NEW YORK, NY – Last week, we gave you our 2015 USA Rugby Players To Watch as compiled by yours truly with the patience and help of RWU contributors , Nick “Bones” Attewell, Grant Cole of This Is Texas Rugby, Wendy Young of Your Scrumhalf Connection and Molly Dengler, former player for NYRC Women… Like last year, we are presenting those noted not for their 2014 record – but for what we expect them to achieve in 2015. That said, here are our 2015 USA Rugby Coaches, Clubs and Administrators to Watch:
WOMEN: Quinnipiac University is our Women’s College Club of the Year. They earned this accolade based on their continued progress and competitive seasons. We have renamed this category college programs for this reason. Lots of colleges have a rugby club but not nearly enough have a program. A plan for improvement that is designed to work with the university on recruiting and admissions to make your university’s rugby club competitive on the national stage is our definition of a program. Quinnipiac held eventual national champions Penn State, to their lowest points scored in a game, when they met and lost to PSU in the semi final for the Division 1 ACRA (American College Rugby Association) Championships. They have improved over the last few seasons under cocach of the year nominee Becky Carlson. Having made the elite 8 and final 4 in back to back seasons, they will have an unfamiliar role of being the hunted and not the hunter this year. How the program deals with their new role and the problem that most college programs face of graduating key players will be crucial to their 2015 campaign.
MEN: Arizona State is our Mens College Club of the Year. It was a close race between ASU and Central Washington University. CWU has head coach of USA All-Americans 7s side, Tony Pacheco as its Director of Rugby, moving up the rankings with their wins and has a player in the USA Eagles 7s player pool, 7s player to watch nominee Aladdin Schirmer. However, they came second because of the significance of ASU becoming part of the Super Rugby Brumbies Academy program can not be underestimated. ASU has long had a quality program from when it was under the leadership of HS All-Americans Coach Salty Thompson. However, over the last few years, the University of Arizona, lead by the late great Dave Sutton, started to dominate the rivalry. The pendulum has swung back in ASU’s favor. The benefits the program will receive in coaching expertise, analysis, and program development can not be underestimated. This changes everything!!
WOMEN: DC Furies are our Women’s Senior Club of the Year. The Furies are definitely trending up according to reports. There first three years in the Women’s Premier League (WPL) were tough on the club. They consistently finished 7th or 8th and were perennial also rans. However, over the last couple years, they’ve done some great recruiting and and brought in an excellent head coach in Toga Fanueli. They have now gone from being bottom of the barrel to standing toe to toe with some of the bigger teams including WPL sides. With the whole eligibility issue that effected the WPL playoffs last season, who knows where they would have placed in 2014. Expect them to build on the back of that successful 2014 campaign and to become a force in 2015.
MEN: Griffins Rugby (Allen, TX) is our Men’s Senior Club of the Year. About 3 years back, word got out that former NFL running back Ryan Moats had picked up rugby and was playing with Griffins RFC in Texas. It was a interesting story and many wished him the best. Then last year, word came that Worcester Warriors and England age-grade flanker Jake Abbott was leaving Worcester to play and coach Griffins with an eye toward playing for the USA Eagles. That sent serious tremors throughout the USA Rugby world. More research discovered that the club had signed a 3 year agreement with Physmodo which meant that beyond the financial obligations, the club would benefit from their new sponsor’s revolutionary sports science technology. The club is owned by a management company established by William Bingham and Phil Camm from the UK. The two appear to be bringing their business experience and the professional structure of the premier clubs in Europe to this Texas club. We also must give credit to the club’s director of rugby, Elaine Vassie. Do not take your eye of Griffins, big things are in the works.
WOMEN: Mel Denham is our Women’s Coach of the Year. Two years ago, here American International College team was named our women’s college program to watch. In that short amount of time she has led AIC to a 3 place in college division 1. Now, she has taken on the challenge of moving to the west coast to be part of the Central Washington University program. The former Eagle and WPL Beantown‘s 8man, will take her tough and physical style of play as player and team style of play to CWU which it must be noted is a varsity program like she had at AIC. They will likely challenge for the National Title sooner rather than later.
MEN: Nate Osborne is our Men’s Coach of the Year. Osborne was recently appointed as the attack coach for the Men’s national team. The Aussie-born former flyhalf is the head coach for national D1 powerhouse, Metropolis Rugby in Minnesota. He also served as player/coach for their division 3 side for a while. Trying to replace Billy Millard as attack coach will be a difficult task as the Eagles can go games where they struggle with offloads and angles of support, not to mention executing overlaps and 2 on 1’s. How Osborne juggles his national team responsibilities with his club responsibilities will be interesting.
COLLEGE COACH: Justin Goonan is our College Coach of the Year. Goonan serves as the Stars & Stripes Strength and Conditioning coach and the Head Coach for tiny Spring Hill College‘s varsity rugby program. It was the varsity status of the program that lured Goonan away from Wake Forest University, where in one season with them, he was named WFU’s club sports coach of the year. With Goonan, a certified Strength and Conditioning specialist, you can expect his charges to be fit and physical soon. His S & C resume shows stints with USA Rugby Junior All-Americans and an internship with London Scottish. Spring Hill is a small college in Mobile, Alabama, that you may want to make yourself more familiar with because big things will be happening soon.
National High Performance 15s Manager: The departure of Billy Millard in this role as well as his second job of AIG Men’s Junior All-Americans head coach has left a big void for USA Rugby. Who they get to fill in this role will be of huge importance. Under Milliard the program had taken huge steps forward. He had brought the youth program more in line with the Senior Men’s system of play. He also seemed to be working with the 7s program to bring players in well. If his replacement is not up to standard the whole program could be set back for years.
Erik Geib: Geib is the newly appointed USA Club Rugby Director. He also writes the schedules for all the Eagles matches and secures venues. His role as club rugby director will be of the utmost importance. To say that the responsibility between USA Rugby and the clubs within the organization is fractured would be a huge understatement. A huge part of the problem occurred years ago under previous management so it is not all the current regime’s fault. However, current issues with the CIPP process, the pathway from club to national team selection being unclear or inconsistent are just a couple of the issues that must be dealt with. Geib had a positive start to his tenure by helping negotiate peace between Pacific Rugby Premiership (PRP) & USAR.
That’s it for now… feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @: RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, DJ Eberle, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Cody Kuxmann, Jaime Loyd and Declan Yeats, respectively.
And until the next time… stay low and keep pumping those legs.
UPDATE: We have updated the article according to the information provided by our readers. We apologize but our fact-checking dept. took the whole week off to catch up on all the Oscar nominated movies.