By Tom Chick
October 10, 2013 (ISN) – No fewer than nine coaching changes have taken place ahead of the new HSBC Sevens World Series and each has its own little twist.
While Ben Ryan’s appointment as the new Fiji coach may have hogged a lot of the headlines, recent former players have also been making a splash. Matt Hawkins becomes the first player/coach in Sevens since Waisale Serevi, Simon Amor is back with England and Neil Powell takes charge of South Africa.
But one of the new coaches stands alone in historical and statistical significance, and it seems that the all-time leading try scorer in the history of Rugby Sevens has flown in somewhat under the radar to take charge of Argentina.
Having been away for three years, Santiago Gomez Cora is delighted to be making a return to the stage that made his name.
“It feels great to be back,” said Gomez Cora, who scored 230 World Series tries for the Pumas, 10 more than England’s Ben Gollings.
“I had three great years outside of the Series, but when you are back it is the same. Some of the players you played against are coaches like me and some still play.
“When I arrived at the team hotel, I didn’t start to cry but I felt a lot of things when I saw everyone – the media, [Series Director] Beth Coalter – and I said ‘I am home’.
It is a big challenge for me, but I am happy to be back. I enjoy these tournaments, it is always my place.”
Earning his stripes
Having earned his stripes last season with the Argentine women’s Sevens side, Gomez Cora is now relishing the opportunity to put his stamp back on the men’s Sevens scene.
“I learnt a lot with the women’s side, they were awesome. I felt like I learnt more from them than I could give,” added Cora.
“They are like a development team and you learn with them. Here some players are in the middle of their careers so it is more difficult.
“But we want to continue in most things that we have done before. Of course I have some ideas and you will hopefully see some of them at the weekend.
“Sometimes there are more breakdowns for a try, and one of my ideas is for that to be less and to play faster, putting different players into the field with different skills.”
Having scored so many tries in his own career it will be interesting to see whether that fondness for the try line is reflected in their style of play, but the first task this weekend is to tackle one of the tougher Gold Coast Sevens pools with matches against Samoa, hosts Australia and Scotland.
“Last season we finished with more tries against us, and that is something I want to change.
“Maybe we have faster players than the years before so I hope my players can score more tries.
“But we just need to trust in the way we play, and not look at the other teams. We are starting as a new team with a mix of experience and some new players. We need to go step by step and grow as a team.”