College Rugby is the Only Hope
28 Oct 2006
USA will only improve their world ranking if there is a vast improvement in the college game.
The Super league and Division One are two very weak competitions and if the Eagles think they can pick a competitive international team from those two competitions they should tap out of fantasy land and look at the reality.
Super league and Division One have produced some very good teams and also very capable international players but the fact is that if these clubs played an average club side in New Zealand or Australia they would be looking at a substantial point deficit.
Club teams in the Southern Hemisphere only provide a stepping stone for players wanting to advance to the representative level and then if they are good enough they will play super 14 then have the opportunity to play for their Country.
The Eagles are getting picked straight out of club rugby, and because the club competition is so weak and is not providing the good players with high intensity games, the Eagles are getting rolled.
This will continue to happen for the next 10 to 20 years. Let’s be honest. In the US the senior club game is not professional so how are amateurs going to compete against fully professional athletes?
I mean most clubs can’t even provide their players with a shower after the game.
I appreciate that huge amounts of effort goes in from passionate individuals who want to improve the game and that’s why rugby will always be played in this country, but unless a multi millionaire pumps money into the game at the Super League and Division One level, the only hope for rugby to be competitive on the international stage in this country is if the college scene can take off.
College rugby is where it’s at.
You have athletes that are between 18 and 22 that have the opportunity to live together, train together and play together for four years. That’s as close you’re going to get to a professional rugby environment in this country.
There are some genuine athletes who play at the college level. Reject football players can always add value to a rugby team but it’s the reject wrestlers, lacrosse and soccer players who add real value to the college game.
Rugby is appealing to the reject college athlete because it’s a very competitive collision sport and can be very inviting to an athlete wanting to continue to compete at a good level. Rugby is a test of endurance, agility, power, strength, hand eye coordination, communication, tactics and above all team work.
There is a place in rugby for any athlete who can display any of those skills.
The college game has shown signs of significant improvement in the last few years. Game plans are improving and the players seem to be getting fitter. Coaching structures are improving and seem to be getting a little more professional. The facilities around the country are improving also. Dartmouth has a beautiful club house and Army is developing a modern facility at West Point. Cal Berkley and Stanford have nice rugby purpose facilities.
I think if the college game can continue to encourage genuine athletes to play that can only be a good thing. Once the athletes have developed their skills they should be encouraged to play overseas and learn the game in a genuine rugby environment. There are so many opportunities around the world for players that are big, fit, fast and skillful. The players who have played overseas should be the core of the Eagles team. The learning opportunity that one season will provide in an overseas environment would be worth 5 years experience if they continued to play in this country.
A perfect example of this is the openside flanker Eddie Kos. Eddie was introduced to the game at college level and loved it so much he wanted to become a great player and wanted to play for the Eagles. He took the initiative to seek help from overseas clubs and ended up playing top club rugby in South Africa, New Zealand and England.
He came back to the US as comfortably the best openside flanker in the country. He’s a Josh Kronfeld and George Smith style of openside flanker. He contributed in helping the Boston Irish Wolfhounds to two National Championships. Unfortunately for Eddie he has dreadlocks so probably doesn’t fit the image that Tom Billops was seeking but if anyone ever saw him play you will know what I’m talking about.
On this website I would like to promote USA College Rugby and also aspiring players play overseas. With the help of my many contacts I have made playing and coaching the game I would like to contribute helping out the college game and make rugby the game that has to be played.