Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
This past week, new Eagles Head Coach, Scott Johnson, has reiterated multiple times that they must discover an American way of playing rugby. Right off the bat the statement tells me that Johnson is coming into the job with a very open mind. Too many times, overseas coaches have come to America looking to push their style of play onto not just the Eagles, but American rugby players in general. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it does not. I’m really excited that Johnson is not only looking to improve the Eagles, but also find a style of play that suits the American athlete.
Now, onto the hard part. What is the American style of play? A better question is what should be the American style of play? Right now the Eagles do not have a particular style of play. They don’t play particularily physical, sometimes they attack, sometimes they play conservative, the set pieces have gotten better, and the do not have one specific specialty. Actually their style of play is a melting pot due to all of the foreign influence and guidance over the game in the USA. Hey, much like America in general.
The USA squad that won Olympic Gold in 1920 & 1924 used a very brutal style of rugby to win. They knew they were short on skills and figured that at the very least they’d give their opponents something to remember them by. Obviously the International game has changed in the last 80 or so years where every squad is now in peak physical condition, but I think there is something to using the raw physical talent of American athletes and building a style around it.
Scoring tries has also been a problem of late for the Eagles, so maybe they should try and have a “go” of it on offense. Maybe not the degree that Fiji would, but at the very least give the fans something to enjoy. This is another concept that can’t be ignored when developing an American style of rugby… the fans. The ultimate goals is to grow the game of rugby across the country so an entertaining product needs to be at the forefront of American rugby.
Hopefully they won’t develope a style around the current players, because we can’t reinvent our style every 5-10 years as players retire and new players come into the squad. This needs to be an all encompassing style that will be merely need to be tweaked over the years. The All Blacks play pretty much the same style regardless of who is wearing the jersey. Well, except when they get to the knockout stages of the World Cup… sorry, that was a cheap shot. Back to the subject. USA Rugby has to expect that more and more elite athletes are going to turn to rugby. The American style of rugby should reflect that. We have the best athletes in the world and should push the game in that direction. What does that mean? Above all else, the Eagles should be an incredibly physical and fit side. Every opponent they play should know that they are going to get roughed up for 80+ minutes when they’re playing the Eagles. Even in defeat the Eagles should be leaving a mark on their opposition.
As far as offensive and defensive schemes go, that’s for Scott Johnson and Nigel Melville to come up with. They know what they are doing and I feel confident that they are going to find the way.
What do you think of developing an American style of play?