USA Under-20s forwards coach Gavin Hickie explains in his rugby blog what gave them the edge in their Under-20s Junior World Trophy final win against Japan.
In a thrilling game there were seven lead changes in a contest which the USA won 37-33 after a gutsy injury-time goal-line stand.
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I have been enjoying a manic spell since I last wrote.
At the time, I had just been given the job of forwards¹ coach of the USA Under-20s.
Since then, we have been to several prep camps, beaten Canada in two Tests away from home and I now write from Salt Lake City in Utah at the Junior World Trophy.
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I suppose it is a sign of just how much progress rugby is making out here in the States that there are starting to become conflicts with some of America’s biggest sports.
Take American Football. Traditionally, the sport has always been very supportive of its athletes playing rugby too. Many clubs take the view that their players can improve several of their football disciplines by playing rugby.
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USA Rugby: Under 20s Forwards Coach
Club: Belmont Shore, Long Beach CA.
Position: Head Coach Belmont Varsity Rugby / Forwards Coach Belmont Men's Team.
Weight: 86.5 Kgs
Years in the professional game: 10 – Leinster/London Irish/Worcester/Leicester Tigers/ Belmont Shore
What is your dream position on the field?
I would always liked to have played at 12. I like the idea of crashing the ball up and sucking in defenders. 12 can be badly exposed in D but its a great position.
Who is the hardest bloke you have ever played with?
There are a lot! Trevor Brennan was a hard player. Julian White and Lewis Moody are hard as nails too!
Was your professional debut memorable or forgettable?
It was very memorable! It was 2001 and I had just signed a full-time professional contract with my home team, Leinster. The Celtic League was formed and we had a great squad of players. My first game was against Ebbw Vale in Donnybrook, Dublin. We played very well and won comfortably. We went on to win the Celtic League in the first year of the competition's existence. I feel very privileged to be part of Leinster's rich history.
What are your redeeming features - physical?
Haha – My face….obviously!!!
What are your redeeming traits - personality?
I'm pretty tenacious. I don't like to be told that something is too difficult or not possible. Everything is surmountable and I can be very persistent in attaining my goals.
Best moment in rugby?
Signing for Leicester Tigers and pulling on that famous jersey will always be a cherished memory for me. That proved to be the pinnacle of my club career. Tigers will always be dear to me. Winning the Premiership was a massive highlight!
Worst moment in rugby?
My horrendous shoulder injury that I sustained tackling Sale's Jason Robinson. That effectively meant the end of my top level rugby. I totally severed my infraspinatus and my supraspinatus tendons. I learned pretty quickly that these tendons are what connect the muscles that allow you to move your arm up straight in front of you and also out to the side! I was in an airplane cast for 3 months and spent a total of 7 months on the sideline working very hard with Tigers physiotherapist, Scott Tindall. I never really recovered from the injury.
Are you angry or a sulker in defeat?
It depends! If we get beaten by a better team but really gave it our best, I can accept defeat and learn from it. If we play poor rugby and below what we are capable of, I get annoyed. I never sulk after defeat but I do like to be on my own for a while after any game and get my thoughts together.
Which player do you admire most from past/present?
Such a tough question! There are so many guys I have had the good fortune of playing with and against some of the very best rugby players in the world. I have huge respect for every rugby player out there. If I have to pick, I would say, Brian O'Driscoll, Johnny Sexton, Geordan Murphy, Martin Castrogiovanni and Graham Rowntree.
Where was your best rugby-related night out. Just place and venue please?
Has to be Wales! Without doubt – Vale of Glamorgan Hotel with Leinster….
Three things you like?
Southern California lifestyle
Traveling and seeing new places
Three things you hate?
8 hour time difference from Ireland!
Three things you want?
Rugby to become a mainstream sport in the US, with it's own professional league
Collegiate Rugby to qualify for NCAA accreditation
Touring sides to visit the US on a frequent basis
Three things you regret?
No time for those….
Three things that need doing at home?
Loads of LineoutCoach work which is great!
My Mrs (!)