That man Mike Friday returns with USA to Dubai Sevens

When Mike Friday guides his side out in their first Sevens World Series fixture in Dubai on Friday, it will be against his old England team.
Former England sevens coach Mike Friday is in the first season in his new position at the helm of the United States squad. Patrick Hamilton / AFP
Former England sevens coach Mike Friday is in the first season in his new position at the helm of the United States squad. Patrick Hamilton / AFP

DUBAI // This weekend is the 10 year anniversary of England’s first trophy win at the Dubai Rugby Sevens.

Mike Friday and Simon Amor masterminded that success in concert as coach and captain respectively.

At 11.14am on Friday, though, all the reminiscing about the good old days will be set aside as they are rivals for once in the HSBC world series competition. Friday, who was in charge of England for each of their consecutive wins at the old Dubai Exiles ground in 2004 and 2005, took the helm of the United States in the summer.

Being in the opposing technical area to his former lieutenant, who is now coach of England, for the first time in Dubai is set to be a surreal experience for them both.

“Meeting here, where we won together in Dubai 10 years ago, it feels odd for us,” said Friday, who was recruited by the US with a view to the 2016 Olympic Games.

“We have only ever competed together. We are great pals, we share the same birthday [April 25], seven years apart.

“He took over from me as captain, I mentored him as a coach and I wish him nothing but success and praise - apart from for 14 minutes.

“The good thing about rugby is, those 14 minutes apart, we are doing nothing but supporting each other.

“After that, we are all pals again. But it still feels odd.”

Friday is starting to feel old, too. It is not just the fact it is a decade since England’s first success. It is his 20th anniversary of coming to Dubai, a trip he initially made to play in an invitational tournament on the sand fields of the old Exiles in Al Awir.

“I love this place,” Friday, 42, said. “I’m disappointed the sand has gone, I used to enjoy playing on that. It is the tournament for rugby purists.

“I still remember the days when you would sit in the changing rooms with your England shirt on and you would be sat next to a vet who was having a fag. It was proper rugby and they have managed to keep that alive in Dubai.

“The social, vets and invitational tournaments are what make this weekend so special.”

Both England and the US will have their work cut out to advance to tomorrow’s trophy quarter-finals, with Kenya and Australia in the same group.

England finished third in the opening leg of the series in Australia, and Tom Mitchell, their captain, is hopeful the side can end their long run without a trophy.

“Last year we had a good season and finished fourth, it was just the first time in a while we haven’t won a tournament,” Mitchell said.

pradley@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 4, 2014 04:00 AM

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