NEW YORK, NY – After we named our 2013 European Rugby Players To Watch , we promised to give you the 2013 European Clubs, Coaches & Administrator To Watch. In case you still don’t know why we do this or where we got the idea, we poached the idea from a Hip-Hop magazine that named its class of 2012 in 2011. Today though, lets begin with our 2013 Clubs, Coaches & Management To Watch.
England – London Welsh (Aviva Premiership): They fought the law against promotion and they won. Now they are not only alive in the AP, they are winning games and are close to securing a second year in the top division in England. The Welsh have struck a balance between attacking nous and defensive rigour this season and have managed to surprise their naysayers. They are not a flashy outfit but the are getting the job done and can begin to start looking forward to a second season in the AP, and we expect the good times to keep on rolling.
Italy: Zebre (RaboDirect Pro 12): The Italian Rugby Federation finally decided to act in regards to its basement dwelling teams in the Pro 12. The FIR got rid of one side and started afresh. Zebre is essentially a franchise built for the purpose of developing Italian players. Subsidized by FIR it is trying to develop and create a competitive side. Early results have seen their fly-half Luciano Orquera help lead Italy to a victory over France in this season’s 6 nations.
France: Bernard Laporte (Toulon): Considering all his accomplishments including the improbable run to the 2007 RWC semis (defeating New Zealand in the process), it is a bit of a surprise see Mssr. Laporte here. However, as the head coach of Toulon he is under enormous pressure. He has an owner that makes Jerry Jones and George Steinbrenner seem like hands off kind of guys. He coaches a team full of stars with a massive payroll and yet in his first year they lost both the Amlin Challenge Cup and Top 14 final. All things considered that is not good enough.
England: Dean Richards (Newcastle): After the fake blood injury to replace a player for kicker incident, aka Bloodgate, Richards was banished from rugby for 3 years. Now, this season he will begin his road to redemption by starting out in The RFU Championship division (below the AP). His ability to lead and motivate were never in doubt, his tactical nous is what will be tested as he will have a far less talented side.
Scotland (Scott Johnson): Much like Stuart Lancaster last year, Johnson has the Interim tag attached to his name. Johnson was brought in to help sharpen the attacking skills of a blunt Scottish side. Soon after, he was given the Head Coach gig after Andy Robinson stepped down after a poor run of performances. So far under Johnson the Scots have scored more tries but will it continue? That is the question.
Wales RFU: They are trying to cut costs again and are considering contracting clubs. The fans are not turning out for a poor product in the Pro 12 and so it is either contract or use the Pro 12 for player development and accept the exodus to France. In addition, one of the sides that will possibly become defunct is the very successful Ospreys.
Ireland RFU: The most critical decision the IRFU will make this season is who will be the new head coach of Ireland. They could inexplicably extend Declan Kidney’s contract but more likely they will find a new coach. With all the province coaches now Kiwis, it looks like it will be a non-Irishman.
There is growing sentiment in French Rugby that the lack of cooperation between the LNR and the FFR is killing the game in France. The exceptionally long season, the overplaying of players and the abundance of Foreign mercenaries have all affected the national game in France. The LNR’s course of action from here will be very interesting.
And there you have it on this one… we will do a Southern Hemisphere Class of 2013 soon, so please look for it.
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