US Military Academy star player Will Holder will not rejoin his school’s 7s team for this coming weekend’s USA 7s CRC in Philadelphia.
USA Men’s National Team Coach Mike Tolkin selected Holder for his player camp, and asked the Army rugby program to release holder for the camp.
Holder isn’t necessarily expected to be picked by the Eagles, but he does represent the future of the flyhalf position, especially if he can work under the Army’s World Class Athlete Program.
Therefore, Tolkin said he wanted to expose Holder to an international camp as soon as possible, clearly with an eye toward using him later.
Army Director of Rugby Rich Pohlidal said Holder’s absence will certainly be felt, but at the same time, he has a deep and talented squad and expects to compete well at the CRC.
“Obviously he would be a huge contributor for our West Point squad, and we will miss him, but he needs to go forward and put all is efforts into the national squad,” said Pohlidal. “I think it is critical for Will in terms of his development … missing some of the camp could hurt his chances and possibly be unfair to other guys trying to make the squad. He needs a clean look and go through the same crucible as everyone else. It is the right thing for everyone, especially Will.”
Asked earlier about the World Class Athlete Program, Holder, whose parents met in the Army and who father, Rob, coached Air Force (with Pohlidal) to a national title in 2003, told RUGBYMag.com that he was interested, but the Army came first.
“I still have two years until I am even eligible to join the system,” Holder said a month ago. “I decided to attend West Point because I wanted to be an Army officer, but it doesn't change my dream of being a professional athlete. If I do decide to stay in the Army, I really want to be an army aviator but that is not easy to get and I would not mind following in my father's footsteps and joining the field artillery branch.”
Back at West Point Holder is working with the 7s team to help them get ready for Philadelphia.
“Our sevens team is putting in hard work daily,” said Pohlidal, who also has former USA 7s player Justin Hundley to rely on. “We know we are chasing teams who have had a head start, but think the way we trained all season will begin to pay off as we taper into the CRC weekend. Our goal now is tie up the loose ends, adjust the law changes and work on our game management.”
Like a lot of teams, Army has to fight through challenges such as rebounding from 15s, working around finals and also dealing with graduation. On top of that, they want to put in a good show on NBC and in front of thousands of fans at PPL Park.
“I think our team, from the ground up, is doing things the right way,” said Pohlidal. “And we have to believe in that especially against teams like Cal, Notre Dame and Navy; we are honored to be grouped with such prestigious institutions. It certainly feels like some classic matchups.”
Chris Beck leads the team as captain and Army has some other outstanding players to fill the gaps. Without arguably their best player, they have, oddly, an opportunity to play more of a team game. This is, after all, an Army outfit that made the CRC final last year.
“We are making the most of our minutes together and with 28 players training three times a day, we are making up for lost time,” said Pohlidal. “I guess we have asked ourselves the question will we have done enough come June 2, which is a fair question given some teams started their sevens training the second week of April and we the second week of May. Frankly, it serves as a huge incentive for our team to focus inward and make gains every day. Iam very proud how they have taken on this challenge and responded to all that we have thrown at them. We are all very excited!”
The USA 7s CRC pits 16 top colleges against each other in a two-day 7s tournament at a top venue, PPL Park in Philadelphia. The event is a showcase of college rugby. Tickets can still be had at www.usasevens.com.