NEW YORK , NY – As we learned yesterday, I’m just back from the future and ready to share with you the names of those whom will have a breakthrough season and who will be on the verge of a breakthrough year in Rugby 2012. I poached the idea from a Hip-Hop magazine that names its class of 2012… Part I covered Players & Clubs, predominantly in the USA. Today, we’ll look at the RWU’s 2012 Rising Stars In Rugby: Part 2… Coaches & Management:
Mike Tolkin – Why is he on this list, you ask? An obvious answer would be that he has Head-Coached his Xavier High School team to a few High School Championships, while simultaneously guiding his Super League NYAC to two National titles. On top of that, he was Eddie O’Sullivan’s Defensive Coach for Team USA, whose defensive performance vs Ireland in the Rugby World Cup on 9/11 is the stuff of legend. He is about to have a breakthrough because he is our Bookie’s Favorite (5/8) to become the next USA Head Coach. There has not been an American coach of the USA Rugby team since Tom Billups years from 2001-2006. In that time the game has changed with more professionals and foreign US Men’s National Team coaches have had mixed success. However, Tolkin’s success at both HS and Super League levels have him well-connected and able to understand the US rugby landscape. The only thing that might stop him is the perceived bias about both the 15s and 7s coach (Al Caravelli) coming from the same region but same club.
Dan Payne – If you have you ear to the ground in the USA rugby scene you may remember San Diego State making some noise a couple of years back and playing some good rugby. Then it went kind of quiet. The reason it went quiet is because the Payne Train left SDSU and went to Atlanta to oversee the beginning of Life’s college division program and the Super League side. Results are Life U claim First-ever USA Rugby College Sevens Crown and Eastern Conference Super League Champions in 2011. Oh, and he was also an Assistant coach on the RWC USA team. He may put some heat on Tolkin for the USA position but people are expecting him to focus on Life U a little longer.
Paul Keeler – Keeler is than man that denied Payne a Super League title, winning last year’s final. He is also the USA A (USA B-side) rugby coach. He has a winning pedigree on both coasts. He led Old Blue to a semi and quarterfinal in 2006 and 2007 respectively. He expects to repeat as Super League Champion and has his eye on the full men’s national team position.
Heyneke Meyer – Meyer is the new head coach of the Bokke aka the South African Men’s National Team. There are very few coaching jobs that come with as much pressure as coaching SA. You have political issues such as transformation (affirmative action in the SA Rugby sense) which affect squad selection to match-day selection. You then have to find a new forward to captain the side, I say forward because outside of Percy Montgomery and Joost Van Der Westhuizen, Bok Captains in the Pro Era (going back a bit further) have been a forward. The captain selection will affect the team selection as you try and get young players in and grow the team. This must all be done while dealing with the fierce cultural or province bias that affects all SA rugby, which Heyneke is well aware of having been a coach and making his name at the Blue Bulls province. You sure you want that job dude??
USA Rugby College Director – Up until Tuesday of this week, I was going to say Todd Bell. However Todd stepped down earlier this week and no one can confirm if he was pushed or he jumped. What I do know is that the heat on this chair is enough to make the devil sweat. We have the CPL, the CRC, the planned conference set-up and alignment along all NCAA sports. This is an exciting and anxious time in the US college scene, because no one knows how it will end.
Geographical Union – Get use to the term GU. It will replace a term such as the LAU (Eastern Penn RFU) and the TU (Mid-Atlantic RFU). USA Rugby is currently tired of having so many LAUs and then the layer known as TUs so they are going to condense and make 16 GUs. It is going to be a tough yet interesting process. It has allowed LAUs like New England RFU to begin the process and go from a LAU to its own GU. The tricky part will be turning two multiple LAUs into one GU, New York State RFU and Metro-NY RFU have the pleasure of being the first to try out that formation. You heard it here first!!
Ian Ritchie – No he is not related to Guy Ritchie as far as I know. He is one to watch because he begins his reign as the CEO of the English RFU this year and he has a massive mess to clean-up. There is Rob ‘Squeaky” Andrews looking to slit throats and stay at the RFU, the Clubs are at war with the RFU for more money, amateur level orgs feel under-appreciated, it is a hot mess that I am not sure anyone can solve. They did an independent report recommending 90 changes and maybe 5 were done and the rest to be reviewed. Good luck Ian old chap and keep a stiff upper lip and all that.
Welcome to the future. You are more than welcome to debate this with me in the comments section. Next week we’ll look at Europe’s Rising Stars.