Just another personal weblog.
Category Archives: Rugby
According to the analysis of the latest IRB statistics on the “Super Rugby Tips” blog, there are currently 1.4 million registered players in the U.S.A.
Coming originally from Wales, a country with a 100+ year history of playing the game, I’m kind of impatient for the sport to really take off here. Sure its popular, but it is certainly no where near Major League popular. Not even Minor League popular – mind you, being in the city that is home to a Minor League baseball team, the Dayton Dragons, that regularly sells out it’s 8000+ capacity stadium may skew that assertion, somewhat! There are pockets of support around the country that might maintain such levels of attendence, but they are few and far between.
When it comes to the domestic competition, the focus seems to be on the Territories. Whilst the basic premise of league play in the Fall and a playoff style championships in the Spring is a great set-up, I think we’d be better off with more focus on State-level championships in the Fall. Of course this, in itself presents problems, as a team in Cincinnati, for example, would likely prefer the short trips to Lexington and Louisville in Kentucky than cross-State trips up to Toledo or Cleveland. But the bragging rights to being the best in Ohio, would be great incentive to make those kinds of changes to a team’s travelling schedule.
There could still be a Territorial playoff system in place, but due to the window of opportunity for play, outside of the bitter Winters and broiling Summers that various teams have to deal with – most States encounter one or the other, if not both of these extremes of seasons – I really think it should be skipped for a seeded State Champ vs. State Champ setup.
Again, geography is a powerful force here, as it is conceivable that a team from Hawaii could be drawn to play a team in Maine, neither of which might be able to afford – maybe a “slush fund” from some large corporate sponsor(s) could be used to subsidize playoff travel? – or really want to put the time and effort into arranging – with most teams having an amateur, low-budget set-up it could be easy for a team, (especially one from a smaller State, where there could be less competition), to fall into a mentality of “What’s the point? If we lose we traveled all that way for nothing and if we win we might have to make another trip like this!”.
One way to offset this could be for the various governing bodies to encourage the use of the Spring seasons by non-playoff teams for travelling as supporters of their State Champion. Maybe this is a personal preference, though, as, finances allowing, I would happily travel to Alaska to watch our State Champion take on theirs, or take the road-trip from Dayton to wherever our State Champion might be hosting another. Of course, in another rugby fantasy of mine, that State Champion would be based in Dayton, but that could be a blog for another time!
Initially, I wondered, what if we could get The Rock to participate in some kind of exhibition or league game, even if it was only for one half or one quarter, but then my idea quickly progressed into a Celebrity Barbarians side for an exhibition/charity game, or two. I’m sure that twenty three celebrities who have played a little rugby could be found, even without including any foreign nationals who are known in the US. This idea then morphed into the idea of a US Celebrity Barbarians vs. Foreign-born US Celebrity Barbarians charity game.
Personally, I think that right now, any of these ideas, if implemented, would bring in some publicity for the game of rugby union in the United States, but hey, I’m just a fan who believes the United States Eagles should be one of the top rugby international representative squads in the world and who wants the game to grow in this country…
Back in 2005/06, those in charge of USA Rugby sent out an email to all its members, talking about how they got some sports guru-types to come in and help make some future plans, and wanted the opinions and ideas from the US ruggers, refs, etc.
I’m not going to c&p the whole thing, just the interesting bit, so, here were my responses:
Have you any additional views and visions for the game in the U.S.?
i) The LAU’s should be broken down into a League structure, rather than Conferences – i.e. all of the teams from a Division are in the same league.
ii) This new League structure would require a re-structuring of the Domestic Season with the relegation/promotion of teams at the end of each.
iii) A knock-out domestic Cup competition, running in parallel with the Domestic Season.
iv) Set up a tiered professional system akin to the Major and Minor Leagues in baseball or the AFL/af2 in Arena football.
v) The LAU’s play a Six Nations-style competition at the mid-point of each domestic season.
I have a few pages of notes on what I think would be a good restructuring of rugby in the US that I’ll be sure to put into a blog entry sometime soon.
What are the short term priorities which USA Rugby should focus on (in the next four years)?
i) Getting the infrastructure at the “grass roots” level right.
ii) Ensuring that the targets imposed upon us by accepting the IRB’s funding of High Performance etc., are reached, if not surpassed, in order to secure future IRB funding.
ii) is probably irrelevant, by now!
What long-term priorities should USA Rugby focus on (next 10 years)?
i) Having more US players play with teams overseas.
ii) Having more non-US players playing with the domestic clubs.
iii) Regularly hosting tours by sides from Tier I Unions.
iv) Regular tours, by the International sides, of Tier I Unions.
v) Consistently obtaining qualification for the Rugby World Cup.
A good balance of i) & ii). I would add to v) “…[for], and progression to the knock-out stages of, [the]…
What are the key factors which will assist USA Rugby to achieve its goals?
i) Focus on the goals and the fact that the changes and improvements will be gradual processes.
ii) Communication between the different aspects and levels of the game, within the United States.
iii) Measurable progress towards the goals.
What are the key issues which USA Rugby needs to address if it is to be successful?
i) Clubs need to become more professional.
This will not go down well with a lot of players, as they play purely for recreation, but it needs to happen for the game to progress here in the United States. The more recreational player should always find a place to play in the “B” side, or Clubs might set up specifically recreational sides.
ii) Those involved at the lower levels need to feel that the “Powers That Be” are listening to them and, ultimately, have their interests in mind when making any plans and decisions about the game here in the United States.
iii) The lack of qualified Coaches and Refereeing Staff.
I’m afraid i) is a bit of bugbear of mine, especially when it comes to “my” club.
What is your vision for the game in your own area?
A single organization within the Dayton-Cincinnati-Columbus triangle, with its own stadium, training facilities, etc.
This is interesting, especially considering my previous blog entry around this subject!
What are the short term priorities for the game to develop in your area?
iii) Qualified Coaching and Administrative Staff.
What are the key factors which will assist the game to grow in your area?
i) As mentioned before, the results need to be visible.
ii) Also, as mentioned before, the “Powers That Be” need to show they are listening to the “Little Man”.
Continued exasperation with either of these factors will lead to people leaving the game and not returning or recommending it to others.
Again, same old.
So, those were my ideas and thoughts back then, and not a whole lot has changed, in my mind.
This past October, Bruce McLane wrote an article at the RugbyMag.com website suggesting that “We Don’t Have To Be Minnows“, when it comes to the sport of rugby, on a global scale, and makes some suggestions, as a fix.
Basically, his theory is this: pick 50 or so ruggers at every level and concentrate on their development.
Its a feasible and sensible plan.
I was born in Wales, who sit at number 8 in the IRB’s rankings, (compared to the USA‘s number 17), at the time of writing. Wales is not a big country, in fact their population is less than that of thirty of the United States!
Lets have a look at some figures, then…
Number Of Registered Players: 50,557
Population (est. 2010): 3,006,400
%age of population: 1.68
Number Of Registered Players: 88,151
%age of population: 0.03
So, as you can see, the United States already has more registered players than Wales. Also, for the USA to get to the point where it has 1.68% of its population playing rugby, we would need 5,241,948 registered players!
My point is that we already should not be minnows, but a dominant force, in world rugby. With some of the recent announcements of the professionalization of parts of the game, at a National level, by USA Rugby, the Utah Warriors heading into their second season and the 7’s game being made an Olympic sport with a debut in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, now, the whispers are getting louder and slowly a fully professional rugby set up is not some fanciful, pie-in-the-sky idea of a few visionaries…
As a Welshman who emigrated to, (and became a Citizen of), the United States, I’m in the lucky position of having two countries I can throw my support behind, in the international arena.
Right now the competition that ends in the presentation of the Webb Ellis Trophy is about half-way through.
The “Pool” stage is over now and the top two teams from each Pool moved through to the next round, (the Quarter-Finals). The teams finished like this:
The Quarter-Final results were:
Ireland 10-22 Wales
England 12-19 France
South Africa 9-11 Australia
New Zealand 33-10 Argentina
This means the Semi-finals shape up like this…
Semi-final Two: 16 October
Australia v New Zealand
(Eden Park, Auckland, 0400 EST)
Unfortunately, the USA won’t be taking any further part. Its one of the perplexing questions of USA Rugby: why don’t they do better?
I’ll put forth my thoughts on that, and maybe even some ideas on how to change the situation, in future blog entries.