“We lake size in the locks and we lack the mobility and and the strength and those kids of things in the front row"”
HSAA Head Coach Salty Thompson
Goff Rugby Report caught up with USA High School All American Head Coach Salty Thompson and Assistant Michael Engelbrecht, who also works with the U20s, as they scouted at the Rocky Mountain Challenge.
See results from the Rocky Mountain Challenge
We asked them a series of questions (our questions in bold). Here’s what they said:
Are you looking at JVs more than Varsity, and do you scout the middle-schoolers?
“We're actually looking at both em there are different things on the horizon for the JVs as well as the Varsity players,” said Engelbrecht. “We’re not excluding any one from the process. We do look at some middle-schoolers, but our responsibilities here aren't for them. We do have some guys targeted who are going to be coming through in the future.”
5785's Regular Joes - Rusert-Cuddy and Kamara (video interview)
As far as the Varsity players go, many are just-graduated HS seniors. Salty, are you still looking for players who can help you now?
“Oh yeah because were going to go to Ontario and then BC. So we're filling some gaps from the RCTs. We know there are guys who can help,” said Thompson.
“The other part about the varsities is that all the varsity player is also eligible for U20s,” added Engelbrecht. “So we can find guys who bridge that gap.”
So you would be working hand in hand with JD Stephenson in that and working on that. As far as scouting goes, what are you seeing overall in terms of the kind of skills or the kind of the things you want to see.
“Well you look at players’ profiles and you think OK that guy is playing this position but really could be playing here - typically back row guys who should be going in to the front row or small locks or whatever. Converting them would be a process and you can do that over a period of time,” said Thompson. “But it’s a bit frustrating because you’ve got players probably not playing the right position or the position where they project. At the same time, as far as skills go, I’d say skills are getting better overall over the last decade.”
“From the school perspective if you look at the some of the game structures that are being played, even at these levels there is a bit more of a willingness to move the ball,” said Engelbrecht. “That's causing people to develop skills. It can be a chicken before the egg thing: You teach the skill or you teach the game plan and the skill within it. There are still some teams that do a lot of the one-off runner type things, and that has a place in the game, but and that's a different skill set that is developed. We are seeing a desire for these teams to move the ball to the wing.”
Full Game Video Boys Varsity Final (registration required)
So I try not to interject my own opinions on these things but a couple of things um that I don't see: ball security, and overall kicking skills. I think there are players who can kick for distance, there are players that can kick from the tee. But I've see a lot of people trying an up-and-under when they shouldn’t, or they are kicking and don’t seem to know why, or restarts that don't go 10 or go out on the full …
“These are definitely technical issues,” said Engelbrecht. “Like you mentioned, perhaps with ball placement and cleaning out and ball protection and all those things. They are technical issues. Even kicking - where to do it and when to do it. You know that is seriously lacking at this level but you know it's all part of the process that's why these kids are playing these games. Aand that's why we found all these opportunities for them to be on the field more often and get them into systems where coaching is continuing to improve. As they get exposed to a better coaches they will improve.”
“You know, Alex, you and I have talked about this before, prior to the All-Star level and club level, where even best athletic are playing #9 and #10,” said Thompson. “When we get to the High School All American level or the U20 level, players find out they’re really a 12 or a 13 or a wing or a fullback. it's ok if you're playing 10 but you're really a 12 or a 13 or a wing or a fullback. So here [at the RMC] we I mean the tactical kicking thing - there's really one flyhalf here in both JV and Varsity that tactically controls the field with his foot … Sean Nolan from Southern Cal. If you look at that game management in a lot of teams is missing.”
Wrapup of RMC Action
What about positionally? What’s the issue there?
“What we lack you know I think positionally across the board in the US game is really solid front rows and locks,” said Thompson. “We lack size in the locks and we lack the mobility and the strength and those kinds of things in the front row. You also might find the guy with the right body shape but conditioning is a struggle for him. Those are the kinds of issues that we have to face.”
Updated 18:12 - 3 Oct 2017 by Mark Lucas