at the OTC,” Tolkin said. “His appearance there is strictly for training purposes.”

Siddall and Tim Maupin, both capped for the first time in 2013, are in Chula Vista with Matt Hawkins’ squad, but will be available for selection for the upcoming Rugby World Cup 2015 Qualifier Playoff against Uruguay later this month.

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Another player with a new contract overseas is Carlin Isles, who joined fellow Eagles Sevens player Folau Niua to Glasgow Warriors. Isles’ agent was quoted as saying his client had interest in playing in next year’s World Cup.

Isles will not be going into the 15-a-side version of the game blind, as he suited up for the San Diego Old Aztecs last year in a Division I match. As far as his chances playing for the Eagles in England in August 2015, Tolkin said the speedster would be on his radar.

“I think anyone with his type of ability definitely has to be a consideration for us,” he said. “We’ll see how he goes with Glasgow and if he’s making progress and doing well.

“On top of that, I’ll work with Matt Hawkins and the sevens staff to make sure we’re coordinated in case we were to pursue Carlin in 15s.”

The Eagles Select XV squad defeated Uruguay 20-8 in last fall’s IRB Americas Rugby Championship. Tolkin and his staff are preparing film and tactics for Los Teros, who will host the Eagles March 22 in Montevideo.

The return leg will be held at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University March 29. Other than the August Qualifier against Canada in Charleston, S.C., the Eagles have not played a test in the southeast region since hosting Uruguay in a Qualifier for Rugby World Cup 2011 in Lauderhill, Fla., in 2009.

“I think it’s going to be great,” Tolkin said on playing in Atlanta. “It seems like everyone’s getting excited down there. We have good support in Marietta with [former Eagles assistant coach] Dan Payne and Life University. They have a great stadium down there and the events staff has done a good job promoting it.”

The Eagles will assemble twice more prior to leaving for South America, with Atlanta again hosting the team March 11-15. The team will then head to Florida, where the overseas players will join the squad, before traveling to Uruguay March 19.

The Eagles’ assembly roster will be announced later this week.