Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
Well, there hasn’t been much to talk about this past week. Not a whole lot of news came out of Melville’s meeting with SANZAR. It sounds like SANZAR will be deliberating over the next month or so before making a descision as to where they want to go with the Super 14.
In the meantime, the NA4 kicks off in a couple days. Yes, I know that the Canadian sides already played a match like two months ago, but that made no sense to me. In the match Canada West beat the East Canadians 20-15. But the NA4 really kicks into gear in a couple days as the new look USA sides square off against each other in Oregon.
This year’s NA4 squads from the USA are closer to what everyone had envisioned for the compeitition as more young players are getting their shot to open up some eyes around USA Rugby. Both rosters are filled with young talent, former age grade players, and Collegiate All-Americans. I think this is a great thing indeed as this is the crop of players that needs to be identified and groomed. More than a few of these guys could be Eagles come the 2011 World Cup and they need to be sorted out now. But, I understand why USA Rugby did what they did with the lineups the last two years. Eagles players just weren’t getting enough action together and with the World Cup on the horizon they had little choice but to use Eagles on the NA4 squads.
Also in a change from the last two years, USA Rugby has regionalized the two teams… well mostly. We now have the West Falcons and the East Hawks. If USA Rugby was planning on tapping into the East/West rivalry that exists in the USA, they haven’t really done much to promote it. Being the first season with the new shape, it wouldn’t have mattered much anyways, but it would be nice to see some propaganda thrown around to incite the rivalry. Hey, maybe even some merchandise out there. I like the idea of the East/West rivalry building as we all know the rivalry already exists throughout the other divisions of USA Rugby. Why not tap into those feeling?
The two squads should make for some interesting matches and were it not for the All-American tour to New Zealand, there are at least a few of those guys that I would have liked to see playing in the NA4. Even though the top Eagles are not on the rosters, there are still plenty of Eagles floating around. All of which need the work that they’ll get in the NA4. Most notably the second rows in the Eagle pool. I think everyone sees this as an area that needs to greatly improve, so they will all get to work things out in the NA4. I look for Louis Stanfill of the Falcons to see some time in the second row. He is a superb back row player, but may have gotten the squeeze based on the depth in the back row for the Eagles. All eyes will also be on the hookers for both squads. The Eagles desperately need to sort out the position and this will be a golden opportunity for some of these guys to put their hands up.
The Falcons and Hawks open up their tournament on Thursday at Mount Hood College in Oregon. Interestingly enough, the schedule from the NA4 website has the East Hawks listed as the home team. That is a long way to travel for a home game. Ehh… it’s a work in progress folks. On a very positive note, 80% of the ticket sales from the match will go back to Rugby Oregon to help promote youth rugby in the state.
After their match in Oregon the two squads head off to the great white north to get their first action against the Canadian sides. Then they’ll return back to US soil for the finals which will be held at Glendale’s infinity Park. The finals will be on the Rugby Channel through MediaZone, but no mention has been made of the pool play rounds. Hopefully they’ll at least be on the USA Rugby Network for everyone to see.
So, who you gonna root for? The East Hawks, the West Falcons, nobody? C’mon… you have to root for someone. Me, I’m going with the Hawks. I think the Falcons might be a bit better though. Well find out over the next few weeks.
Here are the NA4 for rosters for the USA clubs.
2008 West Falcons
Errol Allard (Belmont Shore)
Naki Angilau ( Park City Haggis)
William Brazier (Old Blue)
Luke Council (Cal Poly/USA All-American)
Peter Dahl (Belmont Shore)
Jason Engelbrecht (Dallas Harlequins)
Vaha Esikia (Las Vegas)
Gary Golding (University of California/USA All American)
Mark Kernen (Belmont Shore)
Jon Kollerer (Olympic Club)
Saimone Laulaupeaalu (San Francisco Golden Gate)
Mark Litke (Old Puget Sound Beach)
Valenese Malifa (Belmont Shore)
Tyson Meek (Denver Barbarians)
Mate Moeakiola (Pukekohe, NZ)
Jone Naqica (San Francisco Golden Gate)
Zachary Pangelinan (Old Mission Beach Athletic Club)
Shawn Pittman (San Francisco Golden Gate/ USA U20)
Rikus Pretorius (University of California/USA All American)
Volney Rouse (San Francisco Golden Gate)
Derek Smith (Brigham Young University/USA All American)
Louis Stanfill (University of California/ USA All American)
Jared Wolfgramm (Belmont Shore)
Jesse Taylor (Santa Monica)
Mose Timoteo (San Francisco Golden Gate)
Tim Usasz (Nottingham)
2008 East Hawks
Phil Abraham (Chicago Lions)
Mark Aylor (Life University )
Justin Boyd (Dallas Harlequins)
Owen Collins (Boston Irish Wolfhounds)
Josh Dean (Air Force Men)
James Denise (New York Athletic Club)
Brian Doyle (NYAC)
Nathan Ebner (The Ohio State University/USA All American)
Michael Graham (Glendale Raptors)
Taylor Howden (Glendale Raptors)
Justin Hundley (NYAC)
Brian Lemay (Boston Irish Wolfhounds)
Nicholas Johnson (Denver Barbarians)
Travis Meidinger (Denver Barbarians)
Keikiokalani Misipeka (Pearl City)
Brian Olmes (Potomac Athletic Club)
Michael Petri (NYAC)
Patrick Quinn (Denver Barbarians)
Shawn Rafferty (NYAC)
Steven Sablan (PAC/USA U20)
Chad Slaby (Chicago Lions)
Brendan Thompson (Life University)
Phil Thiel (Life University)
John Van der Giessen (Denver Barbarians)
John Vitale (Chicago Lions)