Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
Yesterday, RugbyRugby ran an editorial piece from an American living in the land of the long white cloud who was jolted by comments by former Eagles Head Coach, Peter Thorburn, in a Kiwi rugby magazine called Rugby News .
The writer focused on what Thorburn had to say about American rugby. Here goes. If you’re sensitive… please look away. Just kidding, it’s really not that bad.
Rugby News: You obviously retain an interest in US rugby. Do you feel the likes of Nigel Melville and Kevin Roberts can push the USA up into the top tier or will this be a long process?
Thorburn: It will take them longer than they think. Inherently, (Americans) haven’t grown up with rugby. We take in everything to do with the game, whereas they haven’t got that database, so in the heat of the game they fall apart. They play an anaerobic, single-task, coach-driven game. Rugby is the antithesis of that now. Their aerobic conditioning needed to get up because your skills are the first to go when you’re tired, and their skills were shit anyway. In more than 300 players I looked at over there, I haven’t seen a single competent left footed kicker, and most of the kickers over there are ex-pats. The Superleague competition was rubbish last season. Players can get away with not training as hard or working on their skills as much, especially if they are in one of the stronger teams.
But Roberts wouldn’t put his name to something he didn’t think could work and Nigel Melville has done a lot of good work in getting the competitions right, even with two seasons and the east-west thing.
These comments really aren’t surprising and I’m guessing most out there know he’s telling the truth. Yes, the truth hurts sometimes, but it’s still the truth. Thorburn is a knowledgable rugby man and he knows hit sh*t (pardon the pun) and he doesn’t candy coat his words. It was one of the things I actually liked about him. He’s very blunt about his assessment of USA Rugby, but I bet the bank that he was telling Boulder these things all along and we are seeing progress. It was no coincidence that USA Rugby hired a known skills coach in Scott Johnson to take the helm of the Eagles.
Top to bottom the skills in the USA are not strong. You know it, I know it, and rugby nations around the world know it. The only way to improve it is to have better coaching and to start our players young and bring their skills along gradually. For all of the work done at the elite level, there is no way to ingrain 20+ years worth of skills in players that have only been playing rugby for a few years. Youth rugby is the key. It is growing leaps and bounds in America and it may take some more time, but in the next decade we’ll see Eagles that have grown up in the game. That can only be a great thing for rugby here in the USA.
Thorburn’s comments on the Super League along with a probing article over at Gainline led to alot of pot shots taken at the Super League. I’m a fan of the RSL. Anyone who has been following my site since I launched a couple months back knows that. I enjoy the competition for what it is. I don’t pretend it’s a professional league or even the gateway to a professional league. A professional rugby league is going to happen sometime, but it will be city based and it will come from a different avenue. As it stands now the RSL is our top domestic competition and it’s unfortunate that more people don’t give it a chance or at least cut them some slack. Some serious PR work is needed on that front though. At the end of the day it is still an amateur competition. Could it be a better competition? Without a doubt and if the RSL is going to step it up a notch, then tough decisions will have to be made in their camp.
I’ll be back tomorrow with my RSL Playoff Quarterfinal predictions. It’s not too late to get in on the RSL Playoff Bracket Challenge. It only takes a couple minutes to make your picks and send them to me.