You know I remember I used to write this column on a regular basis, and crazy things intervened over the years; it seemed like there was never enough time, and often far too many items to just throw them into one small piece like this.
Running Touch was always designed to be a series of quick notes (you know a tough judge never stays in one place too long). Things that struck me as odd, interesting, annoying or pleasing.
So I feel like I can now come back to it - I’ve even brought back the old green background to make you feel like I’ve written all of this with liner paint on the grass.
OK, so some thoughts:
The great prospective lawyer/rugby player tweet scandal
Sapolu Fuimaono got in trouble comparing the disparate rest times for different countries at the Rugby World Cup to the holocaust (a classic example of self-damaging hyperbole) in a tweet. He promised not to do it again, and then complained in another tweet about racism and bias in Samoa’s game against South Africa.
Then Fuimaono got into more trouble by not showing up to his disciplinary hearing. Word is he may quite rugby and become a lawyer (he has a law degree, apparently).
OK, despite the over-the-top tweets, the man has a point. Samoa, had they had more than four days to prepare for Wales, and had they got a couple of breaks against South Africa, could have been 4-0. The red card issued to Paul Williams was just plain silly, given what he endured (six punshes to his arm, head and neck) before he sent an open-handed stiff-arm to Heinrich Brussow.
The RWC disciplinary panel gave Williams no suspension, which kind of shows you what they thought of the call.
So tweeting about racism and genocide no, finding a controlled way to ask for a review of attitudes toward all teams in the RWC, yes.
Taking it to them, and giving it to them
If there is one thing we will remember about the 2011 World Cup for the USA, it will be the unceasing effort they put in, especially on defense.
I thought, personally, the players were inspirational.
What bugged me more was how the offensive game plan took all that power and passion and put it aside. Did you notice the referee in the USA v. Italy game calling out “voluntary” when a USA player went to ground? What he was saying there was that there was no tackle – the Americans were hitting the deck early to set up a ruck.
Two things came from that: 1. There was no tackle, so poaching was free game for the Italians and no in from the side penalty, either; 2. Asking players not to take on the opposition is just an insult to them.
So, no, not a fan of that.
The players showed they could take everyone on.
We’re going to have more than a few articles on potential USA coaches, tactics, players, and everything like that.
But I wonder sometimes how much it matters. We can get the greatest coach of all time - John Wooden or Henry V or Ernest Shackleton could show up with their old cleats – and we’d still have issues.
We don’t have a pro league in the USA. We don’t have an easy time of it getting players to play pro overseas. We don’t even have a domestic competition that could be called challenging on an almost-test level.
The biggest thing for me is to find a way for really good players to play in a really good competition such that playing on the international stage isn’t a completely overwhelming experience.
I would also (and I’ve written about this a bit) would love to see USA Select sides playing more on the 15s and 7s levels. Where does the money come from Alex? Oh I don’t know, let’s look at the details of the 2011 and 2010 financials and I might be able to find something …
But What if It’s not the Be-All?
Russia has government money behind their program and no pro gridiron, and went 0-4. Now they will be launching a pro league that is financed by a group of “businessmen.” Great, but is that all you need?
Japan has a pro league, and their national team was together more than any other. Those facts prompted some columnists who will remain nameless to undercut their RWC predictions by thinking that would all translate into wins for the Cherry Blossoms. Turns out they left New Zealand the same way they left France: 0-3-1.
Better Homes and Fields
Maybe that’s what we should call the next few issues of Rugby Magazine. We’re looking for great rugby venues. Do you have the best playing surface, clubhouse, or complex in the country? Send me pictures and details at
and tell us your story. We want to see the best rugby homes in the USA.
A Number 1, One Number A
The College Premier League (sorry, Division) will likely get a new name soon: DI-A, giving the new competition three times as many names as it has had seasons. Let’s stick with this one, OK? So what is now DI will become DI-AA. And DII will be … OK now I’m getting confused.
I DO like the emergence of the new DI-AA conferences and their names. You do not have to, generally, mirror football conferences, especially since the football conferences keep changing. Soccer, hockey, lacrosse all have formed their own college conferences. It’s the conference idea that is important (a cause first truly and officially championed by Matt Sherman at USA Rugby and one for which he was unfairly criticized). As we go forward, the conference system will be one of the most important changes in the college game.