NEW YORK, NY – 5 years from now three Major League Rugby signings might be looked back on as pivotal in their impact on not just the MLR, but on USA Rugby as well. Getting back to the present, all three signees play the same position. More significantly, as of today they also play for the same team, Rugby United NY… as former All Blacks #9 Andy Ellis comes to town.
What does this have to do with Team USA five years from now? Plenty. RUNY has two young scrumhalves already in their virtual locker-room (thanks COVID) in Iona College stud Connor Buckley and Conor McManus, a Kiwi American from Timaru, New Zealand. McManus repped the USA at U-19 level and would have done so for the U-20s if not for an injury. He also played for Canterbury’s U-19s and in 2019 made the expanded Mitre 10 Cup squad.
Closer to home, Buckley comes with high praise from Coach Bruce McLane, his Iona coach and someone that’s been around the rugby block and back:
“He is the best American player I coached at any level. His upside is huge because he knows how to lead teams and make teams go forward even when they are outmatched dramatically. He can do it all. He can kick pass tackle make decisions and control the game.”
This comes from a guy that has coached many a high-quality player over a long period of time.
Add to the mix Mr. Ellis and his formidable resume/curriculum vitae. First and foremost, he’s a Rugby World Cup winning scrumhalf for the All Blacks. He’s also won in Super Rugby with the Crusaders and provincially with Canterbury. Most recently, he’s been in Japan, playing for the Kobelco Steelers.
RUNY GM Steve Lewis noted that Ellis has been described as “a proven winner” & “the ultimate pro.”
Off the pitch, he’s considered coaching material. After he closes the book on a stellar playing career, he’ll likely find work in that realm with an official designation. Right now, though, he’ll not only be showing off his pedigree at the critical scrumhalf position, but he’ll be also be unofficially coaching the aforementioned young guns. THAT is an invaluable intangible that can only help Team USA down the road and is not lost on Team USA Assistant Coach and RUNY Head Coach, Greg McWilliams:
“We are delighted to have a player of Andy’s experience joining us at Rugby United New York. We will lean on that experience as we continue to develop our daily training environment and on field performance. First and foremost, Andy is fierce competitor and will bring an edge. We are looking forward to welcoming Andy, Emma and their 2 children Arthur and Scarlett to the New York Family.”
Any way you look at it, this is as solid a signing the league has seen to date and as a USA Rugby fan, I can’t wait to see what comes of it long-term.