Columns and Opinions
Written by Alex Goff    Thursday, 08 November 2012 15:43    PDF Print Write e-mail
Eagle Eye: What Happened with Ngwenya? - P
RUGBYmag Premier - Columns and Opinions


What happened with Taku Ngwenya? Did his visa allowing him to enter the United Kingdom expire because he was lax, USA Rugby was lax, or some other factor?

 
Written by Alex Goff    Wednesday, 07 November 2012 17:58    PDF Print Write e-mail
Running Touch - Player Release in Crosshairs
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In the wake of a story published in The Independent in the UK, the International Rugby Board today released a statement reiterating its commitment to making sure players are released by their clubs for international duty as per their Regulation 9.

In the statement, the IRB said: “Player release is central to the integrity and economic sustainability of the international Game and the IRB continues to be proactively committed to assisting Unions with player release issues when requested by them to do so under Regulation 9.

The Regulation is designed to deliver a fair, equitable and proportionate framework for facilitating the release of the world's best players for international duty within designated windows without impediment irrespective of country of employment. This Regulation goes to the very core of supporting the integrity of the international Game.

The IRB takes any breach of the Regulation very seriously and acts on release issues where it is formally requested to do so by a Union or if it is presented with credible evidence provided by a Union or recognised Rugby body that would allow it to pursue its own enquiry. In respect of the former, the IRB has collaborated with Unions over a long period to successfully facilitate the release of players for international duty and will continue to do so.

Unions also have a clear obligation to do everything possible to uphold the Regulation within their territory or they risk significant sanctions.

The IRB is currently monitoring player release issues during the November 2012 window and the matter will be the subject of discussion at the IRB November 2012 meetings in Dublin.”

This is all in response to The Independent’s story saying the 2015 World Cup is vulnerable to some players, especially from Tier II nations, being held back for their clubs by a combination of special contract clauses, coercion, and financial incentives.

Former USA Head Coach Eddie O’Sullivan was quoted in the article – an old quote referring to Samu Manoa missing the 2011 World Cup due to his Northampton Saints contract.

O’Sullivan was understandably unhappy with Manoa not being available, but in that instance it wasn’t a case of Northampton preventing Manoa from playing – it was that Manoa had a significant financial incentive to stay with his new club just as he was starting out.

Asked about this article, USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville told RUGBYMag.com that “we have not seen [Manoa’s] contract and there is no way Northampton would breach Reg 9 in their contracts - the penalties are significant. The pressure comes when the club puts pressure on the player; this is where Regulation 9 becomes hard to implement.”

Sometimes clubs get around all the player release issue by persuading a player to retire from international rugby, which, said Melville, “is not something we want.” 

In the end, because the professional rugby season is so long, and has to be because clubs don’t make massive profits on games and therefore need to play 40 or more games to make it all pay, clubs often have to play during international windows.

But then they see some of their best players unavailable because their national team has called that player up. So they look for ways to keep players in their club jerseys. (See here)

“In short, Reg 9 isn't working for everyone, usually Tier II [nations],” said Melville.”

What might help with this issue is the development of a player’s association with some real teeth – one that has a platform covering how many games should be players over a 12-month period, and how long down time should be. There are moves in the USA for a player’s association, but that won’t address the international question.

“The IRB needs to take the lead on bringing unions, clubs, player associations together to work together a new more workable arrangement,” said Melville.



 
Written by Eamonn Hogan    Monday, 05 November 2012 19:25    PDF Print Write e-mail
Parents and Coaches - P
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Coaches are Gods

 
Written by Alex Goff    Sunday, 04 November 2012 23:08    PDF Print Write e-mail
Eagle Eye: Our Eagles Starting 15 - P
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Can you pick the starting lineup for the USA?

Usually it’s pretty tough. Usually there are several major question-marks concerning who will play a particular position.

 
Written by Alex Goff    Friday, 19 October 2012 16:18    PDF Print Write e-mail
Eagle Eye: Picking November Tour Team a Tough Job - P
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If I were picking the USA team for the upcoming November tour I’d be tearing my hair out right now.

 
Written by Alex Goff    Saturday, 13 October 2012 12:54    PDF Print Write e-mail
Eagle Eye: Eagle 7s Team Must Do Better Than That - P
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You don’t need me to tell you that the USA 7s team must do better.

 
Written by Eamonn Hogan    Tuesday, 09 October 2012 11:04    PDF Print Write e-mail
Eamonn Hogan: Why Players Can't Nail the 2-on-1 - P
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So, you’re sitting down to watch the big international game of the day between the two biggest rugby nations in the world. You've paid your bucks for the pay-per-view, told your friends to come around and watch with you. Refreshments all laid out and the aggravations begins when one of your friends decides to sing one of the national anthems very badly. 

 
Written by Alex Goff    Thursday, 04 October 2012 23:09    PDF Print Write e-mail
Eagle Eye: What to Like About These 7s Eagles - P
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What to like about this USA 7s team set to go to the Gold Coast. Everything?

 
Written by Alex Goff    Monday, 01 October 2012 13:04    PDF Print Write e-mail
GoffonRugby: When 220 Is Way Too Much - P
RUGBYmag Premier - Columns and Opinions


Things are different now. The old Super League teams are back in DI. The previously shrinking DI-A has now expanded. There’s an Elite Cup for men, and a Varsity Cup for college men’s teams.

 
Written by Jackie Finlan    Thursday, 27 September 2012 14:38    PDF Print Write e-mail
Our Picks for WNT Fall Tour
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[Photo: Ashley Okonta hopes to add a 15s cap to her 7s and U-20 resume. Lynne Skilken photo].

RugbyMag.com makes a few predictions on selections for the Women’s National Team’s fall tour of Europe. Below are the 42 women who attended camp; there are only 30 spots available.

Sadie AndersonMeya BizerSharon Blaney
Megan BonnyKristin BonomoSylvia Braaten
Rebecca BrafmanStacey BridgesJamie Burke
Lisa ButtsSarah ChobotKate Daley
Lauren DalyAmy DanielsJess Davis
Mel DenhamVal GriffethBrittany Houston
Monica JacksonKatie JohnsonMolly Kinsella
Ashley KmiecikTess Kohanski

Lynelle Kugler

Jenny LuiKaelene LundstrumCassidy Meyers
Rose MeisnerLaura MillerSan Juanita Moreno
Ashley OkontaSam PankeyAndrea Prusinski
Naima ReddickKimber RozierHannah Stolba
Shaina TurleyEmily Van GulikKitt Wagner
Carrie WhiteSarah WilsonJess Wooden

WNT coach Pete Steinberg will likely bring a mostly veteran squad to Italy and France, but also use the tests to inaugurate some promising


youngsters. The new players range from Cassidy Meyers, who still plays for the Washington high school, Kent Crusaders; to Atlanta’s Jess Wooden, who is back in the mix after injury; to Val Griffeth, a veteran who has played international 7s but not 15s.

Here’s how we’re narrowing down the pool:

Current USA 7s Players
WNT 7s coach Ric Suggitt indicated that his 7s players were going to participate in the 15s assemblies and made available for international tests, if only for the experience. However, only a handful of athletes who played in the 2011-12 Women’s Challenge Cup attended the recent 15s camp: Meya Bizer, Amy Daniels, Kaelene Lundstrum, Ashley Okonta and Kimber Rozier.

The last game of the 15s tour is Nov. 24; the first game of the Dubai 7s is Nov. 30. That’s a quick turnaround for a player selected for two tours, so we wouldn’t be surprised if the aforementioned 7s athletes were included in the 15s pool because they weren’t selected for Dubai.

Perhaps 7s residents Lundstrum and Rozier will join the team in Dubai; however, Christy Ringgenberg has joined the Chula Vista crew and Nathalie Marchino will arrive during early October, to increase the pool of contracted players to 10.

College Kids
An impressive number of college players were included in the 15s camp, but they need to keep building their experience domestically before taking on national teams. Washington State’s Megan Bonny, AIC’s Jess Davis, Stanford’s Molly Kinsella and Women’s Cougar Rugby Monica Jackson all have promising careers, but we don’t think they’re ready for the trip across the Atlantic just yet. Same goes for the lone high-schooler, Meyers.

Recent UW-Milwaukee grads Katie Johnson and Brittany Houston are playing for Women’s Premier League teams. Johnson has a slew of international experience with the USA U20s and continues to adapt to the senior level with the Twin Cities Amazons. However, the former No. 8’s size isn’t up to national team standards, so she might need to find a new position into which to grow. Houston is with division-leading Glendale, and has a lot of potential, but both are in the midst of reaching it.

The exception is Sadie Anderson, who works with Steinberg at Penn State. She debuted for the national 15s team last summer during the Nations Cup, and the flyhalf should definitely be on the roster (unless school interferes).

To summarize: We think all of the 7s athletes will be included, and all of the high school/college-age athletes (except Sadie Anderson) will be excluded.

Veterans
Whether past their prime or not, the veterans invited to Colorado were being considered for the fall tour, so we’re going to include everyone who played for the 2010 Rugby World Cup or was in the player pool late in the selection process (excluding Daniels, who was covered in the 7s section): Blaney, Bridges, Burke, Butts, Denham, Kmiecik, Kugler, Moreno, Reddick, Stolba and Wagner.

If you add in everyone who played for the 2011 Nations Cup (Braaten, Brafman, Chobot, Daley, Lui, Miller, Pankey, Turley, White), then the tally of players reaches 26. But we don’t think all of the ’11 Nations Cup-ers are going to make the cut. During the last year, Steinberg has praised a number of cap-seeking players, whom we think will overtake some of the less-established veterans this tour.

For instance, Steinberg has said some really great things about second rows Rosie Meisner and Emily Van Gulik. We’re confident that they’ll make the team, while last year’s Eagle lock Lauren Daly might take the hit.

THE Unaccounted
There are five players who don’t truly fit into any of the previously mentioned categories, so their destinies are more difficult to predict: Kristin Bonomo, Val Griffeth, Tess Kohanski, Andre Prusinski, Sarah Wilson and Jess Wooden.

It’s a tough call, but there are a few things we know. Of the backs: Griffeth is a long-time, successful wing for San Diego, and the most experienced back-three player in this lot. If we had to choose between her and Prusinski (wing for Glendale), then we'd go with Griffeth, who has also played for the 7s Eagles. Jess Wooden's tough - she's come back from injury and looking strong, but not sure she's up to international competition yet.

Of the forwards: Bonomo is a solid, hard-working flanker for Beantown but she’s too small for the international stage. Wilson is a former age-grade Eagle and standout in the Glendale front row. She's competing with young, front row, Kohanski, who's been doing as good a job for Beantown. 

 
Written by Eamonn Hogan    Monday, 24 September 2012 18:25    PDF Print Write e-mail
The Battle for the Soul of American Rugby - P
RUGBYmag Premier - Columns and Opinions

 

Brief history lesson from this side of the pond: 

 
Written by Alex Goff    Sunday, 23 September 2012 19:44    PDF Print Write e-mail
Eagle Eye: Which ARC Players Could be Eagles in November? - P
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The Americas Rugby Championship squad has been named, with Eagles Head Coach Mike Tolkin doing exactly what he should do – picking young players who aspire to be on the Eagles, and including a couple of capped players and a couple of player who are, frankly, shots in the dark.

 
Written by Waisale Serevi    Tuesday, 11 September 2012 21:33    PDF Print Write e-mail
King's Corner: Good Things Come in Small Packages - P
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In this edition of King's Corner, 7s legend Waisale Serevi discusses playing and coaching with two of the game's legend, and how they managed to rule the 7s world despite being ... how should we say ... not the most physically imposing. 

 
Written by Alex Goff    Tuesday, 11 September 2012 17:11    PDF Print Write e-mail
Rugby Coach Weekly Reprint - Changing Position Under Pressure - P
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The latest installment of our reprinting of Rugby Coach Weekly's advise and ideas for rugby coaches.

This one is a drill devised by RUGBYMag.com Columnist Eamonn Hogan on how to change position when you're in contact or under pressure.

 
Written by Alex Goff    Sunday, 02 September 2012 19:20    PDF Print Write e-mail
Eagle Eye: 7s Eagles Need More Power - P
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Size and power are important parts of the future of international 7s.

 
Written by Alex Goff    Friday, 31 August 2012 15:01    PDF Print Write e-mail
Running Touch: Elite Cup Fallout? - P
RUGBYmag Premier - Columns and Opinions


Is it about more rugby, or more good rugby, or less rugby?

One wonders. The fallout from the restructure of club rugby won’t be known for years; it might be good. It might not be. We’ll see.

But right now, after talking with several clubs and examining the new plan, especially the new Elite Cup, I have some observations for you:

The Elite Cup Plan was designed to address one of the lingering issues among Super League teams, to-wit: DI leagues were not being particularly cooperative in allowing Super League clubs to field reasonably competitive DI squads.

This is because the DI leagues and clubs therein didn’t want to lose. But it was also because Super League teams didn’t help, by sometimes actually fielding well-known star players in DI league games and therefore making it seem like RSL teams were gaming the system. In the end, the players who were hurt were the up-and-comers – good young players who were getting sub time in the Super League and needed DI playing time.

Now it’s all solved, right? The Super League disbanded; all Super League teams are back to being DI, and the Elite Cup is something separate.

However the pushback remains. NYAC won’t compete in DI (either because they think it’s a waste of time, or because the Empire Conference was bloody-minded and didn’t let them in … depends who you ask). And even Boston is reportedly getting the runaround – based solely on the fact that other DI clubs don’t want to lose to these former Super League squads.

I wish the message were still clear – if you skew the competition to keep out the good teams, did you really win anything?

So it’s up to DI leagues and clubs to accept this fact – many of the former Super League teams are, in fact, really very good and could well take a playoff spot supposedly meant for others. Too bad. It’s sports. Better teams (usually) win.


Playing in DI won’t be enough for good clubs.
The best clubs will win many of their league games by large margins. Now, I’m not saying that several DI clubs can’t keep up. But what I am saying is that playing their best players in league games won’t help the teams formerly-known-as-Super-Leaguers, and certainly won’t help the teams that get thrashed.

So … what you will probably see is a team like San Francisco Golden Gate select down for DI league, and reserve their best lineup for major friendlies or the Elite Cup. (This is not unlike what Cal has done for years. When in the NorCal DI league, Cal didn’t always put its most accomplished 15 on the field, but if you started against UBC, you knew you were considered the best.)

Such a plan could work. The DI leagues will get a good, competitive addition, and at the same time, the elite squad can create their own nicely-defined elite season.

Old Puget Sound, Life, NYAC and SFGG have all begun setting up a series of tough games. In fact, one club said that without the Super League scheduling the games has become easier – now they have the flexibility to plan ahead by many months.


Playing the Elite Cup might be good enough.

NYAC looks to not be in DI this season, but will be in the Elite Cup. Going forward, DI success in Year N will dictate Elite Cup participation in Year N+1 (similar to the Heineken Cup in Europe).

So if NYAC wants to remain in the Elite Cup they will either have to play DI eventually, or figure out a way within USA Rugby to stay in the Cup as long as they are competitive.

As it is, playing three pool games and potentially two playoff games might be the right number for some. And if it’s not, you can add some friendly games. DI you could delegate to another group of players.


We might see the return of the Tour
Teams I have spoken to are pretty excited about freeing up their spring. They are aware of what the bar is, and how they can work to raise it. The Super League was successful in a lot of areas in helping the game, but also fell short in some areas.

In a way, the total inadequacy of a 64-team DI competition where half the teams are not dependable (they might even be good – but can you depend on them to pitch-up, on the road, on a regular basis?), plus a short cup isn’t going to help players keep up with pro leagues of 15 or 20 games.

That’s OK, because the clubs will fix it, and one way to do that is on tour. Canada, believe it or not, is in a similar position, and offers a wonderful opportunity for travel and challenging games. Traveling to the next state, or another continent could work, too.



What this confusion offers, then, is freedom - freedom to recapture control of your own season. Top teams I have spoken to are energized by the new regime, not because USA Rugby has taken more control, but because, thanks to their depth and overall club structure, they are able to break free and create their own schedule, and their own destiny.

It’s hard to predict how it will shake out – whether we have teams that just play in the Elite Cup, or whether we all just get sucked into mediocrity. But I do think, in the end, we will find teams that take control now to be a club of 50 like-minded players who aren’t afraid to lose games in order to achieve something, and those teams will lead American rugby.


This is a Running Touch column by Alex Goff




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Written by Alex Goff    Monday, 27 August 2012 16:09    PDF Print Write e-mail
GoffonRugby: An Attempt to Simplify the Restructure - P
RUGBYmag Premier - Columns and Opinions


Here’s a quick rundown of the club restructure as I see it. I hope this make things simpler, not more complicated.

 
Written by Alex Goff    Sunday, 26 August 2012 19:00    PDF Print Write e-mail
Eagle Eye: Eagles 7s Team Needs to Make its Own Luck - P
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Well the USA did the job; they qualified for the 7s World Cup. They did so convincingly, not being challenged by any of the teams in their way.

 
Written by Eamonn Hogan    Friday, 17 August 2012 18:07    PDF Print Write e-mail
Eamonn Hogan: Coaching Burnout - P
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Although not a major talking point in the USA quite yet, the game is beginning to see signs that highly qualified and experienced coaches are stepping down from successful programs to simply find the enjoyment of the game they have lost due to the pressures that Amateur coaches should not be dealing with. In 2005, Eamonn completed his Degree dissertation (as a VERY mature student) on the issue of Coaching Burnout, an edited version of which was subsequently published by the RFU Technical Journal. In this article, he gives his thoughts on the subject with an American slant

 
Written by Alex Goff    Thursday, 16 August 2012 15:39    PDF Print Write e-mail
GoffonRugby: Picking the All-Star 7s - P
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The Men’s 7s National All-Star Championships is a contest between eight all-star teams to crown the best region in 7s, and find players for the national team.

 
Written by Alex Goff    Tuesday, 14 August 2012 17:50    PDF Print Write e-mail
New Feature! Rugby Coach Weekly Reprint - P
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RUGBYMag.com is proud to offer a new feature.

We are partnering with Rugby Coach Weekly magazine to give you a regular look into some coaching tips and ideas.

 
Written by Alex Goff    Tuesday, 14 August 2012 17:50    PDF Print Write e-mail
New Feature! Rugby Coach Weekly Reprint - P
RUGBYmag Premier - Columns and Opinions


RUGBYMag.com is proud to offer a new feature.

We are partnering with Rugby Coach Weekly magazine to give you a regular look into some coaching tips and ideas.

 
Written by Alex Goff    Sunday, 12 August 2012 19:43    PDF Print Write e-mail
Why Winning Serevi Matters for Falcons - P
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The USA Falcons’ victory at the Serevi 7s is one of those events that could be heavily overstated.

 
Written by Alex Goff    Friday, 03 August 2012 18:58    PDF Print Write e-mail
Eagle Eye: What I Like About All American 7s Picks - P
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The Collegiate All American 7s teams that will go to Glendale for the Serevi Rugbytown 7s and the NASC in Chula Vista are very, very strong teams.

They aren't just one-dimensional - the mix of players is a good insight into how USA teams should be constructed going forward.

 


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