The Brink Of Something Special

The Brink Of Something Special

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.

As I am sitting down here, we could be on the brink of something very special having beaten the favourites Tonga in our first game in front of a sell-out crowd, before seeing off Chile and Russia to top our group and reach Saturday's final.

Those wins have earned us a place in the final against Japan and, if we win that, we will get promoted into the Tier 1 - the Junior World Championships and earn the right to play against the likes of New Zealand, South Africa and, of course, Ireland and England.

That is an incredible prospect ­ but more of what has happened in Utah at a later date.

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks getting here but it has been great fun and very rewarding.

Getting to know the boys in the squad has been a pleasure and, with the coaching set-up here with the national team, it feels like the sort of professional set-up I have been used to in my playing days with the likes of Leinster, London Irish, Worcester and Leicester Tigers.

We know there is a long way to go before we can mix it with the bigger countries but Scott Lawrence, the head coach, has put together a really good team behind the scenes. Everyone is really open with each other and buys into what we are trying to achieve and how we are going to go about doing it.

It should be pretty tough to put together a competitive squad with a group of players who have come from every corner of this vast country but they have gelled very well at the preparation camps we have run and the Tests up in Canada.

They were two big wins for us because the Canadians have a good set-up too and there is some serious rivalry.

I had an eight-day break away from the national set-up after Canada but was on my travels again as my Belmont Shore team travelled to Denver and won the Men's DI National Championship. We had a dream season which saw us go undefeated, winning 15 games in a row.

As Belmont Shore returned to California afterwards, I stayed in Denver and met-up with the USA Under-20 forwards for five days of hard graft on the technical aspects of forwards' play. This was a pre camp get-together which has proved to be of great importance.

It was demanding but more valuable time for me to get used to the guys and vice versa.

So far, here in Utah, it seems to be paying dividends.

Read more from Gavin Hickie on his own site Lineout Coach or on twitter.

Read Gavin Hickie's other blog posts here.

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