T HERE is much excitement over the pace of new Glasgow Warriors winger Carlin Isles.
The former American footballer and US Eagles sevens player is undeniably quick and is as exciting a talent to hit rugby in Scotland for some time.
Successful transition from track and field to rugby and gridiron is rare, however, and before we get carried away, we must remind ourselves that Isles is not big for either ball game. He has already opted out of gridiron, and at 5ft 8in and 11st 7lb he is well below the average weight even of the international rugby winger.
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Scotland's wingers against Wales last weekend were Max Evans and Dougie Fife, 13st 12lb and 14st 2lb respectively. George North, who scored two tries against Scotland in Cardiff, weighs 17st 2lb. Yet Shane Williams, at 5ft 7in and 12st 8lb, was one of the best Welsh wingers and is their third-highest tryscorer.
Isles proved his pace with nearly 30 tries in 14 sevens tournaments for the US national team. Many were breathtaking, but sevens hardly equates to bleak and muddy XV-a-side at Scotstoun in winter. The jury will remain out meantime.
Look no further than Niko Matawalu, the Fijian flyer who arrived to vociferous praise and scored nine tries in 22 matches for the Warriors, but has been less than impressive recently.
Eric Liddell, Scotland's Olympic 400 metres legend, played on the wing seven times for Scotland, scoring four tries in the 1920s. Fast-forward to Nigel Walker, who represented Britain in the semi-finals of the sprint hurdles at the 1984 Olympics. He had the beating of a young Colin Jackson (future world record-holder) and placed fourth in the European Championships before switching to rugby where he scored 12 tries in 17 appearances for Wales. His playing weight was 12st 6lb.
George McNeill, the Tranent sprinter who but for having played professional football with Hibernian, might have challenged Valeriy Borzov for Olympic 100m gold in 1972, tried rugby league with Barrow. A victory over Black Power US Olympic champion Tommie Smith highlighted his pace, but McNeill opted out after a single match and is recalled simply with amusement in league circles.
Elliott Bunney was European junior 100m champion and a member of the GB 4 x 100m quartet which won Olympic silver in Seoul. His best wind-legal time (10.20) was faster than that of Isles. Herioter Bunney matched Liddell's catalogue of Scottish sprint titles, but when he opted to play rugby he had been too long steeped in track. Though a decent player, there was no chance of him emulating Liddell. He did represent Edinburgh district at XV-a-side, and was listed for the national sevens side, but never made it into competitive action.
Isles is credited with 10.24 and 10.13 with a 3.2 metres-per-second tailwind. Rugby publicists are wont to quote 10.13 without mentioning the wind speed. These times were in 2012 and the same publicists are wont to tout him as having had Olympic potential for London. In reality, he ranked equal 32 (with three other athletes) in the US during 2012.
However, Isles did cover 40 yards in 4.22 in a gridiron workout before being signed by Detroit Lions. And that is considered very impressive in that sport.
Wide receiver Bob Hayes (1964 100m champion) became a grid superstar - the only Olympic champion to win a Superbowl ring - but Renaldo Nehemiah, first man to break 13 seconds for 110m hurdles made little impact with the San Francisco 49ers. He is regarded as their then coach's worst signing. Lawrence Okoye, the British Olympic discus finalist in 2012, is now with the 49ers. Injuries prevent fans offering a verdict on him.
Watch rugby players and sprinters. Their actions are different. The rugby player, because he needs to change direction, must be able to move off either foot. So he carries his hips lower. The sprinter aims to maintain high hip carriage, but that is difficult in field sports.
We wish Isles well, but this transition is a big ask.
And another thing
The International Festival of Athletics Coaching (IFAC) from which scottishathletics has withdrawn support this year, has found a new home under the aegis of the Italian National Olympic Committee. The European Athletics Coaches Association confirm it will move to Rome. It will be held there from October 31 to November 2.
In reporting that the Scottish governing body questioned the continuing relevance of the IFAC conference for Scots (despite an annual attendance of some 200 Scottish coaches) we expressed disappointment that a prestigious event calculated to raise the profile of coach education here was being abandoned, blighting legacy hopes.
The calibre of speakers and workshop leaders was exceptional. However, the outgoing Scottish director of coaching, Stephen Maguire, has already moved to plug the gap. This weekend Glasgow's Emirates hosts a national coach development seminar.
In addition to Toni Minichiello, the long-time mentor of Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill (and a frequent IFAC contributor), speakers will include former Commonwealth 5000m champion Rob Denmark and former world junior javelin champion David Parker. Also attending is the Scottish institute's head strength and conditioning coach, Phil Moreland. The event is free to scottishathletics coaches.
Nigel Holl, their chief executive, was bullish yesterday about the future of the sport and the appointment of Maguire's successor.
We trailed the coaching director's departure to UKA some weeks ago, though sources within the governing body said they had no knowledge of his impending move. However, scottishathletics categorically deny having stated at that time that they were unaware of overtures from UKA to their director of coaching. Senior staff had been aware of his possible departure for some time.