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03 June 2008

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If Mike Petri becomes our first choice #9, that will be the first time (other than Kimball Kjar) in many years that we've had a us-taught rugger at the 9/10 positions.

Somewhere at the lower levels (RSL, D1, top college teams), we have to promote having us-trained players getting the shots at skill positions.

Too often, clubs use their foreign quota to fill the 9-10, backrow, hooker, and 13-15 slots. Can you really blame them? They want to win their competition, and want to spend their money wisely.

So what ends up happening? So many of those slots are filled with foreign talent, that to expect an American to make the jump to test level rugby at 9-10 is simply too big an ask.

In addition, if foreign players are crowding out Eagle-eligible talent at those positions at the club level, we face a much bigger danger of being unable to fill those slots ourselves.

We can keep unearthing obscure foreign-based talent that is Eagle eligible. But that is not a long-term fix.

If that is indeed our plan, then we should hire a full-time genealogical data miner at the national office.

Take the Super 14 and Heineken Cup rosters and run a mass query on Ancestry.com.

If we wait until foreign-based players approach us to play for the Eagles, chances are, they weren't good enough to play for the country in which they were trained.

In that case, we will be fighting a losing battle.

You can't beat England's A-side (whom England keeps) with England's F-side (whom England doesn't want).

So what do you suggest? quotas? American protectionism? What ever happened to coaches letting the best rise to the top in PRACTICE and fielding the best on game day? I say the real problem, or root cause of native born American's lack of basic skill at key positions, is that less than a handful of teams across the country have a week long practice schedule. Most common is some variation of the Tues/Thurs/Sat game day schedule. How can Americans makes econd nature the skills that take Day in Day out reps to hone?
Pointing over seas and up at leadership is not the answer.

I hear too much of this BS about Forgien players on the Eagles.

The IRB has rules and that allow it and it goes on in almost every single major country does it.

Some recent examples

Greg Rawlinson - NZ - from SA
Peter DeVilliers - FRA - from SA
Sonny Parker - WAL - from NZ
Issac Boss - IRE - from NZ
Brian Mujati - SA - from ZIM
George Smith - AUS - from TON
leslie Vainikolo - Eng - from NZ
James Prichard - CA - from OZ

There are many many more. If you have a problem tell the IRB.

While domestic development should improve the Eagles winning games has to be the top priotirty. The best players should wear the Jersey..., I'm sorry if this is hurtful to other players who aren't is good. But just because you went to Cal doesn't garuntee you an Eagle Jersey.

Well said Go The Eagles,

The facts are evident. It is simply a numbers game. Overall, with a minimal amount of kids playing rugby versus American mainstream sports there are not enough on the bottom of the pyramid to get to the top - international level. The American born ones simply have not to this point beaten out their foreign born American eligible counterparts, especially in the skill positions.

From the way Kurt framed the post I'm not sure if is he suggesting that the IRB money be better spent by taking our best "skills" players and using that money to send them to the major playing nations to apprentice? Or if there should be an American only league supported by this money to develop the talent to beat other nations? Not in the short to mid term for sure (1-10 yrs.). Or if the Super league should be forced to play only American born, American accent players in the skill positions?

The level of the Super League (while agreeing that it is not always Super) is raised by both the foreign players and the foreign born Eagles. Until there are rewards (financial) other than an Eagle jumper (that is currently only recognized by the 60 or so friends, wives, girlfriends and 8 dogs on the sideline of any Super league match)these questions are important but futile. Until there is a product here that kids can see and want to emulate like when they see Kobe highlights we will continue on our 35 yr path of 13 -20th in the world.

I suggest that our kids would be more attracted to emulate Dan Carter and his highlights than the best American born flyhalf and his highlights we could put through Cal and the All American program. The product in the short to mid term is only going to improve through the use of foreign born individuals. That is the starting point. If we can ever get the product worthy of Sporstcenter highlights the rest will flow from there - money, positive notoriety, etc.


A more important question is where are the black guys?

Playing basketball. Moving on...

I'm probably in the minority (no pun intended), but who cares about the Eagles. I don't mean that in an unsupportive way, but I would much rather watch US Super League than a Eagles test match any day of the week. Rosters stay more consistent and you have much more access to these teams based on geography.

In what other popular US sport do we put so much emphasis on the international team? Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, and Football (not necessarily in that order), are the four major team sports in the US. You also have NASCAR and Golf drawing big. Lacrosse is up and coming. Does anyone routinely follow the US versions of these teams?

Nope. And please don't claim that you can't wait for the next World Baseball Classic.

Those are all All-Star kind of things that no one really cares about. Because the US is so big, it's more about City/State/College pride than National pride. If each European country were the same size as the US as a whole, it would be the same thing. I look at England, France, Italy, etc etc and I compare that to New York, California, and Texas.

Put the Eagles on hold and focus more resources on the Super League and even the US 7's team. Eventually that will translate into success at the Eagle level, but that's not the way we should be opening the mainstream door in the US b/c it will never happen.

Playing basketball? Why don't you just say eating watermelon? Rasist.

Racist

Racist

Obviously the answer is to build up youth rugby programs that attract young kids and allow them to develop the skills and a love for the game. Kids love to play games. They love to play physical, competitive games. Kids love to play rugby.

We have been running a large youth program for 5 seasons. Our experience shows that we can coexist with the mainstream sports at the very young ages (6-12) and become the sport of choice by the Middle School and H.S. years. In the next few years we will have players on our HS sides with 5-7 years playing experience. Most of these athletes have chosen rugby over baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse, and wrestling.

If our goal is to develop the future of US Rugby, we should be investing in youth programs throughout the country.

While youth programs will fuel our future success, it will be a decade or more before this feeder system becomes a reliable answer to our needs at the skill positions. In the meantime we have to keep using the best players avaialable, no matter foreign or domestic.

During the RSL Championship match it was cool hearing Murray Mexted's comments about the prospects and high expectations for Kevin Swiryn, the St. Mary's captain and recipient of the NZ high performance grant. Swiryn is a US born athlete who only found rugby when his college football program was discontinued. Someday soon he should be filling a skill position at the national level.

I know I was riveted to the SL game, on a major network (espn classic) that went to 2 OT. Who cares if the hookers were paid foreigners here for a few months....I have always enjoyed playing with guys who had rugby backgrounds, it improves all of our games

BTW, what happened to the Mara brothers from NYAC ? Anyone know ?

my take-away from kurt's somewhat obfuscated point was that as the eagles roster & US rugby administration became less "american" and more "international" over the past 3-4 years, the end product has suffered, results-wise & in the standings, for whatever reason. it's a fair point to raise. why that is is open to debate & disagreement but the facts remain that performance/standings-wise, you can't say that the eagles' end-results performance has improved as the percentage of US players have decreased. some explanations: could be the lamentable board pre-roberts/melville, could be that the non-us eagles will always be second/3rd tier compared to their home-country brethren that stay home, could be the lack patriotic fervor & buy-in by non-US players...

Abe Licoln - "racist" oh please...

Other than basketball, track & field and maybe football (at least at the "professional level") name another sport played in the USA where the majority of players are most likely black. Certainly not baseball, hockey, golf, rugby, swimming, water polo, volleyball, softball, tennis, do I need to go on.

Address the subject of post don't attack one quick comment.

A couple of poster have strangely made Cal part of this argument, which doesnt make sense. Cal continues to place players on the US rep teams to include the Eagles. These players seem to earn their roster spots, no matter who the coach is, or if foreign selections are in vogue or out.

Maybe those wanting to have this discussion should focus on one of the US clubs that doesnt place players on the national team as the counterpoint to their argument.

Best of luck to Scott Johnson and our Eagles.

To Leksan; cheers to you for your involvement in the 5 year program supporting youth rugby. Keep up the good work. The best thing that we can do for rugby is to teach it to our kids.

I think Kurt's point is that when the Eagles were Cal-centric the team results were better than now when it is more an international player centric team. I think? His writing style is not very clear.

The rankings thing is a bit of a red herring - a major problem is that we barely play Tests anymore, so our ranking dropped like a stone when we got placed in a bastard of a World Cup group in which we were likely to lose all four games. Even though I personally think that team was every bit as good as the 2003 team, a good achievement when you consider we didn't have Dan and Dave to rely on anymore.

I'm going to keep harping on this but we need more Tests. It helps our players play abroad because it qualifies them for work permits and it puts our players in a more pressurized environment. England A is nice and a good matchup but it doesn't put guys in European clubs.

Our team still has plenty of Americans (let's not forget despite that accent Mike Hercus IS American and has the passport to prove it) and we've always struggled for Americans at important skill positions.

10? David Niu, Mark Williams, Grant Wells, Mike Hercus. That's pretty much the people who have had an extended run at 10 in the last 10-12 years of Eagles rugby and none of these guys learnt their rugby in America.

9? Bachelet, Dalzell, Erskine. All South Africans.

Americans still do well at some positions - we've had a knack for producing smart backrowers over the years and that's continued in this team.

Bachelet was raised in Australia and is of South American descent.

Dalzell didn't take up rugby until after high school with OMBAC. He played American football in high school in San Diego. If his rugby was nurtured in SA, it had to have been vicariously.

ECM, I agree with your point that if we take the Tier 1 country's leftovers, it's a losing cause.

Flynn and SDH, thanks for clarifying my prior comment regarding the 9-10 slots. I wasn't sure about Dalzell.

The only other guy missing from this list is Mose Timoteo. Where did he learn his rugby?

The average American rugby kid cannot replicate the development path of our foreign-trained players.

Kids out there can emulate and empathize with a Mike Petri, or a Dan Lyle.

To over simplify, high level sport is like the "lottery" the writers of "Freakonomics" ascribed to beauty pageants and drug dealing.

The more alike you think you are to the winners of the lottery, the more likely you are to play the lottery.

The average American rugby kid is more likely to believe that they can take the same path as a Petri or Lyle and reach the Eagles.

I am not slagging on our foreign-trained players. I am just saying that their pathway to success is one that 99.999% of our youth players can possibly hope to emulate.

Correction:
"I am not slagging on our foreign-trained players. I am just saying that their pathway to success is one that 99.999% of our youth players can NOT possibly hope to emulate."

"Dalzell didn't take up rugby until after high school with OMBAC. He played American football in high school in San Diego. If his rugby was nurtured in SA, it had to have been vicariously."

I'm confused. Dalzell played for Cal, correct?

He came to America at 14 - not a little kid and I'd be stunned given his success in the game that he didn't play before he got here. I'm not giving American rugby no credit for producing him because that's simply not true, I'm just saying that given white South African culture it'd be almost impossible for a young athletic Dalzell NOT to be playing rugby.

"The only other guy missing from this list is Mose Timoteo. Where did he learn his rugby?"

You know, I played a little bit with Mose at SFGG and I have no clue!

I believe Mo is from American Samoa, though I googled and saw a picture of him with a Samoan flag (looking a little sheepish, since he's at an event for the USA Sevens team). In rugby terms that should count as being the USA.

Speaking of American born rugby talent, did you all see the email from Vizard's USRFF announcing the 'Kevin Higgins College Scholarships'? A very cool tribute and honor for an amazing player that was lost too soon. A great tribute and a great way to help move the game forward. It makes me proud to be part of a game that cares so much about its own.

What was also interesting was the annoucement with respect to Cantebury. It is great that the US was able to sign a VIK (value in kind) agreement with a kit provider. What was more interesting in the announcement was that Cantebury (supposedly) will commit to the "paying of performance bonuses through RWC 2011". Regardless of whether the bonuses amount to real coin, it is great that they are willing to do it. I wonder if the performance bonuses will be for the men's and women's sevens teams next year (Dubai) and the Women's Team at their World Cup in 2010. That would be a breakthrough.

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