Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
As the Eagle 7’s squad prepares for the upcoming Adelaide 7’s this weekend, news comes out of Boulder that should make them smile.
In recent weeks, USA Rugby Chairman, Kevin Roberts has made mention of USA Rugby signing individual players to professional contracts through USA Rugby. One would automatically assume that those contracts were meant for 15’s players. With Todd Clever being the first player contracted by USA Rugby, the signs were pointing to moves that would benefit the 15’s squad, but also help the 7’s squad as well.
This week news comes from, USA Rugby CEO; Nigel Melville that the immediate focus will be on the 7’s squad and the 2009 7’s World Cup in Dubai. Not the Eagles 15’s squad. USA Rugby plans to have the entire 7’s squad signed to professional contracts by November of this year. After the 2009 7’s World Cup, the focus will turn to expanding the 15’s professional player base in order to prepare for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
While they are focusing on signing 7’s players to professional contracts, I’m sure that players that also play on the 15’s squad will be the first in line to get contracts as it gives immediate benefit to both squads and USA Rugby gets more bang for their bucks.
There is no doubt in my mind that Chris Wyles’ decision to stay here in the USA instead of returning to Europe to play was influenced by this plan. I expect Wyles to be the next player signed by USA Rugby, if he hasn’t already been.
The battle for the rest of the contracts will truly be that… a battle.
Eagles 7’s stalwarts will be pushed by a host of other 7’s hopefuls. I will not be surprised if some players, entirely new to rugby, end up battling for one or more of the contracts. In the end, it’s the 7’s squad that wins. The players will be able to dedicate themselves 100% to training and preparation instead of the balancing act that National team players have done for years. Everyone from sponsors on down to the fans will expect the results on the pitch to reflect the investment made.
Professionalizing the player base, even at the 7’s level, is a huge step for USA Rugby. While it’s not the professional league everyone has dreamed about, it’s a starting point and everything has to have a starting point.
With Adelaide being their last stop on the circuit this year, the Eagles will be looking to leave something for everyone to remember them by. If you throw out Dubai, the Eagles have gone 11-10-1 on the last four legs of the IRB 7’s Series. They’ll be looking to finish strong in order to get invitations to all eight IRB 7’s World Series events next year. After missing out on IRB points after a disappointing loss to Canada last weekend in Hong Kong, the Eagles will have their chance at revenge.
It won’t be easy for the Eagles though, as they have been drawn into a difficult pool with South Africa, the host team Australia, and arch rival Canada. The Eagles could go 2-1 in this pool, but could just as easily go 0-3. After last weekend, beating Canada will be an absolute must.