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25 August 2013


Tolkin's Beagles are going to get to the 2015 RWC as they have two chances to qualify, but by the looks of things the face of the side will not be much different than the 2011 squad. Fry, Pittman, Clever, Biller, Petri, Wyles, Ngwenya, Stanfill, et al. Historically, the beef with Thornburn and Eddie O'Sullivan, aside from xenophobic rants, was that they played the established players or imported players at the expense of development of young Americans and they played safe rugby. The call for an American coach was to establish and play a style of rugby that was all our own and to not forgo the development of youth by handing out caps to the established players.

What we now have is a head coach that had a kick and pressure game plan from the last decade that was suited for his favorite son and scrumhalf Mike Petri and a guy that is relying almost exclusively on the old guard. Tolkin is a failure.

The argument that the Eagles will be an "old" team or will rely on the same players over time is baseless . The starting XV had several players that are new or relatively new to the team: Dahl, Doyle, Lavalla, L'estrange . Sculls and Hume are post 2007 WC players or have just one WC under their belts. There were at least four substitutes that are new to the Eagle set up and new cap was awarded to Kelly last week, That is 11 new faces that I count, younger players that will see more time going forward.

I have no problem with players going to as many RWCs as they can, but it has to be EARNED and not based on status. Clever, Fry, Stanfill and a couple others are just not cutting it. Time to either be an impact player off the bench or retire.

0-7 against all tier 2 nations and a very weak Irish side missing 10 of their best players.

Totally disagree with regards to Clever. He was very good on Sat. Plenty of energy and purpose. Stanfill did fine though more height would be useful in the 2 nd row. Fry would be better used as a sub at 60 minutes than starting. He can have more impact in the loose which is his strength but yes he is at risk. I believe Siniulu at # 12 is at risk (drops the ball a lot). Petri takes too long to pass the ball but Shaw was nothing special either. We have a caretaker FH though in fairness he is young and patience may see him settle in. We need a goal kicker. Wylie's is not that guy and it is unfortunate that he is stuck with the duties.

Canada did nothing to win that game. Collective errors were the Eagles demise - not a first!

Wyles should get some credit for training as a goal kicker, and giving the team an option, but the modern international/professional game really requires a dead-eyed kicker. The likes of Halfpenny, Farrell, Wilkinson.

Whether that person exists in the US is questionable. I hear there's a guy playing for Middlesex that hit something like 29 of 30 this past fall, Kokinda, who also played for the NY Sevens team at Twickenham recently. Not sure if he projects into an international 15's player, but a boot like that is appealing.

Eagle team talent is solid, as solid as all other tier two teams. Our coaching sucks. Our national administration and leadership is worse.

The fact is the jury is out on certain players. Until USAR gets a qualified coach we really don't know how good this team is.

But what we do know is this coach stinks !!

If NM gets a Premiership match here, will the venue be a county park in Ft. Lauderdale or a hot-air balloon launching park in Albequerque? Hopefully someone at Aviva has a clue and Dan Lyle's direct line so this doesn't become something with production value on par with backyard wrestling or a security camera webcast....

Emirates, AIG, and the like must have been thrilled to have their banners draped all over the 7s club championships earlier this summer. They're still probably counting the marketing revenue from that event. Wonder if they even knew about it....

This is riffing off of Bruce's posts on the last board about the qualification process over the last couple of cycles. That's been talked to death, but what is interesting is some historical perspective on our performance vs. Canada.

For those who think we used to be "closer" to Canada, you're a bit off the mark. If you go back and look at our history (and I spent about 90 minutes last night doing this - of course the USA Rugby website has no historical listing of test matches, so I had to consult Rugby Canada's site instead), and you divide it up into ten year increments, you'll find the following:

In the first ten years of the rivalry (1977-1986), our record vs. Canada was 2-7-1. That translates to a winning percentage of .250.

From 1987-1996, our record was 3-10. .231

From 1997-2006, it was 4-14. .222 (This, by the way, overlaps with the Jack Clark/Tom Billups era, considered by most on this board to be the "golden age" of US Rugby).

From 2007-2013, the record is 1-9, which is a woeful .100 However, that's more than a bit misleading, given that A) it's only a 7 year period instead of a 10 year period, and B) in 2010, we did not play Canada - the only year in the history of the rivalry that we did not play at least one match against Canada.

If you go back to any of the other 10 year periods listed above and go through them match by match, what you'll find is that in each of them we went through periods where we had 1-9 type droughts. Then we'd go through brief spurts where we were temporarily "better' than Canada and we won as many as two games in a row (an historical anomaly). So to have a more accurate comparison, I would suggest we count backwards ten years from the present (2013) and also add in an additional year to compensate for 2010, when there was no match played.

By this calculation, the "current" era consists of the years 2003-2013. And in that ten year period (again, it's really 11 years but there was no match in 2010 so that year effectively does not count) our record is 5-14, which translates to a winning percentage of .263.

In other words, the last 10 years have seen statistically our best winning percentage against Canada, although I will acknowledge it's slightly inflated by the period 2003 to 2005, where we went 3-3.

So our best ever 3 year period against Canada was 2003-2005, where we were .500. Yes, that corresponds to the second half of Billups' tenure as coach. But Billups overall record against Canada was either 3-6 or 3-5 (not sure if the 2001 game was Billups or Duncan Hall).

What am I trying to say here? Yes, the period when Billups was our coach was probably something of a "golden age" but not much of one. The simple fact is, Canada has always been a lot better than us. A lot. And along the way they've beaten teams like Wales (in Wales no less) and France, while we've never sniffed a win against a Tier 1 opponent.

Also along the way, there have been losses to Canada by considerably more lopsided margins than recently (56-7 in 2006 comes to mind). As well as wins by a few points, nine or ten points, and once by 15 (in 2003).

I'm not trying to defend the current coach and certainly not the current USAR hierarchy, but I do think it needs to be put into perspective. At least vis a vis Canada, things aren't really any worse than they've ever been. They are exactly the same.

By the way, if you go back and look at the records of US Coaches, you'll see that Billups had the "best" record, at least of anyone who coached the team for any considerable period of time. 12-21, .360. 1-3 at the world cup (should have been 2-2 if we could have held on vs. Fiji).

But the second best, and not by much less, was EOS. 8-17, .320. Also 1-3 at the world Cup, with very credible performances vs. Ireland and Italy).

The grass is always greener. But the reality is, the US will never be particularly good or even reliably decent in international rugby until we fix the underlying problems we face, first and foremost among them the fact that rugby is a fringe sport here and we don't get our pick of top class athletes because there's no money in it for them. Hell, even the money that bona fide stars make playing in the Premiership or Top 14 PALES in comparison to what journeymen players make in the NFL. Which is why guys like Johnson Bademosi and Nate Ebner are more focused on NFL careers than rugby (remember Richard Tardits - he was, too). I don't see that changing any time soon.

Soccer has grown by leaps and bounds in this country in the last 30 years, primarily because it offers a genuine alternative to American football and other sports (and because of its appeal to parents as a game that provides good exercise for kids without much injury risk). Rugby doesn't provide as much of an alternative - it appeals to people who like American football, which is a game derived from rugby after all. But those people already have a sport to watch (ie. American football). So we're going to have a tough time taking the die-hard Packers or Steelers fan who's in the parking lot grilling up brats, and getting them to care about our game with the funny shaped ball. It really is going to take fifty years - whoever posted that is right on.

My only fear is that 50 years from now, we'll basically be right where we are... which is pretty much where we've always been for the last 30+ years.

In the meantime, both the Australia-NZ match and the Argentina/SA matches from this past weekend were barn-burners...

Thanks TJH....hmmm... I mean Bruce.

I've never met Bruce, or Tolkin.. I live in California. Don't get to New York much. And have not been involved in rugby, except as a spectator on TV, for 15 years. (I was a spectator in person at the USA-Tonga match recently and it was damned depressing).

And I'm not a Tolkin apologist (the nicest version of what many of the commenters on here might call them). Just somebody who'd prefer to point out facts than live in the fantasy that we were once so much better than we are now. I think unfortunately that the overall takeaway from my research is that it's depressing to be an Eagles fan, and always has been.

But sticking our heads in the sand and pointing fingers won't change the fact that Canada has always been better than us. And Kieran Crowley - a funny talker, as the more xenophobic on here would label him - has done a fantastic job with them and made them even better than they were before. I sure wish we had a coach as good as he is. But I also wish we had the resources to present that coach that Canada has. They don't have much compared to the Tier 1 nations, but they have a lot more than we do. More players overseas, a better domestic setup. And rugby, while not huge there, is bigger than it is here and not comparably dwarfed by other sports, except hockey. That's just the way it is.

FYI - Interestingly, it kind of sounds here like even Melville's throwing Tolkin under the bus a bit for his failure to use more of the 7's players on the 15's team.


If it weren't for Tolkin, we would probably be beating the All Blacks.

Well while I don't think Tolkin is the guy to lead the Eagles forward simply because he does not have the depth or experience required to coach an international team I am thinking it is actually up to the players to do things like catch the ball when it is passed to them. There was no reason for the Eagles to lose the match other than poor execution numerous times. It is a problem that has been a characteristic of the Eagles for numerous years - not just under Tolkin. Repeat offenders need to be dropped - when it happens once or twice those are mental mistakes ... after that it is a question of ability to perform under pressure.

@same topic

totally agree that accountability makes for better performance. but if you drop, say - Suniula for lackluster performance, where do you find a replacement with potential to not commit same errors? we dont have the quality depth in the nursery that tri-nations teams do. with manoa out, and after doyle, stanfill, and dolan, who is the next lock beating on the door to take their spot? the tri-nations teams have 3-5 sets of locks who could pull national duty if pressed to do so. are lestrange and niua our only options at #10?

part of the problem might be that the current crop aren't being threatened by any up & coming players challenging for their jersey. the high profile overseas players seem to have teflon don status as they'll always get selected by virtue of their professional status.

we cant pull from our 7s pool either to fill in gaps either. Isles would be like seaweed in a North Shore wave at the ruck. not sure Test or Edwards would bring any added value either. Duratolo might be an option but didnt light any fires in his last 15s outing.

Without question we beat the All Blacks without Tolkin as coach. Probably could do it playing a man down too.... Classic!!!

The only way to get rid of Tolkin is to pressure Nigel.
Tolkin has his butt boys in the rugby media out in full force.
Tolkin was a horrible hire and is a horrible coach.

Nigel throws Tolkin under the bus; Payne quits...Boom!

There goes the dynamite.

They're abandoning the S.S. Tolkin

I'm no fan of Nigel Melville (he's done far more harm than good), but how exactly is he throwing Tolkin under the bus? The head coach and/or selection panel picks the side. Can't think of an example in international rugby where the CEO performs that task.

Test matches versus Canada have been a good measuring stick for USA Rugby since the union was started. I think for the most part the comments on this topic are valid.

The big difference for me watching the Eagles over the past several decades is that Billups' teams consistently played with their foot to the floor. I can't say that about Tolkin's teams. They have been luke warm at best.

I am not a rugby coach, just a fan, but the difference between these two American coaches seems to be part ability to get the team ready to play, the second being how they are asked to play.

What? Nothing of he East Coast moving to a fall 15s season? Nothing of SF/GG and OPSB not playing in the Pac Coast 15s season? Where are you crackas?

Yes its not even an after thought, its a no thought, not important in the slightest, not relevant...that a group of college teams, none with the chance to win the VC or USAr championship have formed their own national championship.

Wait there is one thing. This move is further rejection of USAr college leadership. Other than this already well known point, it's not really news. "What? The teams that have never, will never win a championship have formed their own championship!" Yawn.


Melville is just distancing himself from the Eagles and their performance. Which Melville needs to do. He hired Thorburn who was retired and had never been an international coach, for short term duties, instead of creating a longer term plan for the Eagles. This didn't work very well. Then Melville hired Scott Johnson, which was a disaster. Chairmen Roberts and Melville apparently lied to Johnson about the resources at his disposal, resulting in a shockingly poor record and Johnson leaving the Eagles in the middle of the night for Wales. Melville then hired Eddie O, who cost a $250k and had a similar record to most other Eagles coaches. The plan for Eddie O to groom future coaches being explained as the reason for the salary bump additionally didn't work out so well. Sherman, Hodges, Payne all gone from the setup. Then Melville hires Tolkins and the 0-7 summer, with 6 matches we should hope to win an a 7th against a second team Irish side.

So when Melville says, its not my job, he is just distancing himself from the mess. BTW, what CEO in any walk of life gets to say its not my job, not my fault?

But Melville just can't help himself and he needs to make it known that if it was up to him, he would select a different team than Tolkin is selecting. So in a way he does throw Tolks under the bus, while attempting to save his own sorry overpaid ass.

it is interesting that so little gets said about so many college teams creating their own Fall xv college championship. is it really that no one cares, or that it was all foreseen?

so we have a spring xv small college championship which is the biggest of all championships. the spring small college 7's national championship. a spring xv varsity cup national championship with the best teams on nbc. a spring xv usar championship with the next best teams. and a spring 7's crc national championship also on nbc.

in the fall we have a usar d2 xv fall national championship. a east coast/mw d1 xv championship. a usar 7's national championship.

then there is women's college.

so now we need a west/south d2 and d1aa spring xv national championship and we should have it covered.

now any reasonable person would look at this situation and ask who is in charge of usar rugby and how did this happen? how could so many teams be so unhappy with usar's management of college rugby to let this happen? how can usar's ceo and college staff be so lame as to allow the crc and the vc, both outside of their authority, to become the college rugby signature properties? then how could they so under serve the whole of college rugby that everybody goes their own way?

the actors in the play are...1-an out of touch usar board and chairman kevin roberts, 2- ceo nigel melville and a over priced under performing staff. 3- the staff comprised of hp director luke gross, college director rich cortez, college commissioner kevin battle and 15 others in boulder.

in any business they would have been fired long ago. only in us rugby can they continue to keep their jobs which are paid for largely by dues on high school and college kids. the irb should be ashamed as well as the usoc.

Maybe identifying a unified national college champion does not matter. College football has managed for decades to develop profitable invitational college bowl games with no national championships. Rugby is decades behind college football in its development. If invitational formats were a good thing for college football in the early stage of development, maybe they are a good thing for rugby.

@facts: I agree with your summation about Melville's record regarding Thoburn, Johnson, and O'Sullivan. The man truly hasn't done much good for USA Rugby as I see it. However, that's not germane to the question. To imply he's throwing Tolkin under the bus by stating the selection of the Eagles isn't his responsibility is inaccurate. Those aren't his decisions to make. To put it another way, Bill Pulver isn't held responsible for the selection of the Wallabies even though they just lost the Bledlisloe Cup for the tenth time in a row. He's not one of the selectors. Why are we expecting something different from Melville?

All I can surmise is that many people so dislike the man they're willing to ascribe blame when it clearly isn't his. And that's unfortunate. It undermines the case that rugby in this country clearly isn't better for his having been in charge of it.

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