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18 July 2013


Melville is closing in on $3,000,000 in compensation for all but destroying US rugby.

The Tolkin experiment hasn't worked out as planned. His game knowledge and tactics are there, but he isn't able to create the right culture. His comments about the coaches not responsible to generate passion in the players after the Tonga match were shockingly naive. He has relied on too many older players who seem to have the attitude that they are locks for the 2015 RWC and looking forward to it as their farewell tour. Clever's "Captain America" routine was trite from the start and just pathetic now. He was a poor choice as captain especially when he is barely playing any top flight rugby and when he does it is in a soft competition in Japan. This summer was frankly pathetic, and if we see the Eagles take two heavy losses to Canada the team will be limping into the Americas 2 qualification process anchored at the bottom of the top 20 of the IRB rankings. If Tolkin was a funny talker, this blog would be full of posts screaming for his head.

My assessment is that Tolkin is a failure and it all comes to trusting the older players too much. They took advantage of him and it is yet to be seen if they will pay him back or if the camp is poisoned.


Your disdain for Eddie, Thorburn, Scott Johnson and every other foreign born coach we've had was palpable at the time. I felt it was high-time to promote an American to the top spot again, and felt Tolkin was the right choice given the gutsy performances our defense registered during Eddie's tenure. You seemed to feel the same way. Yet now you are not hesitating to point out how Tolkin has underperformed (just how I read your posts on this topic) while simultaneously not being willing to admit that perhaps you were off-base about Eddie and others.

For me, I'd just like you to come out and state in a post: what is it you want, exactly? Clearly you'd like to get rid of Melville, Robert and co. Not that many who would disagree with you there. But what's your strategy, which you clearly seem to think USAR is missing/failing to implement, for correcting what I will call the continuing underperformance of our national team? Please just state it clearly for all to read. Then at least you can be accountable for it.

@ Rugby Sage: Agree with most of what you say, certainly the part about people calling for Tolkin's head if he were a "funny talker." I do think he continues to do a fine job with the defensive side of the ball, but that's only half the game of course.

Oddly enough, though, as I think we're all aware, the USA will likely have an easier time of it in London in 2015 if we do lose to Canada. Because of the genius scheduling prowess at the IRB, the Americas 2 seed has an easier draw of it than the Americas 1 seed. Not that much easier perhaps, but easier. Of course we'll still have to beat Uruguay...


I don't agree.

Pool B (America 2) will have South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and most likely Japan as Asia 1. I would say without a massive improvement from last RWC and current form we would only have a shot against Japan. And that shot seems to be more and more unlikely because they seem to have found the right combination of players (a couple in Super 15) and coaching with an eye at the 2019 RWC to be a solid top 10 team.

Pool D (America 1) has France, Ireland, Italy and Europe 2, which will be Georgia, Spain, Portugal, Russia or Romania. I like our chances against one of those teams than Japan.

Gainline is a place to air pseudo-dirty laundry and grievances, not solve real problems. This is the fully-realized expectation of this site. The Gainliners will say they want this one or that one gone, but rarely do they have a viable plan as to what to do if their wishes came true.

I also want Melville and Roberts gone.


Right. Beating Japan AND Scotland, or Europe 2 AND Italy isn't going to happen. We aren't going to pre-qualify for 2015. Just not going to happen. We do have a chance at not finishing in last place. Pool D gives us better odds of that.

(And it won't be Portugal or Spain. That would be virtually impossible.)

Oops...meant to say that we aren't going to pre-qualify for 2019.

@Sage -Upon further reflection, I stand corrected. Clearly Pool D gives us the better chance, particularly after our recent loss to Japan. I was thinking Scotland would be a far easier upset to spring than Ireland or France, and there would be an outside chance of beating Samoa. But who am I kidding? We are not pulling an upset against either of those teams. And we'd be lucky to beat Japan.

In Pool D we have a much better chance of beating the Europe 2, and I suppose an outside chance of springing an upset on Ireland or Italy (ain't gonna happen but we can dream).


Never heard this explanation when a funny talker was MNT Head Coach. #hypocrate

Awesome. So its the lower level high school and college coach's fault that we don't have better national team players. How ironic is it that if we didn't have a national team syphoning off revenue generated by membership fees of high school and college kids that maybe we'd have more funding for coach and player development.

The lower level players and coaches are not producing a large enough pool of elite national level players. Blaming USA Rugby for "syphoning off revenue generated by membership fees" is a poor excuse for the low quality of play at the local and regional levels. If $60 is going to break the budget of a serious rugby player then, maybe they should play another sport. Athletes and their parents in other sports spend thousands of dollars a year on sports camps and other development resources. Good news is that entrepreneurs like Serevi, Tiger Rugby and others are developing more clinics, camps, and touring sides which will give players and coaches access to elite level resources and competition. I have not seen innovators like Serevi and Tiger complain about USA Rugby like so many on gainline. They act and produce results to move the game forward. Running camps is something everyone can do either on their own or in partnership with established rugby camp administrators . Changing USA Rugby Management or CIPP is never going to happen.

Interesting since I am one of those parents that spends a lot for my kids in youth sports. And, I send $50 every year to the USGA. Easy to identify the USAR enabler because they want to talk about membership fees in terms of the individual ($30/$60) rather than collectively (over $2000 from my team alone).

In my kid's sport $30 goes to our state association and for that we get a well constructed competition, coaching certification, pathway to national tournament and a comprehensive ODP program. USGA manages amateur competitions and maintains the integrity of the game. Oh, and they don’t try to tell me I can’t play my local course unless I renew my enrollment.

Defend it all you want but the USAR funding model is broken for the average player / team. It’s just easier for us to throw our hands up and walk away than it is to change it. And, that’s exactly what Nigel and the boys are banking on. Those of us that have tried to effect change end up getting beaten down by the bureaucracy of the privileged that are able to play a shell game with the issues until the average volunteer has exhausted all energy.

Yep, it’s all the lower level coaches fault.

I am not defending USA Rugby at all. If you really think you can change USA Rugby, keep banging your head against that wall. USA Rugby is set up so that they are not accountable to their members. Sure it sucks, but you can't do anything about it. Is USA Rugby preventing your local team from getting more fit? from arranging elite level camps and clinics? from arranging great competition in your regional conference? from hosting tournaments? from arranging representative touring sides? No. USA Rugby is a bad organization but they are not the reason local rugby quality is poor. Accept USA Rugby for what they are and focus on where you can make a real change for the game.

Rugby Sage - you make no sense. I said it today - this article wasn't written when anyone else was coach. But just so you know, it applied then too.

Coach - who's fault would it be other than the coaches at the lower levels?

a few of my thoughts addressing our national rugby picture:

1. We emphasize games over practices - schools are coming back next month and will have 5-7 practices, then their season starts. That structure is not going to develop players.

2. There are no development programs at the local level. We have all-star camps, but no organized "next - level" games with practices. Just games - coaches become no more than "line-up mgrs" than coaches.

3. The bickering over $60. A video game costs $50. Get over it. It's a national organization fee in a country that does not support rugby, so those involved should. Representation and control over the $ is different, but when it creeps into real money, I could care less. Sports cost money to run and ALL PARTICIPANTS should pay their fare share.

4. When USAR started we all closed up shop and said to USAR - you do the work. We all stopped.

5. It's a sport, not a lifestyle, not a culture, a sport. As soon as we understand this and raise our sport, a sport we love, to another level, (including fields, coaches and referees) we will always be a 12-18 ranked team.

If we, as individuals, strived to get better; we would then be lifted up as a whole.

There are no quick fixes.

Out of curiosity, who are the 5 oldest guys on the team, and who could replace them?

Bottom line is that Tolkin's over his skis as MNT Head Coach.

"Coach - who's fault would it be other than the coaches at the lower levels?"

FALSE...This blame goes mostly to the CEO and his staff.

"We emphasize games over practices - schools are coming back next month and will have 5-7 practices, then their season starts. That structure is not going to develop players."

TRUE...it will be unsafe and of little developmental value.

"Sports cost money to run and ALL PARTICIPANTS should pay their fare share."

FALSE...The teams and players are funding the sport. We shouldn't need to fund a worthless CEO and his staff. And the national teams should fund themselves.

"There are no quick fixes."

FALSE...Fire Melville and change the chairmen and US rugby gets better overnight.

And just how do you think you or any members are going to fire Melville? We get it, Melville sucks. Move on. it's not your job to hire or fire the USA Rugby CEO. Focus on making a difference where you can make a difference.

A new organization may be the answer. A group that has its own insurance program. If there is no ciapp fee's going to USAR they may not exist. America has done things its own way since our inception. Break off from USAR like Varsity Cup has done. The Varsity Cup has done more in a year then USAR has ever done for college rugby.

Get all of rugby except the Eagles out of USAR hands and the game will grow in the States. Remember this, IRB only wants rugby to be great in the US if they are in control of the purse. We are better off without them.

Most US rugby clubs can barely run themselves propey, get decent coaching and develop players and there is this talk of creating a new organization separate from USA Rugby. Ridiculous. If the clubs and conferences were run better there would be a better player pool for the Eagles to pick from.

@Rugby Sage

Who cares if Tolkin is over his skis. Rugby is a recreational sport in the USA and the Eagles are basically just a pick-up team of amateurs funded by the dues of members of USA Rugby. They get to participate in the big events like the RWC even though they have no chance of winning it. There are no corporate or broadcast stakeholders in the Eagles and the USA Rugby members don't seem that fussed about paying dues to fund the national teams (aside from some keyboard warriors here on gainline). It all doesn't matter.

You got one right - you don't have a clue.

No one is going to fire the Staff, no one is going to start another Union no one is going to tell the IRB what to do.

As far as I know all Unions pay for their National teams, I could be mistaken, but I don't know of any that are self funded.

Tolkin is the head coach of a team that does not look like they can beat anyone above their weight. And no one that has coached the US since 2000 has done any better.

The next RWC is in 2015, so what high level programs have we had for our teenage players starting 8 years ago? That would make them roughly 23-29 years old in 2015.

I don't see it going well for us in 2015, with or without Tolkin.

Who Cares paints the real picture here.

Do we really need to be better than 15-20th in the world in XVs? The US isn't the best in other international sports. It has been validated that the only commercially viable rugby product in the US is 7s. Let's take what works and make that our focus. Finding and developing the next Isles, Test, or Swiryn seems so much easier than building a 30-person XVs team that will never be better than 3rd in their RWC pool. The top end 7s teams have 2-3 core game changers and the rest are solid role players. Surely the club nat'l 7s tourney will unearth some new talent. You can't change what's at Boulder and Graham Henry with Phil Jackson or Bill Parcells as his advisors wouldn't do better than Tolkin here.

What I think we should strive for is taking the players that want to play rugby and get them as good as they can be.

Whatever accomplishments they attain, they attain.

We are only showing promise in 7's now because they other top rugby playing nations are not focusing on that sport - they will once the Olympics roll around.

Then we will settle back into our 13-20 level.

Let's just make the sport as professional and focused as we can, ignore the idiots and invest time and money to those who want to do the work required.

Other countries are already investing more in Sevens than the US. However, no country has yet developed a professional sevens series at the club level so US players are not as far behind in compensation in sevens as they are in fifteens. JP Morgan Premiership Sevens and World Club Sevens are one off events not part of a competitive series/season like IRB Sevens at the national team level.

@Who Cares?

My words weren't that Tolkin is over his skis, but I did say I thought his limitations were surely exposed during the summer tests.

Regarding investment into rugby here in the USA and around the world, there are some real stark differences. Most nations directly fund sports via local, regional and national governments. For example, when rugby 7s became an Olympic sport rugby became automatically part of the national PE curriculum in all schools. This means a lot of funding to develop coaches, purchase rugby equipment, develop facilities, etc. Other government spending is direct to high performance via grants or access to national sports facilities and personnel.

This doesn't happen in the USA where we prefer market driven investment by entrepreneurs or corporations that want to profit from the game. We also prefer indirect sports funding via the college sports. The majority of state universities have money losing Athletic Departments that depend on tax payer dollars to fund their sports programs. Primarily the NBA and NFL reap the benefit as they have a steady stream of prime time ready players coming out of these state schools. Baseball and hockey rely on the farm or minor league systems to develop players, which is costly. Olympics get some value of of this system too.

The big question for rugby is how are they going to develop players that can compete on the world stage.

what countries fund their nation's rugby programs?

I know NZ receives nothing from the Gov.

SAGE: "For example, when rugby 7s became an Olympic sport rugby became automatically part of the national PE curriculum in all schools. " - what country is this?

Most eastern European and EU counties match their PE programs with Olympic sports.

Canada gets sports grants for rugby. New Zealand government spent billions on the 2011 RWC, which benefited the union and rugby as a whole in NZ.

Uruguay now houses their promising youth in a rugby dedicated facility attached to their national rugby stadium. There's a Total Rugby video on YouTube that covers it. Came out about 2 months ago.

Most ant Total Rugby video about the development of the game in a couple trying to develop rugby will include the mention of support from local, regional and national governments. Basically, if the country is at all socialist in make up sports funding is there.

You can say the NZ gov spent $ on the RWC, but the Union did not receive a dime.

The clubs are suffering, the players are leaving because there is no money to pay the players.

Wales players are leaving in droves because the premier teams cannot meet payroll.

I truly believe there are not as many as you think.

So if NZ does not have any money to pay players, and NZ produces the best rugby players in the world, then it follows that no money is needed to produce great rugby players in the US.

Wales and NZ have the problem of being small nations with pro clubs competing with big nation pro clubs. Bottom line is broadcast dollars and a Canal+ deal in France blows away the broadcast rights on offer in RaboDirect or whatever it is called now. Add in the butts in seats revenue difference and they can't compete on compensation. Paris and it's suburbs have a larger population than all of The.

all of Wales. The Welsh union are at fault too. They pushed a region system on a rugby fan base that was partisan to a long club system with supporters from clubs like Bridgend, Neath, Pontypool, and Pontypridd not fully supporting regional teams. The union is also famous for infighting and narrow minded decision making.

Deal with it:

Correct, to a point. All NZ kids have rugby balls in their hands at a very young age. All NZ kids have access to loads of rugby experiences to learn from. All NZ kids have access to very good coaching when they reach development age teams after the age of 18.

Prior to that, coaching is average. But they are getting better.

Also NZ is coming to terms with athletic conditioning/training earlier in the players "career" which sorely was lacking in player development. So they will get better as a rugby playing nation.

I have never at any time talked about the $ in rugby, I don't feel it starts there. I think the US problem in rugby starts with the coaches and referees in the lower levels, we have got to get better.

In the US, if we had $ going towards scholarships at Universities/Colleges, then we would have more parents showing up to rugby clubs asking "where can my kid play?"

Then the parental funding would start, then it takes off

What's wrong with holding youth, high school and college coaches accountable?

I'm the first to agree that USA Rugby doesn't put nearly enough effort into coach development at those levels (Luke Gross should be doing 100 continuity camps a year, not 10), but at the same time resources are out there for those interested in trying to improve themselves.

In my region for example, I watch the same high school teams make the same fundamental mistakes year in and year out. I know numerous experienced coaches practically begging to work with teams and help remedy the situation, but they are flat out refused or ignored; I can only assume due to jealousy and long-existing club rivalries.

I have the utmost respect for the time volunteer coaches put into their teams, it is certainly a thankless job. But at the same time our rugby community needs to start expecting people to do things the right way if we ever expect to improve as a whole.

So I haven't seen anyone attempt to answer the question posted earlier by Craig:

Out of curiosity, who are the 5 oldest guys on the team, and who could replace them?

I see many opinions but nothing on this one.

Most people who play rugby are the ones who were not competitive in the more popular american sports. If they are great athletes they don't have time for rugby. Less talented athletes are pushed aside as fewer spots are available in popular sports moving from HS to college and those less talented guys play rugby so rugby starts with a less athletic talent pool. All rugby clubs could insist on better fitness standards but few do. Rugby will never be an NCAA sport but it should adopt NCAA high performance fitness standards. No funding needed to improve rugby fitness across the country. Rugby needs to put players through remedial fitness training. Once there is a decent sized player pool of fit athletes the quality of rugby wil improve.

Warrior :

first of all - what does age have to do with being replacesd?

Second - no one other than the hopefully national staff has a clue of what they have and what's out there to replace them.

The national staff and the national team are the least of USA rugby's problem.

Again, not me using a pen name, but I asked the original question based on a couple of paragraph's in Kurt's blog post, that's all.

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