The man sacked by the Samoa Rugby Union as Sevens coach has secured himself a new job.
Damian McGrath is the new coach of the Canadian Sevens team. The appointment was confirmed by the Canadian Rugby Union yesterday.
McGrath said he is excited about the new challenge.
“(Canada) is one of the biggest and most powerful teams in rugby sevens. On the day they could upset anyone,” he told The Province.
“I think they struggled for consistency. My personal view was they didn’t make the best of what they had. They were a little bit one dimensional in what they did, which made it easier to play and coach against them.
“It’s easy to say, changing it is a different thing. I’m hoping that we can try and concentrate on strengths of what the players have as a group and we can make them a difficult bunch to play against.”
Jim Dixon, Rugby Canada’s general manager of rugby operations and performance said the selection of McGrath from a strong pool of candidates came down to needing a new approach to team building as well as McGrath’s reputation.
“It’s always a tough process to go through,” said Dixon. “We had strong intentions of going to Rio and were very disappointed that we didn’t achieve that outcome. There were a lot of factors we looked at throughout that process. We engaged with a lot of the players confidentially.
“What was really evident is we need to create an environment where the players can express themselves … they need a little bit more freedom.”
McGrath came up through the ranks of England rugby league, coaching the national side around the turn of the millennium. For the past 15 year or so, he’s has been involved in sevens, mostly with England team. He also spent several years as a staff coach for the English rugby union, working as a skills coach for several Churchill Cup squads. That experience brought him to Canada several times, and he was also a guest speaker at coaching conferences.
He said the transition from league to sevens was obvious, given the similarities of the two games.
“I work out of the basics, which is something I’ve done ever since I was a junior coach,” he said. “I always feel if you get the little things right you can make the big things happen.”
McGrath said his experience last season in Samoa was positive overall, but the last month was difficult.
“Pacific Island rugby, in terms of administration, is very volatile,” he said. “To say I was caught by surprise by the dismissal is an understatement, but it was to do with personal politics and Board interference. I had to hand the matter over to my legal representatives because they ran roughshod over my contract.
“It’d be hard to sit here and watch people try and sully your reputation, but I’ve been humbled by the huge support I’ve had from the Samoan people.”