Mike Friday's Dubai Memories

Mike Friday at Dubai 7s with USA
Mike Friday at Dubai 7s with USA

Over the last two years I have been fortunate to speak to and engage emails with Mike Friday, the Head Coach of USA 7s Rugby.

Whether between planes or games, Mike has made himself available to talk about the latest rugby news and has been hugely supportive of TalkingRugbyUnion" were the words of Chris Heal when he spoke about his latest rugby chat with Mike Friday.

Mike Friday talked exclusively to Chris about his biggest Dubai 7s memories.

My best memory of Dubai is back in 2004 when after so many years trying, England finally managed to win its first Dubai 7’s title. We had travelled to Dubai with a real mix in squad. We were as always being led by the pocket computer Simon Amor, along with stalwarts Anthony Roque (the current England 7’s coaching team) Geoff Appleford and Rob Thirlby. I had a fresh faced 18 year old Mathew Tait fresh out of school a young academy player Ollie Philips with hair, emerging academy centre from Northampton Neil Starling….as well as Ugo Monye who was trying to force his way into the Quins 1XV. We were also in the process of reinvigorating Pat Sanderson and Pete Richards to see if we get get their England XV aspirations back on track after being on the edge of club and country for a few seasons previously. The final piece of the jigsaw was Paul Sampson who had been out the game for 12 months with a serious injury and was fighting his way back to fitness too get himself a professional contract.

We turned up a little under-cooked but played exceptionally well. Day 1 : The boys had to adjust to the heat and the young Matt Tait hit the glue a number of times but learned from the experience Geoff Appleford had to play out of position at 10, with Pete Richard hooking either side of Pat and Rocky. Ugo was sharing the wing duties with Paul Sampson and Rob Thirlby who was one of the most effective impact players from the bench in 7’s that there was. 

Day 2 was much the same and the boys just got their heads down and got on with it uncompromising up front and mixture of pace and power in the backline with Simon Amor orchestrating matters in the middle. We met Fiji in the final and to say it was a lively affair was an understatement resulting in Amor on the receiving end of a somewhat late and possibly high tackle which meant he had to leave the field with a broken shoulder. To say he was a little angry on the sidelines would be an understatement. We were under the pump as Ugo Monye was also out injured for the final so we reshuffled, moved Pete Richards to 9 and Starling joined Pat and Rocky up front with Paul Sampson using all his experience and speed to start on the wing. We saw the customary Tait footwork for a glorious try and we ran out comprehensive winners.

For England to finally win this tournament in front of the partisan home crowd and fanatical rugby family of Dubai was fantastic and had been the one tournament we needed to win and wanted to win as much as Hong Kong and Twickenham. This completed the Top 3 we were chasing and I allowed the boys to celebrate that night and pool recovery was not enjoyable for them at 9am the next morning, but on this occasion they had earned it!!!"
We wish Mike the best for the upcoming World Rugby 7s Series starting in Dubai on 1st December. TalkingRugbyUnion will be there live with their local partner TheGulfRugbyPaper
Also many thanks to www.brightsuntravel.com for supporting this exclusive and unique coverage