ONTARIO, Canada – The USA Women’s National rugby team has been named to exact revenge for a 23-26 upset at the hands of the South Africans earlier this week in the Women’s Nations Cup. The USA will play South Africa in a battle for 3rd place at 2 p.m. ET on the campus of Appleby College in Oakville, Ontario and will be broadcast live on UStream.
The Women’s Eagles have played much better than their record in the Women’s Nations Cup might imply. The USA nearly beat England and South Africa, but last gasp tries in those matches by the opposition saw the lead slip away in the waning seconds.
Coach Pete Steinberg noted that though the losses were tough to swallow, but giving younger players experience at the highest international level is key to development in the long term.
“We wanted to see every player in an international match, and playing South Africa twice will give us a chance to see some of the younger players. We started 10 players that were capped for the first time on Tuesday and our performance was actually pretty good,” said Steinberg.
Closing out a win will be a priority for the Women’s Eagles in their final Women’s Nations Cup match and minimizing turnovers is a key area for the USA.
“We were hurt on turnovers and our kicking game and South Africa took their opportunities. It is frustrating to have played well in two games but to lose on the last play twice. However we are excited to have another opportunity to play again on Saturday and we are looking to play our best match of the tournament,” Steinberg said.
Steinberg has named a very experienced side to take the field against South Africa.
Captain Jamie Burke will lead from the front as she starts at tighthead prop. Lisa Butts and Farrah Douglas will complete the starting front row. Stacey Bridges and Laura Miller will provide power from the second row.
Shaina Turley moves from lock to the blindside flanker position after showing her ability in the open field in the last South Africa encounter. Lynelle Kugler and Kate Daley will play blindside and number eight, respectively.
The experienced Keystone scrumhalf Kim Magrini gets a start and Sadie Anderson remains at flyhalf. Samantha Pankey finds a place at inside center after playing fullback previously in the tournament. Amy Daniels is her partner at outside center.
The back three consists of Katie Dowty at left wing, Vanesha McGee at right wing and Pam Kosanke holding it down at fullback.
The match will be webcast live on UStream and live updates will be provided by USA Rugby on Twitter (@usaeaglesrugby).
USA Women’s Eagles 15 Pam Kosanke (Chicago North Shore) 14 Vanesha McGee (New York Rugby Club) 13 Amy Daniels (Beantown) 12 Samantha Pankey (James River) 11 Katie Dowty (Beantown) 10 Sadie Anderson (Penn State) 9 Kim Magrini (Keystone) 1 Farrah Douglas (DC Furies) 2 Lisa Butts (Nor Cal Triple Threat) 3 Jamie Burke, captain (Beantown) 4 Stacey Bridges (At Large) 5 Laura Miller (DC Furies) 6 Shaina Turley (San Diego Surfers) 7 Lynelle Kugler (Twin City Amazons) 8 Kate Daley (Chicago North Shore) Reserves 16 Devin Keller (Keystone) 17 Sarah Chobot (Minnesota Valkyries) 18 Lauren Daly (At Large) 19 Kittery Wagner (Beantown) 20 Carrie White (Seattle Rugby) 21 Rebecca Brafman (New York Rugby Club) 22 Kaelene Lundstrum (Twin City Amazons)
Can USA rugby fans get behind their team? Saturday night 7pm at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo. is the time to prove it.
Last week a few hundred brave American souls journeyed from Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse to join several fans of the USA women’s team who had cheered the women Eagles on the night before. All converged on Toronto, and while they didn’t have the volume of the thousands of Canada fans, they didn’t shy away from supporting the Eagles.
Attendance at BMO Field in Toronto was announced at 10,621. Infinity Park doesn’t have that capacity, but the important thing is, the USA fans need to be loud.
For some reason, we at RUGBYMag.com have observed USA fans just a little timid when it comes to vocal support of their team. We think it is, in part, because the fans don’t know what to say. They know to yell when they’re happy, and boo when they’re not. But chanting USA! USA! USA! For two hours isn’t fun. You need some other things to yell:
How about “Eagles Strike!”
Or how about “Tear the Leafs!”
These are just suggestions, but perhaps an enterprising group of fans with nothing better to do on Saturday afternoon could come up with a few nice chants to get the crowd going.
Be at the game, wave your flags. And above all, no matter what you say, be loud.
Following “Referee Appreciation Month” and its reminder of current American achievements, it would be valuable to now give pause and consider how the USA Rugby Referee Department will build for future success.
For those who have followed the Referee Department closely, one could easily see the past five years as producing minor shifts in quality instead of positive gains: a path as cluttered with missed opportunities as dotted with successes. Given the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on referees by clubs – the team’s largest per-game expenditure each year – USA Rugby and its members must demand a plan for doing better.
Rebuttal We asked USA Rugby's Referee Department Director Ed Todd to review this column and offer any comments.
Here are his comments on specific parts of Chris Draper's Op-Ed column:
1: It is true that the Zone concept is partially to address the structural changes, some in effect (College Premier Division), some pending (emerging GU’s). How this evolves is not easy to accurately predict, however, there will certainly be changes, both financial and structural that will impact Territorial Referee Organizations, and affect their ability to develop referees.
2: The Zone proposal was extensively discussed at this year’s R&L AGM, at which representatives of all TRO’s were present
3: At last weekend’s 7s Championships, two-thirds of the assigned referees were in their 20’s, having been identified and developed through out the summer competitions, over the last few years as part of our unique 7s referee program, managed by Patrick McNally. In this year’s CPD of the 36 referees who received national assignments, one third were referees holding local grades who were identified as having high performance potential, and provided opportunities to performance nationally.
4: The Zone plan specifically addresses all the above points. Presently development of referees with potential is the responsibility of local and territorial organizations. Presently the HP Management Group conduct extensive outreach to identify future prospects and work to provide opportunities.
Key programs include an annual Referee with Potential camp, Women Referees Camp, and the 7’s Referee Program discussed above. The Zone concept enhances the link between he LRO and the HP group. The Zone Academy, if implemented would expand the Referee with Potential concept while providing a better process for follow up and continuity.
4.5: According to Ed Todd, the USA Rugby referee budget uses monies from two IRB grants, and the domestic referee meeting accounts for less than 2% of the Referee Department's HP budget - Editor
5: Richard Every, who retired from the National Panel 3 years ago, continues to referee locally, and remains on the Midwest Territorial Panel. He did referee as semi-final (3rd Division) due to a last minute pull out by the assigned referee. He received several compliments for his work.
6: The Zone Plan specifically addresses the concern
7: In addition to [international appointments listed below] and the opportunity to work with national coaches and evaluators, the Zone Managers are tasked to maintain contact and facilitate continual development of these referees.
The Zone Plan will be focusing on developing the highly-dedicated, international-bound referees.
8: . Incorrect. Presently, promotion to the T Panel is based on a complicated, yet rigid process requiring a certain number of reports, above grade, by a specified category of evaluator, within a prescribed time frame. Not only is this process difficult to achieve, but costly to the territories. The Zone system is based on transparency and accountability, in which the Zones select the referees based on the needs of the customers (RSL, CPD, NCS, WPL) and the merits of the referee. Flexibility is built in to allow the best selections to be made, seeking a balance of experience and potential.
Ed Todd's List of Recent International Appointments of American referees:
CHRIS HENSHALL 2009 CANADA v RUSSIA iRB Test, CANADA 2010 iRB CHURCHILL CUP, USA 2010 iRB AMERICAS RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIPS, ARGENTINA 2011 5-WEEK REFEREE TOUR, SOUTH AFRICA
DANA TEAGARDEN 2011 iRB WOMEN’S PANEL 2010 iRB WOMEN’S WORLD CUP (REFEREE 3RD/4TH PLACE MATCH), ENGLAND 2009 iRB WOMEN’S SEVENS WORLD CUP REFEREE, DUBAI
TIM LUSCOMBE 2011 iRB JUNIOR WORLD TROPHY, GEORGIA 2011 iRB TALENT OPTIMIZATION PROGRAMME, SOUTH AFRICA
ARUNA RANAWEERA 2010 iRB NATIONS CUP, ROMANIA 2010 iRB TEST MATCH: NAMIBIA v ROMANIA, ROMANIA
GARETH MORGAN 2011 TEST MATCH: MEXICO v CAYMAN ISLANDS, MEXICO
DAVEY ARDREY 2011 TEST MATCH: MEXICO v BERMUDA, MEXICO
BRIAN ZAPP 2010 iRB TALENT IDENTIFICATION PROGRAM, SOUTH AFRICA 2011 PAN AM GAMES – iRB APPOINTMENT
ADDITIONAL HIGH PROFILE APPOINTMENTS: U20 WOMEN’S NATION CUP, USA NEW ZEALAND UNIVERSITIES v USA ALL AMERICANS, USA MEXICO NATIONAL CUP FINAL, MEXICO TOKYO SEVENS, JAPAN
At the root of this developmental malaise is a reliance on easy gimmicks when hard decisions are required. From a “High Performance” program that has used iRB Grant money - intended for the development of young, international-caliber referees – for a meeting of 40 domestic referees, to a national “developmental realignment” that did nothing more than change ‘B-Panel’ referees into ‘T-Panel’ referees, the latest proposal by Referee Department Director Ed Todd is nothing shy of disappointing. True to form, the newly released “Zone Plan Proposal” is either disingenuous or misguided.
In short, the Zone Plan calls on unnamed ‘venture partners’ to assist in adding more hierarchy and sparsely defined programs to a fundamentally unchanged system that will now see our newly minted ‘T-Panel’ referees become ‘Z-Panel’ referees. While the plan claims to be a novel approach for dealing with the new Geographic Unions (GUs), which have yet to be approved by the Congress and are currently seeing strong resistance, its main features are:
(Rebuttal Note #1)
Create a paid – yet currently unfunded – position of ‘Zone Manager’ that mirrors the current Territorial Development Manager;
Support the Local Referee Organizations in a manner that is already being done by functional Territories;
(Rebuttal Note #2)
Create a ‘Zone Academy’ that is little more than consultative support already offered to the types of referees that would be included, and
Continue a development and selection system that remains a dysfunctional, leaderless affair where arbitrary bottlenecks clog pathways for young prospects.
(Rebuttal Note #3)
The plan does nothing to address the current disconnects in managing referees for the XVs and 7s seasons, does nothing to address the effectiveness of identifying and coaching high potential prospects, and does nothing to close the gap between our referees and their international counterparts. What is more, it does not provide any solutions for our most recent and egregious failures, including:
(Rebuttal Note #4)
The entire iRB High Performance budget is spent each year on a single meeting for domestic referees. These are not High Performance referees as per the iRB’s intent, meaning these moneys are effectively being misappropriated by the Referee Department.
(Rebuttal Note #4.5)
The iRB is not appointing American referees to any of the high profile events like USA Sevens where access was once routine. While appointments to “international or foreign events” are cited in the Zone Plan, most of these were made and paid for by USA Rugby: equivalent to a Club team going on tour, paid for by the Referee Department with membership money.
National Panel Manager Richard Every recently appointing himself to a National Championship Semi-Final. As a reference, this would be the same as if Nigel Melville appointing himself to be the Eagles starting scrumhalf. If Every was not the best referee for the job, any other manager would be fired for such an inappropriate conflict. If Every was the best referee for the job, USA Rugby should be asking why the Referee Department is unable to develop suitable referees. Neither of these reasons is appropriate and either debases our international standing.
(Rebuttal Note #5)
Many of these issues have been due to lapses in leadership, yet the quality of the leadership in the USA Rugby Referee Department will likely not improve without a change in the Department’s management. Everyone wants to be part of a great team, and that requires a leader willing to provide a vision of greatness. It is not acceptable to be focused on ‘not failing’ – this mindset allows people to tear each other down and fight to stay at the same level. Leadership must be installed in the Referee Department so that all stakeholders want all referees to achieve more.
More than this, though, there are systemic changes that a constructive leader in the Referee Department could implement that would improve our chances of finding and developing talented referees. In many ways the Zone Plan Proposal acknowledges these deficiencies while sidestepping any solutions. Our LROs are currently reactive to young referees, we do not get referee prospects appropriate training in time, and they are left fending for themselves until they are past their prime for international development. None of these issues are addressed in the Zone Plan Proposal.
(Rebuttal Note #6)
However, we could address these problems by starting with the following:
Control a High Performance conduit. The average American referees officiates 15 games per year; the average number of games a referee officiates annually in a Tier 1 nation can easily reach 75. Further, while Cal v BYU saw over 10,000 rabid fans this year, there are very few matches in the United States that provide the mix of pressures (i.e. intensity of play, fan influence, etc) that will prepare a referee for international competition. At the same time, our pool of identified referees with international potential (i.e. effective, athletic, and under 25 years old) is currently non-existent. As with players, a High Performance athlete has different needs than a Club participant and only the USA Rugby Referee Department can create a structured pathway of domestic and international opportunities that will lead towards iRB selection. By focusing on cross-over players while still offering access to “late blooming” Club referees, the High Performance Program must de-clutter the current Territorial/Zone system of open auditions for the half committed, and instead focus its support and planning on the few dedicated athletes with the potential to make an iRB Panel.
(Rebuttal Note #7)
Enable community connectivity. Community/Conference referees must be better developed for a level that suits their capabilities by refocusing Territorial/Zone responsibilities on the Leagues they serve. The Zone system does not address the current developmental bottlenecks that see many Territories pushing seniority before potential (e.g. “It would be great to see Jimmy get to T-Panel after all these years…”), leaving too many over-the-hill referees in positions that prevent young referees from getting better.
(Rebuttal Note #8)
These Territorial bottlenecks currently exist – and there is no indication that would change under the Zone Plan – because the Territory/Zone is the gateway to higher games. If the High Performance Program is responsible for the high potential/high risk athletes (i.e. those young guys and girls who could flame out as easily as they pan out), there would no longer be a need for the Territories to seek attention for their favorite referees. With the High Performance Program focused on building referees, the Territories/Zones can finally focus on the work of preparing and supporting domestic rugby in partnership with the rapidly expanding Leagues. Once these bottlenecks are removed – and we start to see the crushing need that is developing from the SBROs to the CPD for referees that can support high speed/intensity games all across our Nation – the right referees will more often find themselves appointed to the right level of game.
Create annual plans regardless of Code. American referees will earn international opportunities through 7s. A referee may have physical attributes that make him or her more appropriate for a particular style of game, but a good referee is a good referee regardless of which Code they are officiating. Therefore, the current ‘Code-Silos’ that are causing cliques of favorites to form must be eliminated, and all High Performance referees must be tracked on annualized cycles that offer equal access to all opportunities.
These three suggestions may not be perfect and they will require strong leadership to implement. But instead of putting us into some Hitchcock style Twilight Zone where renaming a broken part refurbishes it, these suggestions do attack the root problems facing our refereeing community.
Since we’ve now tried everything from ‘A-Panel’ to ‘Z-Panel,’ our referees not only deserve something better – it would be a worthy show of appreciation.
This Op-Ed Opinion is authored by Chris Draper, a former USA international referee.
The Texas Rugby Union is holding a Texas Rugby Revival in September.
The Revival will occur in three cities on three different weekends, and is part of a TRU initiative to raise the level of play.
TRU competitions head Ron Watson told RUGBYMag.com that there is concern within Texas that the standard of play has slipped. This has happened, said Watson, because of the loss of a generation of experienced players, many of them foreign-trained.
“We decided that the problem was in the coaching,” said Watson. “Players are only as good as they are coached, and we felt our coaches needed to be coaching at a higher level.”
So in the interests of improving competitions state-wide, Watson got the TRU to fund three coach-the-coaches events.
Running the Revivals are Bob Dwyer, former coach of the Australian national team (including when they won the 1991 World Cup), and a longtime friend of Watson, and Mike Penistone, coach at OMBAC, and before that Elite Player Development Coach at Leicester Tigers.
The sessions are completely free, as they are full-funded by the Texas Rugby Union.
“It’s time to raise the level,” said Watson. “We felt this was the best thing we could do for the level of competition in Texas.”
The first Texas Rugby Revival will be held Sept 10-11 at Bradley Woods Park in Farmers Branch, Tex., just outside Dallas.
The second will be September 13-15 at Burr Field, the home of the Austin Blacks.
The third will be held September 17-18 at Alden Bridge Sports Park in Woodlands, Tex., just outside Houston.
The sessions are open to all rugby players, coaches, and administrators from any level of rugby, men or women. Box lunches available for a small fee.
For further information contact: Ron Watson 817 5998496 or 817 3045551 or email
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