Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
by Ted Hardy
I’m not a fan of the IRB rankings and I rarely, if ever, post any content regarding them. I think they carry very little weight and the way in which they are compiled leaves something to be desired. However, I felt it was a good time to give the rankings a bit of light that it is a World Cup year, the mounting displeasure with USA Rugby, and the groundswell of people calling for our national teams to be self funded.
As expected, Tonga leapfrogged USA into 16th in the IRB World Rankings following their lopsided 44-13 victory against the Eagles in the Churchill Cup after gaining 1.55 rating points.
With just a few months remaining until the 2011 World Cup, the USA is going in the opposite direction of teams that they once called their equals. Teams such as the above mentioned Tonga, as well as our North American counterparts Canada, Japan, and even Georgia.
This free fall comes at a time when the Eagles have more funding and overseas professionals than at any other time in the team’s history. Once (and still) heralded as the “way forward” for the USA at the international level, placing players in professional setups has failed to yield the results expected.
While we cannot ever overlook the merits, experience and value of having players play professionally overseas, we must also remain cognisant that perhaps it is not the true solution to our international shortcomings.
Aside from passing success, the only way to provide the proper foundation for the future is the redirection of funding from our national teams towards the youth and high school levels. This is vital for the sustained success of rugby in America. While our administration has chased hollow international rewards over the past four years, opportunities have been missed domestically.
Romania gained .23 rating points for their 13-11 victory against Namibia in the Nations Cup, but this was not enough to move ahead of USA, who lost 1.55 rating points after their defeat to Tonga, into 17th. With Romania hot on their heels, the USA is in danger of falling further in the rankings if they lose to 19th ranked Russia in their final Churchill Cup game.
In the other Churchill Cup match to effect the Rankings Canada defeated Russia 34-18, although neither side’s positions altered. Canada began the match four places above their opponents and despite gaining .59 rating points from their victory, this was not enough to lift them above Georgia in 14th.