Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tolkin: "We're Going After It"

Eagles head coach Mike Tolkin was nice enough to take some time to answer a few questions regarding what happened during last Saturday's match and what's he's expecting this next Saturday. But before we get into the interview, a couple of notes to pass along. Seamus Kelly is out of the next match with an MCL sprain. Luke Hume is ready to go. Also, Derek Asbun is being brought in as extra cover.

This Is American Rugby: What happened on Saturday?

Mike Tolkin: "Letting up the first score early didn't help things, but seven points a minute into the game is not the end of the world. As the game progressed we weren't executing the things we needed to do. Crucial passes went to ground, stupid penalties gave them some points early, kicking wasn't accurate, it was all things execution. We put ourselves in a bad position.

Take the jump to read more.

TIAR: Was it part of the game plan to kick so often or was it a result of you not having other options?

MT: "You kick in the parts of the field you need to kick in. One of the things in the summer I thought we were doing mistakenly is trying to play ball in the wrong parts of the field. It wasn't the grand design (to kick) but trying to get rugby smarts in our decision-makers. If we had executed we would have put them under a lot more pressure. At times we did but our execution was bad. One thing led to another there. Bad execution doesn't put them under pressure while good execution does."

TIAR: How difficult was it playing deep in you're own territory?

MT: "That's part of the problem. We need to be playing deep in the opposition end. That's where we need to change things for Saturday. If we execute the territory comes and the pressure on Canada comes.

TIAR: Did allowing Canada to score less than a minute into the match rattle the team of the rest of the match?

MT: "In a big game like that you never want to go down early. You want to be on the board first. For it to happen that quick it was definitely stunning but as an international player you have to absorb those blows. For 80 minutes everything isn't going to go your way but you have to shake it off and when the next moment. Most of the guys realize it's a game of moments and winning the next moment.

TIAR: Do you feel your team can overturn the deficit and get a win?

MT: "Most definitely. We licked our wounds, we're upset about it, but they guys came back to work Monday with the same spirit, the same resolve, and the belief that this is the second half of the game. That's how we look at it. We're still going for the prize and guys aren't backing down at all. We'll make a couple of changes and hope it works for us. We're going after it, no doubt about it."

TIAR: Are you expected Canada to sit back or go for the finishing move straight away?

MT: "I would say they're going to come at us. Why wouldn't they? They had a convincing win on the road, they're feeling confident, and operating on the front foot. I totally expect them to come after us and I wouldn't expect anything less. That's what we're preparing for."

TIAR: Are Blaine Scully and Chris Wyles your options at center with Seamus Kelly out?

MT: "Those are two guys we're considering plus Roland Suniula. He's more of an insider center but he's someone we're considering."

TIAR: Will there be some changes to the starting lineup?

MT: "There will be some changes to the starting lineup."

TIAR: Was the Titi Lamositele selection based entirely on merit?

MT: "We've had him in several camps now. He's done scores of scrummage sessions. He played against Life. He's passed every test that we've put there for him. We're happy with him in terms of where he is in terms of being a player that can contribute for us. He's obviously young and green but we feel he's still a player that can help us as an athlete and a prop."

Note: Lamositele has been strongly linked with Saracens but needs a work visa to get over there. To get that work visa you have to start for your country, not just get a cap off the bench. Saracens could be patient in this situation and you could see Lamositele get a start before the end of the year on merit.


  1. Mikey "The Excuse Machine" Tolkin earning his pay. What a clown.

  2. I guess I'll start this off.

    I have heard Tolkin use the term "execution" quite a bit. One might think he include "it was an..." before his aforementioned catch phrase. All kidding aside, what is the man doing to correct this lack of execution?

    He has to understand that this is a job and that their are standards. If your charges are not making the grade, you either try to coach them up or cut them loose. When are we going to see a little more of the latter?

    I enjoy the move to put a kid like Titi in there. He is a great athlete and that is something we need more of in American rugby. That is the kind of shake up that could save Tolkin his job and at this point, he should be thinking about covering his rear.

    The same characters have been not "executing" for several years now. The conversation around a lack of depth warrants that more boys get a shot. The results could not get much worse, so it is a calculated risk. Perhaps these players pan out or perhaps the veterans lose their complacency and play with some passion to regain their position.

    Either way, Tolkin needs to think how he wants to be remembered as a coach. Going down with a sinking ship or the guy who blooded a slew of new talent. If losses are going to be the norm, then we need to try some new boys out to at least generate some kind of excitement.

  3. Based on what Tolkin is saying I assume him and Tony Smeeth have an attack plan that suits Petri's what they think is his best skill sets, which is defense, distribution from the base, decision making and kicking. It is an attack plan from the last decade when the refs would often penalize the team with the ball for not releasing. When poaching was king and the pump the ball deep into the opposition's end and when they fail to secure their ball at the breakdown you either get a penalty or a turnover to attack a team forced to transition from attack to defense. The Springboks won the 2007 RWC pretty much doing this and this year's Super 15 finalist lost in the final trying to do the same thing with the same coach Jake White.

    Those days are over! MIKE, THEY ARE OVER! The refs favor more the team that takes the ball into contact and the defences are primarily rush defenses. You need a 9 that is going to run across the face of defenders near the breakdown with shoulders turned towards them to warrant a threat and to freeze them. Then the 9 can distribute to a pod of forwards or to the backs. When it is on the 9 needs to attack that space between the breakdown and the defender marking the first receiver. All this movement and threat forces the defending team to reduce the numbers they throw into the breakdown and takes some of the sting out of the rush defense.

    Tolkin and Smeeth are selecting a team to suit Petri, and it's a tribute to the game as it was played in the last decade.

  4. How adorable! Little Mikey Tolkin emoting, "we're going after it!" Mikey is such the firecracker. Sure the boys are fired up about his game plan. #DeadManWalking