Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
BOULDER, Colo. – USA Rugby announced today that Mike Tolkin will be the next head coach of the Men’s National Team, the Eagles. A New York native, Tolkin has coached in the U.S. at various levels since 1986, and was most recently the defensive coach for the Eagles in the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
“I hope to build on our performance from the World Cup, qualify for the next one, and to mix in our new and upcoming players,” Tolkin said, and collaborating with coaches is a focus for the incoming head coach.
“I certainly have a good relationship with age-grade and club coaches and look forward to working with them very closely,” said Tolkin, who helped establish the USA Under-19 team in 1992.
Tolkin has an impressive record as a coach at the high school, senior club, and international levels. He coached Xavier H.S. in New York City to three National Championships, six National Championship games, 17 National Championship Semifinals, and 20 Regional Championships.
In 2000 Tolkin also took the reins of then Division I now Rugby Super League (RSL) team, New York Athletic Club (NYAC). In 12 years, NYAC won three RSL National Championships and made a total of eight post-season appearances, including an appearance in the Division I National Championship game in 2001. Xavier H.S. alumnus, NYAC starter, and vice-captain of the Eagles, Mike Petri has played for Tolkin for over a decade and is confident that Tolkin is the man for the job.
“I’ve never met anyone who cares about the sport more than [Tolkin] does. He’ll never settle for less than excellence and he brings that to coaching. He has a competitive, winning mentality and guys buy in to that. They want to play for him,” Petri said.
Tolkin also has a strong background in talent identification and player development, serving as a talent recognition selector for former USA Head Coach, Tom Billups in 2001.
USA Rugby CEO and President of Rugby Operations, Nigel Melville believes that Tolkin is well equipped to move the USA forward after three years with the Eagles as a defensive coach and noting that the team’s defense in the Rugby World Cup was outstanding. “I’m delighted for Mike,” said Melville. “He has worked internationally and domestically as a head coach and understands well the challenges American players face. I know Mike is looking forward to continuing the work started by [Eddie O’Sullivan].”
A positive team culture is the “cornerstone of any successful team,” according to Tolkin. “That is what the hallmark of our team is going to be. Respecting everyone in the program and being positive on and off the field. Building confidence in the guys is what I want to instill first and foremost.”
Tolkin’s team will face their first test on June 9 when they face Canada in Kingston, Ontario. The USA will also play two home games against Georgia and Italy on June 16 and 23. Venues for those matches will be announced next week.