Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
by Ted Hardy
Before I am inundated with tasks this morning, I found a small window of opportunity to crank out some thoughts. So much has been or is going on right now it is hard to focus on one or two items. Instead, let’s go for a run through recent events.
Rugby World Cup
The World Cup is nearly over and they are down to four teams left. Can the All Blacks erase the demons of their past or will they be haunted by another semifinal collapse? On the other side of the bracket, Wales has reached their first World Cup semifinal and I’m betting they’d love a Webb Ellis Cup to place beside their 7’s World Cup trophy that they surprisingly picked up a couple years back.
As for the Eagles, they played with a lot of heart. They won the game they were supposed to win and were only blown out once. They gave both Ireland and Italy tough games, but the outcomes were never in doubt. For every ounce of passion they put into playing defense, they were missing the same enterprise on offense. I’m not sure where the Eagles go from here. Four years of buildup and hype from Boulder wasn’t enough to balance the massive amount of funds sunk into the Eagles. I am very proud of the team, but will not hesitate to say that they are not the key to tapping into the American sports system.
College 7’s National Championship
What a mess. Two months since the announcement and there are still no concrete details on where the tournament is being held? Maybe Texas… maybe Florida? Are you kidding me? As I’ve said before, this tournament should have been locked and loaded waiting for the IOC to rubber stamp rugby as an Olympic sport. Instead we are now two years past the Olympic announcement and all college rugby gets is this? Absolute garbage USA Rugby… garbage I say. Everyone knows that you have put everything you have into the Eagles and bringing back one win from New Zealand, but you don’t have to make it this obvious.
CPD… err Division I-A
In the least surprising announcement in a long time, the Collegiate Premier Division is doing what most people thought they should have done in the first place… name their competition Division I-A. Per USA Rugby, this was to align rugby with other college sports. Suprise, surprise. Anyhoo, Division I will now be called Division I-AA. Division I-A is also down to 26 teams with the Mid-South Conference being the hardest hit in the offseason moves. Both Tennessee and LSU dropped out of the Mid-South to pursue a title in the newly formed Southeastern Rugby Conference.
Pan Am Games
The USA 7’s team is just a couple weeks from playing in the Pan Am Games and this marks their first foray into an Olympic level event. The Eagles are one of the favorites, but honestly… they better be surrounded by the weaker teams in this region of this world. Argentina and Canada will be the USA’s big competitors for gold at the games to be held in Mexico. Canada and Argentina are pooled together, so the USA should be able to breeze through pool play and get a good seed for the elimination rounds. Bringing home gold from the Pan Am Games would be a big boost heading into the IRB World Series season, but it is going to be tough. The USA may be the only team in Mexico that isn’t participating in a pre-tournament event.
The lack of pre-tournament warmups proved to be a difficult obstacle for the team to overcome last season as they struggled for most of the IRB season. Headed into an important event like the Pan Am Games, one can’t help but wonder why USA Rugby couldn’t come up with $20K to send them to a tournament? Bringing home gold might be worth well more than that when the USOC starts handing out funding for the next Olympic cycle.
Based on the tournament field, the USA should come back with at least a bronze medal and USA Rugby will inevitably tout that as a major achievement even though everyone else will know that anything less than gold or silver is a disappointment.
Well, work is starting to pile up. Until next time… peace.