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Written by Jackie Finlan    Friday, 20 January 2012 12:10    PDF Print Write e-mail
Women's 7s Professionals En Route to OTC
Sevens - USA Sevens Women

The USA Women’s 7s team is on the brink of making history, as eight athletes make their way to Chula Vista’s Olympic Training Center this week and next. They’ll spend the next year eating, breathing, playing rugby, and will be paid to indulge in their passion.

Katie Dowty and crew head to the OTC. (USA Rugby photo)

We still don’t know who the exact eight players are, but we have a good idea of the most likely candidates (read more). Updates since this article was published include the exclusion of Amy Daniels, Beth Black and Pam Kosanke, and the additions of Kaelene Lundstrum and Vanesha McGee.

It was a tough decision to omit some of the country’s greatest 7s athletes from the residency program, but they were made carefully with an eye toward the future.

“When Nigel [Melville, USA Rugby’s CEO and president of rugby operations] and Alex [Williams, USA Rugby’s women’s high performance manager] put in the application for funding, we acknowledged that players like Beth Black, Pam Kosanke and Amy Daniels are really fit and knowledgeable, but 30-34,” Suggitt said. “We’re not worried about their know-how or fitness because they’re dedicated athletes, but they have good careers. If they were all 20-24, they would have been asked to come.”

Players like the aforementioned will be able to sample some of the OTC lifestyle, however, as they’ll comprise the taxi squad that will visit Chula Vista for two weeks at a time to train and play for spots on the various traveling squads.

But the difficult decisions won’t end there or anytime soon. These contracts are renewed every year, and while the staff is invested in every player, changes will inevitably occur.

“Those are tough decisions,” Suggitt said. “As you develop coach/player relationships, you have to draw a line in the sand and say: You’re not performing; we’re going to have to let you go and let someone else in. There will be quarterly reviews with the group and individuals, so they know how they’re progressing, where they’re at in the program and in their career. We have to make sure that what we’re doing is going to make them successful in the long run – make it worth their time and effort – so there can be no surprises for the team or individuals. If you check with the girls, they’ll say I’m honest and blunt as to what has to happen. No secrets.”

The USA is following in the footsteps of Canada and the Netherlands, both of which have contracted players. Canada was the undisputed 7s champion in 2011, winning four major international tournaments (Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Amsterdam and Dubai), while the Netherlands has had 14 professionals for the past four months, though the squad has been practicing together much longer.

“They’re a year ahead of us,” Suggitt said of 2011’s top 7s team. “Canada had On The Podium inject 2+ million into their program. They held lots of training camps and went to every tournament out there, and it was all covered financially. It’s the recipe for success as long as all the Is are dotted and Ts crossed.

“It’s good that we’re heading into residency now,” Suggitt said. “We’ll start to close the gap.”

Eagle fans will see firsthand how the USA stack up against some of world’s best 7s teams, as Canada, Netherlands, France, Japan, Brazil and Canada’s Maple Leafs convene at the Women’s International Invitational 7s in Las Vegas, Feb. 10-12. In addition to the USA, Suggitt will enter a developmental Stars & Stripes side, which will include three of the eight professional athletes.

“I talked to the girls this weekend and they’re all excited,” Suggitt said after the High Performance camp last week. “This is a huge move for us. It’s going to be a lot of fun along the way. There was some apprehension, packing up, leaving schools and jobs, but how nice is it to be moving to California?”

And so the road begins. Be sure to head to Las Vegas for the Women’s International Invitational 7s to see the country’s first professional women’s rugby athletes.

 
Written by Jackie Finlan    Friday, 20 January 2012 11:09    PDF Print Write e-mail
Suggitt Builds 7s Roster at Elite Camp
Sevens - USA Sevens Women

It’s been a month and a half since the USA Women’s 7s team competed at the Dubai 7s, and when they returned home, they were less than satisfied with their performance abroad.

Erica Cavanaugh, during last year's CRC, earned her trip to Las Vegas in February. (Steve Mitchell photo)

“We lost to Canada 36-0, England 30-0 and Australia 22-5,” USA Women’s 7s coach Ric Suggitt recalled. “They were the top three teams – and that doesn’t include the Black Ferns [who weren’t in attendance], and France and Netherland, which weren’t in our pool. We need to recognize where we are in the pecking order. We’re getting beat like that right now, so we’ve got some building to do.”

That building process took its next step during last week’s High Performance players camp in Florida, where 32 7s pool players were joined by 54 15s and 42 All American players. The assembly was a developmental camp, but Suggitt also used it to choose his two squads for the Women’s International Invitational 7s, which will occur alongside the USA 7s tournament in Las Vegas February 10-12.

“I was looking for 24 healthy players,” Suggitt said of his goals during camp. “As we move forward, we can hopefully put it together and finish in the top two spots. We set the target high for ourselves … but we realized we have a long road ahead of us. We’re not fooling ourselves, but we’re excited.”

In attendance at last week’s camps were the eight contracted players who will be taking up residency in Chula Vista’s Olympic Training Center this week. Suggitt himself will be relocating to California on Monday while the rest of the squad trickles in. Vanehsa McGee and Kaelene Lundstrum are already en route, and once the full roster arrives, they’ll begin training the week following.

Las Vegas will be their first test, and the USA team will be supplemented by the Stars & Stripes side, which includes three of the younger contracted players.

“They’re good and young,” Suggitt said of the developmental side. “They might surprise some teams and finish in the top four.”

The official rosters for the Women’s International Invitational 7s will be released shortly, and we should see a handful of younger athletes, like Erica Cavanaugh, suiting up in the red, white and blue.

“She’s been in the All American, 15s and 7s pools, and she got her invite,” Suggitt said. “She’s putting her whole heart and soul into USA rugby. It goes to show that if you attend these camps and put in a solid effort, then you’ll get recognized.”

We might also see some non-traditional 7s athletes filling out the rosters, as Suggitt was able to exchange players with 15s head coach Pete Steinberg and Collegiate All American coach Martha Daines during camp.

Daines lent four of her athletes to scrimmage against the 7s players, and he was particularly impressed with U20 stars Ashley Okonta (Notre Dame) and Meya Bizer (Woodlands, Texas). He also worked with 15s players Jill Potter, Lynelle Kugler and

Sylvia Braaten, all of whom left a lasting impression with Suggitt. Meanwhile, the 7s coach sent Steinberg eight of his players – including Katie Dowty, Amy Daniels and Sadie Anderson, all of whom were on the Nations Cup squad this summer – to work with the 15s pool.

“I joke with Pete and Martha that I’m here to steal all their good players,” Suggitt said. “Hopefully I can help them [the players] out in the open field with decision-making and recognizing situations better, and they can bring something back to the 15s program.  We’re very good about talking and sharing information on players. There’s no closed door.

“We’re trying to get more international competitions for our rugby athletes,” Suggitt continued. “With the 15s, they’ll have one maybe two tours this year, so we have to offer other avenues.”

 
Written by Pat Clifton    Thursday, 19 January 2012 18:26    PDF Print Write e-mail
CRC Qualifier Pools, Schedule Set
Sevens - Collegiate Sevens

The pools and schedule for the Collegiate Rugby Championship qualifier bracket of the Las Vegas Invitational have been set.

The field of 32 is split into two conferences, which are divided into four pools of four. Each team will play its first two pool games on Thursday and its final pool game on Friday. 

The top two teams from each pool advance to the Cup quarterfinals on Friday, and the Cup semifinals and finals happen on Saturday, with the winner of each conference playing in front of the IRB 7s World Series crowd inside Sam Boyd Stadium at 5:52pm local time to earn the right to play in the June CRC. The time of the final is subject to change.

Central Washington returns to defend its CRC qualifier title. To do so, the Wildcats will need to advance past Utah, winners of the inaugural CRC in 2010, Davenport, the top ranked 15s team in DI-AA, Cal Poly and Stony Brook, among others in conference two.

The favorite in conference one has to be Life, winners of the inaugural USA Rugby College 7s National Championship in December. The Running Eagles draw Kutztown, CRC qualifier runners-up in 2011, Miami and San Diego State, among others.


CONFERENCE ONE

Pool A
Pool B
Pool C
Pool D
Life
Kutztown
Miami (OH)
San Diego State
St. Joe's
Missouri
Air Force
Western Washington
Claremont
Creighton
Texas
New Mexico State
Buffalo
U. San Francisco
Pittsburgh
Denver


CONFERENCE TWO

Pool A
Pool B
Pool C
Pool D
Central Washington
Utah
Cal Poly
Stony Brook
Yale
Davenport
Georgia
UCLA
Indiana
Southern Illinois
Stanford
Brown
Weber State
Regis
Albany
Longwood



THURSDAY

8am
Kutztown
Creighton

Utah
SIU
8:20
Missouri
USF

Davenport
Regis
8:40
Miami
Texas

Cal Poly
Stanford
9am
Air Force
Pitt

Georgia
Albany
9:20
Life
Claremont

Central Washington
Indiana
9:40
St. Joe's
Buffalo

Yale
Weber State
10am
SDSU
NMSU

Stony Brook
Brown
10:20
WWU
Denver

UCLA
Longwood
10:40
Kutztown
USF

Utah
Regis
11am
Missouri
Creighton

Davenport
SIU
11:20
Miami
Pitt

Cal Poly
Albany
11:40
Air Force
Texas

Georgia
Stanford
12pm
Life
Buffalo

Central Washington
Weber State
12:20
St. Joe's
Claremont

Yale
Indiana
12:40
SDSU
Denver

Stony Brook
Longwood
1pm
WWU
NMSU

UCLA
Brown

FRIDAY

8am
Kutztown
Missouri

Utah
Davenport
8:20
Creighton
USF

SIU
Regis
8:40
Miami
Air Force

Cal Poly
Georgia
9am
Texas
Pitt

Stanford
Albany
9:20
Life
St. Joe's

Central Washington
Yale
9:40
Claremont
Buffalo

Indiana
Weber State
10am
SDSU
WWU

Stony Brook
UCLA
10:20
NMSU
Denver

Brown
Longwood
11:20
A 3rd
B 4th

"
"
11:40
D 3rd
C 4th

"
"
12pm
C 3rd
D 4th

"
"
12:20
B 3rd
A 4th

"
"
12:40
A 1st
B 2nd

"
"
1pm
D 1st
C 2nd

"
"
1:20
C 1st
D 2nd

"
"
1:40
B 1st
A 2nd

"
"
2:00
11:20 loser
11:40 loser

"
"
2:20
12:00 loser
12:20 loser

"
"
2:40
11:20 winner
11:40 winner

"
"
3pm
12:00 winner
12:20 winner

"
"
3:20
12:40 loser
1:00 loser

"
"
3:40
1:20 loser
1:40 loser

"
"

SATURDAY

9:40
Conference 1 Semifinal

Conference 2 Semifinal
10am
Conference 1 Semifinal

Conference 2 Semifinal
11:40
Conference 1 Consolation

Conference 2 Consolation
12pm
Conference 1 Final

Conference 2 Final


 
Written by Mitch Phillips    Thursday, 19 January 2012 20:06    PDF Print Write e-mail
IRB Promises Fairer Schedules for 2015 RWC
International - International News

LONDON (Reuters) - Rugby World Cup organisers have promised a fairer deal for the smaller countries at the 2015 tournament in England following the widespread condemnation of the unbalanced playing schedule last year in New Zealand.

However, second and third-tier teams expecting to find a completely level playing field are likely to be frustrated again as the International Rugby Board (IRB) will still seek to maximise TV income by arranging fixtures to suit broadcasters.

Mike Miller, MD of Rugby World Cup Ltd and CEO of the IRB, said the match schedule of the 2011 tournament had been an improvement on previous editions but accepted it had still been tough on many smaller countries.

While the major playing nations generally had a week between matches, the likes of Samoa, Canada, Namibia, Georgia and the United States often had only three or four days, while Japan were forced to play three times in 11 days.

"The schedule influences the performance of a team - more travel and less rest makes it difficult," Miller told Reuters in an interview at RWC 2014's new Twickenham headquarters.

"We know it's an issue and we have more tools in our armoury to make it fairer this time.

"But that has to be balanced with what works for all the teams, the fans, the broadcasters and our commercial partners because we need to use to World Cup to maximise exposure and revenue to help grow the game around the world.

"Fiji, Samoa and Tonga were more competitive in the last two World Cups because of the money we are investing in them.

'LESS MONEY'

"If you have a schedule that maybe means it's a bit easier for the smaller teams to play during the World Cup you may have less money to invest in them during the four-year cycle and do more damage to them. So it's just a question of trying to get the balance right.

"Also there is the local culture. In New Zealand they don't play midweek matches, we had some but not big matches during the pool phase.

"In England there is a culture of big midweek matches, particularly with European football, so we will be able to construct a schedule to include big matches in midweek and so there will be more equality.

Miller is passionate about spreading the game beyond its traditional heartlands and though the World Cup is the driver in terms of exposure and income he says the inclusion of rugby sevens in the 2016 Olympics - almost a century after the 15-man game last appeared - is having a massive impact.

"Getting into the Olympics was huge for rugby in many countries around the world," he said. In Russia (who made their World debut last year) only Olympic sports can be taught at schools. It used to be an after-school thing but now rugby is on the curriculum in Moscow and will be throughout the country soon.

"That makes a huge difference. It means you start getting the good athletes younger, yes they might see sevens in the Olympics and be playing it but they will also be playing XVs.

'MAJOR FORCE'

"Their sevens team has come on leaps and bounds and 20 years from now if things keep going the way they are Russia will be a major force in rugby.

"It's the same in the United States, where the U.S. Olympic Committee, for the first time, is paying for 24 rugby athletes to train full time. Australia were quick off the mark too and got millions of dollars of government funding into their programme."

The 2019 World Cup will be held in Japan, the first time it has gone outside of any of the major tier one countries, and Miller says that too will really lift the sport in a region, where it is already on the rise.

"In China they have a National Games and for the first time every province has to provide a rugby team to take part in them," he said.

"They are really keen, they want to use rugby in the military there too because they like its values so there is huge potential there.

"But we are also still keen to develop the game in its established countries. After the 2007 World Cup there was a 34 percent increase in registered players in France.

"There was a huge surge of interest in England after they won in 2003 but they didn't have the capacity to deal with that then so we need to make sure we plan in advance to deal with it. Now they know it's going to come and they can prepare for it.

It will also help develop the game in places like Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

"It really is a fantastic shop window for our sport."

 
Written by Press Release    Thursday, 19 January 2012 11:39    PDF Print Write e-mail
Special Discounts for USA Women's 7s Fans
Tournaments - USA Sevens Tournament

USA Rugby is still offering specially discounted hotel rates to those interested in watching the 2012 Women's International Invitational 7s. The event occurs in conjunction with the USA Sevens and Las Vegas Invitational, which will take place from Friday-Sunday, Feb. 10-12 in Las Vegas.

USA's Kaelene Lundstrum during the 2011 Dubai 7s. (Ian Muir)

The tournament marks the first major women's international 7s event in 2012, and teams like Brazil, Canada, France Japan, Netherlands, and hometown favorites USA Eagles jumped at the chance to make their mark early in the year. With only a full year remaining before the 2013 Sevens World Cup, this year's event promises to be even more intense. Additionally, American fans will be able to watch the country's first professional 7s athletes, who will have been contracted for a few weeks prior to the competition.

Fans can enrich their experience as well by staying at the Palace Stations Hotel, where all of the women's national teams - including the USA Eagles - will be residing. Adjacent to the Strip, the Palace Station Hotel is offering $79 (Couryard room) and $99 (Tower Room) nightly rates, which include free airport shuttle.

In order to secure these rates, book with the code PCIRUFF. Every room booked with this code supports international women's rugby, and they'll return the favor by supplying three days of hard-hitting, fast-paced 7s rugby.

 


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