LONDON, U.K. — Carlin Isles admitted he has felt like the forgotten man of the Sevens circuit as he prepares to remind the watching world that he has lost none of his pace or ability.
With Perry Baker, the current World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, not travelling to London as he continues his rehabilitation from a shoulder injury, Isles, 28, should play a starring role for the United States at Twickenham this weekend.
An horrific run of injuries — that included a torn ACL and meniscus, a broken arm and two high ankle sprains — coupled with the emergence of Baker, has taken the fastest player in rugby out of the limelight.
Isles conceded his time in rehab had left him feeling like he had been “swept underneath the rug” but having scored 35 tries during the current World Rugby Sevens Series, second only to Baker, he is ready to take centre stage once again.
“I know who I am and I know that I still have this talent — I haven’t gone anywhere! I just felt like I’ve been pushed under the rug by people, and it hurts a little bit,” he told ESPN. “Kudos to Perry because he’s a hell of an athlete and I love having him on my team. But for me I just want to say ‘don’t forget about me’.”
Isles added: “I don’t think people realised about my injuries because I’ve barely played in the last two years. When I was dealing with my injuries I wasn’t there, so my face wasn’t seen and Perry comes in and explodes on the scene.
“That’s what you get and kudos to him, I’m glad because he deserves it. But because of that and people not knowing where I was at a lot, people are like ‘Carlin’s not around so we just move on’.
“I’m like ‘Hey, nah. I’m still Carlin, I’m still the person you was cheering for when I first got on the scene and I’ve still got that ability’.
“The one thing about me is that I haven’t even tapped into my full potential. So it’s a big opportunity for me to keep showcasing my ability, who I am and what I can do.”
The loss of Baker is a blow for coach Mike Friday and his U.S. squad, but Isles insisted that they would be able to cope having played for a chunk of the season without several influential players, including captain Madison Hughes and Maka Unufe.
“It’s a blow but we have good skill sets across the team,” he said. “We had to deal with Madison our captain being out for a while, and Maka was out, so we’ve been having to step up from a players’ perspective.
“Of course we wish Perry was here because he has such great potential and [makes a] difference.
“We’ve just got to step it up and fulfil those roles that we need to do in order to do well.”
With July’s Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco looming into view, Isles admitted that the U.S. would use London and the season finale in Paris, in part, as a “stepping stone” to their home tournament as they finalise their preparation.
For now, though, the fastest man in rugby is focused solely on enjoying his favourite stop on the circuit. Isles, a keen photographer, spent Thursday afternoon taking in the sights and sounds of London’s Oxford Street with his prized digital camera.
“I love playing in London, I love being in London. So, I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
“It’s playing at Twickenham, I love that pitch, and it’s also the architecture here, the environment here. I just like it. It’s different from a lot of the stops that we go to.”