NEW YORK, NY – Tuesday, we gave you our 2014 USA Rugby Players To Watch as compiled by yours truly with the patience and help of RWU contributor Nick “Bones” Attewell, our number 1 fan – Grant Cole of Ruck Bottom, Wendy Young of Your Scrumhalf Connection , Molly Dengler, Assistant Coach USA Women’s U-17 and Rebecca Brafman, player for USA Rugby and NYRC Women… Like last year, we are presenting those noted not for their 2013 record – but for what we expect them to achieve in 2014. That said, here are our 2014 USA Rugby Coaches, Clubs and Administrators to Watch:
WOMEN: University of Northern Iowa is our Women’s College Club of the Year. They earned this accolade based on the solid season they had in Division 1. As a smaller school, they don’t boost the numbers of a side like Penn State, but in Division 1 in the ACRA (American College Rugby Association) Championships. ACRA was formed by a large contingent of representatives from women’s collegiate teams after years of informal discussion and months of research and formal conferencing. UNI finished 3rd, giving eventual winner Norwich a run for their money. They can only build on this and become a real power. We actually expect them to be in the final with a good chance of upsetting Norwich. An honorable mention goes out to Kutztown and Notre Dame College in Division 2.
MEN: St. Edward’s University is our Mens College Club of the Year. When St. Edward’s came up, it sounded familiar. Then I remembered speaking with the Club President a few years back when I was a New York Rugby Club assistant coach. The President was trying to make sure one of their up-and-coming players, Nairod Woods, would be in a good league over the summer. Nairod is now like a nephew to me – that’s how rugby is… Anyway, as we looked at St. Edward’s case, we saw that they won the NSCRO (National Small College Rugby Organization) XVs Championship decisively. Also, their coach, Lachland Ferguson, has stepped down from his role with Austin Rugby Club to focus on his Director of Rugby role at St. Edwards. The St. Edward’s administration has seen an increase in applications and matriculating students who target the school because of its rugby program. As a result, more support has been put behind the rugby program, and Ferguson has been asked to devote more time to coaching, administration and recruiting. This was enough to help them see off a challenge from University of Central Florida, who won USA Rugby College D2 with no-foreign born players.
WOMEN: HARC (Houston Athletic Rugby Club) is our Women’s Senior Club of the Year. The Red River Rugby Conference RRRC (ACR4) in D1 women’s rugby features teams from Texas and Oklahoma located near the Red River. For a while, the conference was a case of Austin Valkyries at the top… 1 and then daylight. However, the emergence of continued growth of the SHARCs (She-HARCs) have turned it into a way more competitive league in Texas.
MEN: Seattle-Old Puget Sound Beach RFC is our Men’s Senior Club of the Year. With the creation of the Pacific Rugby Premiership (PRP), a West coast only version of the now defunct USA Super League featuring Belmont Shore, Denver Barbarians, Glendale Raptors, Olympic Club, OMBAC (Old Mission Beach Athletic Club), SF-GG (San Francisco-Golden Gate) and Santa Monica. This now leaves a former Super League member out of a competition with lots of potential, and they won’t be in the Elite Cup either – due to their geography. It leaves them completely in the cold, in terms of Premier games. They will be in USA Men’s D1 and the The British Columbia Rugby Union D1 and D2. Rugbymag details their uniques situation and player depth here.
WOMEN: Pete Steinberg is our Women’s Coach of the Year. In a Rugby World Cup year, there is going to be no person under more fire than the national team coach. Steinberg has to find a way to build on the Nation’s Cup performances of the USA and the European tour. With the rest of Europe getting better, it is interesting to see how far he takes the USA Women. Quaterfinals are a must… if he intends to hold on to his title. Semi Finals would be a blessing.
MEN: Phil Bailey is our Men’s Coach of the Year. Bailey serves as the defense coach for the Men’s national team. The former New South Wales and Australia Rugby League star’s presence has made a difference with the national team, as evidenced by the improvement in points conceded and better defense of the 7-10 channel. RWU friend, Bruce McLane, described Bailey prior to Bailey taking up the position, Bruce said “Phil has great rugby mind and brilliant teacher. He will bring some new defense and tackle techniques that will make a difference.”
COLLEGE COACH: Austin Hall is our College Coach of the Year. Considering the success of Norwich University’s Women’s program in the USA Rugby College 7s tournament (3 consecutive titles) and their continued dominance in women’s 15 – including the inaugural ACRA XVs champions, that is why their coach is one to watch. It goes in sports that successful coaches of successful programs often move on to a new challenge. The University fully supports the program, but it could be that if a serious Women’s Premier League or large college program – like Army – reaches out, Hall may gone. Further, if Pete Steinberg and the USA women crash in the WRWC14, Hall’s name will enter the discussion.
PRP Management: The Pacific Rugby Premiership (PRP) is the talk of USA domestic rugby. Will it just burn bright for a minute then go quietly into the night like the Super League??? They had to navigate the creation of the league while dealing with the USA Rugby Elite Cup requirements and involvement. The league must find a way to generate revenue through ticket prices and work its way into a media contract online, then TV – or even both. It is an enormous undertaking, how they do it, we all wait to see.
Nathalie Marchino: A long time star on the USA Womens 15s and 7s side (check out her interview with Phaidra Knight), Marchino has taken on the role of
Social Media Lead for USA Rugby. She has been in the role for a year and has some key highlights:
-Successfully launched USA Rugby’s Google+ page and helped maintain content
-Created and hosted the “Meet The 7s Team” Google Hangout series
-Created and maintained US Women’s 7s rugby team’s twitter feed (at USAWomens7s)
How she can help maintain the growth and progress will be key. Fans hope that Marchino success spearheading USA Rugby’s Google+ Hangout strategy for all National Teams can kick-on to another level and help the game and organization truly grow and reach out.
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.