BOULDER, CO – We are extremely fortunate to have USA Rugby’s CEO & President, Nigel Melville, take time out of his schedule for us.
RWU: Mr. Melville, thanks for taking a moment with us, we know you’re time is limited.
NM: No problem, happy to respond in this way.
RWU: Some big doings as USA Rugby are under way, including the contracting of players and filling Eddie O’Sullivan’s spot as the Head Coach of the 15s program. Let’s start with the player contracts. From our understanding, there are 15 players contracted for the Men and 8 for the women. Why isn’t the number the same?
NM: The number was agreed to based on the 2012 schedules for the teams. The men have 10 events in 2012, the women’s program, a maximum of 5. The women were awarded extra money to support the team’s travel and accommodation at events, the men’s events are covered by the IRB and tournament hosts. I am sure the USOC will fund further players in 2013 as the women’s competition evolves into a similar circuit to the men’s.
RWU: Are some of these players going to play 15s and 7s?
NM: Yes, a number of the contracted players will play 15’s and 7’s.
RWU: For those playing both, which squad takes priority?
NM: The schedules do not conflict, so there is no need to prioritize at this point.
RWU: What is the salary allotted to the players, male and female, and what does that include in terms of living arrangements, utilities, food, transportation, etc.???
NM: We don’t declare salaries, but the payments to the athletes are a combination of USOC Direct Athlete support and USA Rugby funding. The players live off-site at the Olympic Training Center but have all their food, support services and training at the center. This includes coaching + conditioning, nutrition, medical support, recovery, psychology etc..these player agreements mirror those of other Olympic Sports. Players also receive accident and medical insurance.
RWU: Are all players relocated to Chula Vista full-time once they are under contract and is the contract guaranteed?
NM: Yes, the player agreements are for a fixed term aligned to our annual funding, they will be under constant review and extended once we are comfortable that the athlete is progressing and maintaining their place in the squad.
RWU: Are the allowed to have jobs or another source of income?
NM: Yes, as long as this doesn’t conflict with the training schedule. There are some opportunities via the USOC and also educational opportunities.
RWU: Does the USOC or USA Rugby have to approve of any endorsement deals contracted players or are they free to do say, a Rugby Wrap Up commercial???
NM: No, the player does have certain sponsorship rights as an individual.
RWU: How do you handle players like Todd Clever and Chris Wyles, who are of obvious value but are contracted by Suntory Sungoliath and Saracens, respectively? Do they get contractual consideration?
NM: We are looking at younger domestic players to fill the spots, the money we are offering would not compare with a 15’s playing contract in say Japan or the UK. Obviously, if a player takes the decision to follow an Olympic pathway, we would be happy to consider them.
RWU: Let’s move to the Head Coaching search. How many candidates are left? When will you be announcing the new coach? Can you tell us who the finalists are and if not, at least give us a hint?
NM: We have created a short list for final interview, each candidate will present to the Board in Las Vegas on Saturday 11th February. A selection of the new Eagles head Coach will be made following these presentations.
RWU: Can you tell us who the finalists are and if not, at least give us a hint?
NM: No, I cannot give you a hint!
RWU: Will the new coach pick his own staff or will some of the staff be assigned by USA Rugby?
NW: Yes, the new coach will have a significant say in the selection of their support staff
RWU: Will the coach and his staff be considered full-time and have to relocate? Are they expected to give up their current jobs?
NM: The Head Coach will be full-time and will live full-time in the USA.
RWU: What has been the most telling aspect, in terms of the growth of rugby in the USA, that became apparent to you in the search for a new coach?
NM: We are developing the game on multiple levels and making excellent progress. The interesting thing about the coach search was that we received far more domestic applications than previously. This has to be encouraging, and the candidates I interviewed all had strong resumes and presented well.
RWU: What salary will the new coach receive and was the thought process this go round to take the substantial salary Eddie O’Sullivan earned and bring in a lesser-known coach, internationally, so that you could hire more staff?
NM: We don’t disclose individual salaries. We will hire the appropriate staff to get the job done, this has nothing to do with how much Eddie O’Sullivan was or wasn’t paid.
RWU: What was different about this searching process than the last one?
NM: Nothing really, we put pout the application, interviewed a broad list of applicants and moved to a short list. The only difference is that the final short list will present for 30 minutes directly to the Board of Directors on a list of selected topics about how they would approach the task ahead.
RWU: We’ll be in Vegas for the Vegas 7s with you. How about announcing/introducing the new Head Coach with our correspondent Matt McCarthy live in the stadium? We promise you can collect on the pints we owe you.
NM: We may announce at Las Vegas, we may not.
RWU: Thank you, Nigel. We look forward to seeing you in Vegas and let’s finally get your dashing mug on-camera with Johnathan Wicklow Barberie.
NM: Ah ha…
Please feel free to comment below and be sure to tune in tomorrow for England star Mathew Drew Turner’s report from Wellington 7s.