WEST GHANA/USA – Yesterday’s Weekend Rugby Wrap Up got us all up to speed on a chunk of the doings in the world of rugby, but there’s a heck of a lot more, including the JP Morgan 7s, the Gareth Thomas movie, The Bingham Cup, the High School All-Americans, the Victoria 7s, Grand Prix Rugby and John Kirwan… Let’s get to it, then:
JP Morgan 7s – The first phase of the JP Morgan 7s is over. This tourney has the 12 English Premiership clubs in 3 pools of 4, played on 3 different match-days in July. The championship weekend has the 3 pool winners and 1 wildcard. After week 1, Saracens leads their pool of Harlequins, London Irish, and Wasps. Lookout for future stars Alex Gray (Irish) and Jordan Burns (Harlequins) with their respective clubs or England 7s.
Thoughts: We like the idea of breaking up a 7s tourney into 3 different 3.5 hour events and it’s an easier sell to sponsors and TV stations. Hopefully, Grand Prix Rugby has looked at this format. Who is Grand Prix Rugby? Grand Prix Rugby is the company that 1) Bought the rights to run a Pro 7s tourney from USA7s 2) Got the NFL Network to air their games during the summer; football’s off-season 3) Bought the American Rugby League (national association)… They are an entity to watch.
Gareth “Alfie” Thomas – The openly gay retired rugger’s story is one of the most fascinating stories in sports, with a movie on the way. Gareth represented Wales a record 100 times and in his final year before retiring from the Union, he came out. His coming out was all the more shocking because nobody had reached that level of rugby… and come out. Homosexuality in rugby had always been a bit of a non-issue, you can even find clubs that are gay-friendly all over, including the Gotham Knights, here in New York City. In fact, The Bingham Cup, held in Manchester, England in June, establishes the best gay team in the world. This year, the Sydney Convicts won. As for the Gareth Thomas movie, it appears that American actor Mickey Rourke will play Gareth… They’ll need a lot of makeup for the “mature” Rourke.
Thoughts: Our Welsh friend Jonesy told us this a few years before Alfie came out and we didn’t believe him! Then, upon hearing this news, Methuselah remarked “Isn’t Mickey a bit old to play this role?” We can’t help but agree and assume the story will be told in flashback mode, but who knows? We still plan to see it.
US High Shcool All-Americans – The HSAAs doing a 5-game tour of South America. They play the Chilean U-19 and Uruguayan U-19 twice and the Argentine U-18 once. In their first match against Chile, they won 24- 17.
Thoughts: Rumor has it a major sponsorship secured by one of the player’s parents made this tour possible, so kudos to that parent. Secondly, the general worldwide opinion of USA Rugby is that if they could produce props like they produce backrow players, Team USA could realistically be in the Top 10. These HS All-Americans are pointing in that direction.
Victoria 7s – This 7s tourney held in Victoria, BC is one of the most important in North America. This year’s winners were a Canadian National Team Development side “Canadian Maple Leafs.” They beat the BC Provincial Team 42-0 to win. Both teams beat USA sides to make the final. The Maple Leafs beat US National Team Development Side “Atlantis 7s” Coached by Alex Magleby and featured national team player pool candidates Don Pati. BC upset USA powerhouse Old Pudget Sound Beach.
Thoughts:Although Atlantis lost, we liked the idea of them playing in this tourney. It is hard to build depth with the financial restraints that dog all of USA Rugby, but getting this development side together for tournaments like this, Toronto, New York, and possibly Sri Lanka, will go a long way toward making the whole program better.
And now some breaking news… RWU friend John Kirwan has just been appointed new Head Coach of the Auckland Blues of the Super 15s. As Blues and JK fans, we couldn’t be happier, just what the doctor ordered.