New Zealand's top domestic competition looks to be heading back to a semi-professional footing, another sign the so-called export model may be decreasingly viable for America.
As club and provincial teams in many of rugby's top-tier countries are finding wage bills often outstrip match revenues, a generation of players which has grown accustomed to full-time compensation may increasingly turn to rugby's richer markets: England, France, and Japan. The upshot is 'tier 2' nations such as the USA could have more trouble sending their internationals abroad for everyday training.
After the 2009 collapse of hopes for a domestic pro league, USARFU's Eagle staff sought to place more test players in Europe. But economic trends are running against the possibility of sending hundreds of players abroad, as Argentina did in the last decade.
Ireland recently established a rule that severely limits imported players who are not eligible to represent the country. The move serves to reduce options for southern hemisphere internationals.
In the Shaky Isles, Northland, 1 of 14 teams in the country's provincial championship, has alerted players they should expect to hold day jobs even in season. The union will offer salaries closer to the league minimum of NZ$15,000 ($18,300) than the maximum of NZ$60,000 ($73,000). NZRU chief executive Steve Tew and several provincial executives agree the trend probably will accelerate, Rugby News reported.
The combination of stiffening competition for places abroad and America's now complete lack of domestic representative play increases the stakes riding on USARFU's so-called competitions review, which focuses on amateur senior clubs, as well as USARFU's Eagle 7s contracts, a program comprising less than a dozen athletes.
Todd Clever will retain captaincy of the USA in 2012, new coach Mike Tolkin announced yesterday.
The US Marine Corps is to sponsor USARFU's division 1A college competition, USARFU said last week. The service arm will be present at the semifinals and finals as well as 'select' regular-season games. Details such as term of the agreement or amount of consideration were not announced. The 25-team league kicked off in mid March.