Fastest man in rugby not slowing down

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman in Japan

Carlin Isles is the fastest man in rugby Sevens, and he says he won't be slowing down anytime soon.

Isles, who hasn’t lost hope of competing in both the athletics and Sevens at the Olympics, said rugby had actually improved his speed more than a childhood and professional stint as a sprinter.

The 28-year-old ran 10.16 sec over 100m in 2017 and 20.53 over 200m, marks that are just a shade outside Olympic qualifying times, and Isles feels he could top that now.

“Rugby has helped my speed honestly more than I did when I was running track full-time,” he said.

“Conditioning-wise, it's phenomenal and it's more anaerobic but the anaerobic ability to repeat back to back to back, really conditions you,” he said.

Carlin Isles is only getting quicker with age. Photo: Rugby Australia media“I ran PBs while training for rugby full-time, so the rugby aspect of the training is a lot different but it gets you in a way a lot more in shape and then I'm able to turn over a lot more too.

"I'm getting faster as I go on, because I'm just learning so much more than what I knew before."

Scheduling meant he missed the 2016 Olympic sprinting trials, but asked about the chances of competing in both of his pursuits one day, he was positive.

“Anything’s possible,” he said.

Though he regularly runs around defenders, Isles’s closest competition for speed may well be inside his own team, in the form of veteran Perry Baker.

Baker laments being somewhat past his peak, going from 4.3 to 4.5 seconds over 40 metres, saying simply, he ‘runs not be caught’ these days.

The 31-year-old doesn’t seem to have much trouble with that, still eluding plenty of his opponents around the World Series, though he conceded Isles might have his measure head-to-head now.

"We've never had a head to head race, we always challenge each other, though, in training sessions but never a full head-to-head race,"
 he said.

"I'm older now, they didn't want to race me when I was in my prime. I'm 31 now, I was in my prime when I was 26."

Perry Baker is still a major threat for USA. Photo: Rugby AU MediaBaker and Isles have long been the faces of the USA side, the viral stars who burn opponents with super speed and coach Mike Friday is quite happy to have it that way.

The pair rarely play a full tournament together, both having battled injuries, and often will play a tag-team role during games.

Though Friday said Isles had potential as a halfback further down the track, he’s happy to give opposition sides a dual threat to fear.

“So many people ask, well can the two finishers play together?’,” he said.

“Well, it's like anything - if you have two strikers in soccer, they often pick up the same parts of the pitch, which then means you lose a threat because it's the same threat.

“Right here, right now and the way I see them operating is (as) same but different threats on the outside channels and there's nothing worse than a winger having to defend Carlin, getting tired and then looking up and realising they've got the fresh one coming on and going 'oh my lord, you're kidding me.'

“Then it's about them, honing their skills and not just being reliant on the fact that they're quick men.”

Mike Friday has an embarrassment of speedy riches. Photo: Rugby Australia mediaAustralia will have the first crack at seeing off the American speed machines on Friday night, with the sides facing off in their opening pool match.

The Aussie men have a strong track record in their home tournaments and Friday said they’d be a threat again in 2018.

“Australia have always had the ability to raise their game at home,” he said.

“Every time they've ever come here with any team, they raise their game. we know what we have to do and where we're going to have to be if we want to compete and we know that if we can push and impose our game on them, then we can put them under pressure and then potentially that home advantage starts to ebb away but the emphasis is on us.”

The Sydney 7s kicks off on Friday January 26, running until Sunday January 28. Buy tickets here.