The speed freaks out to crash Australia's party
RUGBY UNION: Australia's men's team is staring down double trouble in its Sydney Sevens opener on Friday, as "race horses” Carlin Isles and Perry Baker champ at the bit for a rare opportunity to unleash their scary speed together on the same pitch.
Injuries have conspired to separate the United States speed freaks over the last two seasons but the twin threats are finally set to join forces on a fast Allianz Stadium surface, as former track star Isles declares himself quicker than ever.
Isles, dubbed the 'fastest man in rugby', has clocked an eye-watering 100m personal best of 10.13s, is close friends with American sprint stars Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman and has set himself the unlikely target of competing in both sevens and the track in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Baker, aka the 'Speed Stick', meanwhile, is the reigning world series player of the year after scorching in for a ridiculous 57 tries on the 2016-17 circuit.
"Coach (Mike Friday) just told me it's been a while since you and Carlin finished a tournament together,” Baker said after a training session at Leichardt Oval.
"When you think about it, either he's injured or I was injured, so we never got to finish a tournament, probably for like two years now.
"I'm itching just to go play.”
Isles, 28, grew up poor and in foster care, telling the Associated Press in 2016 that meals were so scarce that he would sometimes be forced to eat dog food.
A short, stocky sprinter and natural showman, Isles said he had never moved swifter as he continues to explore the possibilities of his craft through sports science.
"I'm in real good shape so I'm ready to put the hammer down and tear it up a little bit,” Isles said.
"For me, I'm always trying to find ways to get faster and get better.
"I'm getting faster as the years go on.
"I started sprinting when I was seventh or eighth grade and then ran track professionally.
"In 2016 I tried to make the Olympics but when I qualified for the Olympic trials I had camp for rugby so I told myself next time I'll try to do both at the Olympics.
"Anything's possible baby, come on.
"If it sets up right, I think track is a little bit after rugby (at the Olympics) so I think it can happen.
"(Sprinting is) all about angles and how to exuberate force into the ground the proper way.”
Isles joked that he was quicker than the nonetheless "phenomenal” Baker and revealed that he spoke "on a daily basis” with five-time Olympic medallist Gatlin.
"Gatlin does like his rugby actually, so we talk a little bit about it,” Isles said.
"He don't like the no pads aspect, a lot of people don't.
"They think we're crazy but they love the sport.”
While Isles came from a track background, the tall and lean Baker is a former gridiron wide receiver who ended up giving rugby a shot thanks to the persistence of a high school coach.
"I didn't know what rugby was, never heard of it so I just blew it off and then I ended up playing basketball in high school,” Baker said.
"He (the coach) came to one of my games like 'hey, I'm telling you, you can play rugby'.
"So I was like 'OK, I'll give it a shot'. And I fell in love with it, first training session I went to.”
Baker said the sky was the limit for rugby's potential in the US but the code needed to improve its visibility and accessibility, particularly in high schools on the east coast.
"It's a fun game, everyone loves it,” Baker said.
"There's not a person I've met who went to a tournament and haven't fallen in love with the game.”
The 2018 Sevens World Cup is being held in San Francisco and the timing of the tournament in July is a godsend for what is still a niche sport in the States.
"There's nothing else on the TV to watch (at that time),” Baker said.
"I mean you have baseball but that's really just getting going, football will be over, basketball is over, so the only thing to watch is rugby.
"So that will definitely help the game, to watch it on television and being there in the States.
"It's great for the game to grow and it's great for us to be there.”
Coach Friday, meanwhile, could barely hide his excitement at being able to unleash the twin turbos against the hosts as men's pool play opens on Australia Day.
"They're exceptional athletes, they're exceptional personalities and they're great characters,” Friday said.
"I align them to race horses, that's what they are.
"They're finishers, they're strikers, they're there to finish and they complement one another because they're different types of finishers.
"And there's nothing worse than a winger having to defend Perry or 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'.
"It's very exciting.”