Diamond Geezer

Mike Friday talks to Sky Sports rugby union writer Tony Curtis about the challenge of turning Kenya in to contenders on the Sevens circuit

By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter @SkysportsTC.   Last Updated: 23/02/13 11:19am

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Mike Friday's passion for Sevens is almost infectious as he discusses his long-term ambitions for the Kenyan team.

Friday was lured out of a six-year exile from international coaching in May 2012 by the challenge of revitalising the Kenyan challenge.

Having enjoyed a successful stint with England, Friday had opted to take a step back to focus on his job at DTZ in 2006.

Commentating stints with Sky Sports helped him keep his hand in, though, while he was able to dedicate more time to coaching Blackheath.

In truth he had little left to prove. He had played a key role in England's dominance in Hong Kong - they won an unprecedented four successive titles - while the side also registered back-to-back crowns in Dubai and a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games.

However, his previous successes have done little to diminish his drive and ambition and he has made an immediate impact on his return to the circuit - helping to harness the potential within the Kenya side.

In just his fourth tournament back on the HSBC Sevens World Series he guided them to their first cup final in three years - with England needing extra time to finally edge them in Wellington, although Kenya's cause was not helped by two sin-binnings.

"In 2008/09, Kenya had some fabulous players. Unfortunately they had no structure or discipline to their approach. They could go from being brilliant to awful in a flash."
Mike Friday

That alone was a tremendous achievement given that the side had been in steady decline since 2009, with Kenya finishing 12th in the rankings last season - their lowest ever position.

However while Kenya failed to build on the success of the class of 2008/09 - when they reached their first-ever cup final in Adelaide and were World Cup semi-finalists - Friday is determined not to make the same mistakes.

Challenges

"In 2008/09, Kenya had some fabulous players," Friday told Sky Sports.

"They had the likes of Innocent Simiyu, Dennis Mwanja, Humphrey Kayange was at his peak and Collins Injera was just 18 or 19.

"Unfortunately they had no structure or discipline to their approach. They could go from being brilliant to awful in a flash.

"They didn't maximise their potential, though. They were individually brilliant but there was no collective unity in their play.

"The new group have an average age of around 22 and there is the potential there.

"There are two challenges for me. The initial one is to instill a consistency to their performances and ensure they perform game on game.

"The second is about longevity. It is all well and good winning one year but you need a conveyor belt of talent coming through. And not just on the playing side. Ultimately I'd like to see the side run by a Kenyan in the future.

"That is why I have got assistants that are Kenyan. I am a firm believer that the national side should be run by someone from that country. I can understand and accept that sometimes there is a need for outside assistance, though."

Positives

The 41-year-old has been impressed with the progress made by the side in a relatively short period - especially given their amateur status.

They are currently sixth in the standings - three places ahead of 2009 World Cup winners Wales and four ahead of his former charges England - while Injera has recaptured his best form to score 16 tries.

"We have come a long way," said Friday, who is known as 'Geezer' on the circuit. "If you look at Wellington there were so many positives for us.

"We improved our decision-making of how to move the ball and when, our body positions in the tackle and the way we cleaned out the ruck area.

"It is a case of slowly, slowly, softly, softly but there is a belief building within the squad.

"They are all working really hard, especially when you consider that they are amateurs. From 6 until 9 in the morning they are doing conditioning, then they are off to school or work before training again at 4pm."

One specific area in the side Friday is keen to develop is that of playmaker. It is a role he did well in himself during his days on the pitch, while he then helped mentor Simon Amor.

However he admits it could take some time to find Kenya's equivalent of New Zealand's Tomasi Cama - the 2012 IRB Sevens Player of the Year.

"You can see the potential, with the pace and power in the side, so it is a case of working on the structure and the game knowledge. They also lack a Tomasi Cama, that little guy to pull the strings and give the game tempo."
Mike Friday

"Having spent five years commentating and analysing I couldn't understand why they weren't doing better, but having been involved I can know understand," said Friday.

Potential

"You can see the potential, with the pace and power in the side, so it is a case of working on the structure and the game knowledge. They also lack a Tomasi Cama, that little guy to pull the strings and give the game tempo.

"We have a couple of young lads coming through who have potential but it takes time to get that knowledge and understanding.

"Having someone like that, a 'pocket computer' to move the chess pieces around the pitch, is the holy grail for Sevens coaches, though."

While Kenya's involvement on the series remains his main focus, Friday admits that the Olympics - with Sevens set to take its place in Rio in 2016 - are very much on his mind.

"I have aspirations for the Olympics. Whether that is with Team GB or Kenya is all dependent on what is worked out," he added.

"However I needed to show the world I could still do it at the coal face. I've nothing to prove on the Series circuit unless it was to get a chance at the Olympics."

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