Rugby World Cup ’15 Clipped by NFL?

According to this story from the Daily Mail, Wembley Stadium’s obligations to the National Football League have forced Rugby World Cup 2015 organizers to schedule only two RWC matches in the fabled stadium, instead of the eight matches that were originally planned for Wembley.

As the article states, that reduction in matches (along with a decision by Manchester United that Old Trafford was not to be used in the Rugby World Cup – because, you know, actual men playing on their pitch might tear it up a little bit and these primped and pampered soccer players might have to actually show some athleticism on the field, but I digress) left the Rugby World Cup organizing team scrambling to locate adequate stadia to hold the various matches. This also means that RWC 2015 ticket prices will probably be raised to hit the expected 80-million pounds that England had to guarantee to the International Rugby Board.

(Soon we’ll take a look at the sham that is the schedule of matches for Rugby World Cup 2015, and how the IRB screwed North America and Eastern Europe yet again. So much for wanting parity between rugby nations, and for encouraging “rugby growth” in North America. As usual, the IRB says one thing and does something completely opposite, in order to protect its monopoly on the game.)

Team USA Wraps Up Summer Schedule

Will Team USA end their summer tour schedule with a winning or losing record? This is the question the Eagles will answer today when they square off with Six Nations perennial Wooden Spoon winner, Italy.

Earlier this week, USA Rugby announced the starting lineup to face off against Italy in this weekend’s match being held in Houston, Texas, made up of the same starting team that upset Georgia last weekend in Colorado, only flipping wings James Patterson and Luke Hume to opposite sides of the field.

The task ahead of the Eagles this evening is more daunting – while Italy comes into the match with a 9-55-1 record in the Six Nations, keep in mind they are still in an annual competition facing the best national teams the Northern Hemisphere has to offer!

This is the final match of the Eagles’ three-week international extravaganza, losing to Canada earlier in June before surprising the Georgians, 36-20, last week. (Well played, Eagles – taking on Georgia at altitude was a great idea!)

It’s not too late to catch this match, if you don’t have Universal Sports on your cable provider (Grrrrrr Comcast!) you can still check out Universal Sports’ web site and watch it online for $9!

TEAM USA

Starting 15

15 Chris Wyles (Saracens)

14 James Paterson (Glendale Raptors)

13 Paul Emerick (London Wasps)

12 Andrew Suniula (Cornish Pirates)

11 Luke Hume (Old Blue)

10 Roland Suniula (Chicago Griffins)

9 Mike Petri (NYAC)

1 Shawn Pittman (London Welsh)

2 Chris Biller (Northampton Saints)

3 Eric Fry (Wellington Old Boys RFC)

4 Louis Stanfill (NYAC)

5 Brian Doyle (NYAC)

6 Taylor Mokate (Wellington Old Boys RFC)

7 Scott Lavalla (Stade Francais)

8 Todd Clever* (NTT Shining Arcs) 

Reserves

16 Derek Asbun (Oxford University – England)

17 Mike MacDonald (At Large)

18 Tolifili (Andre) Liufau (l’Uson Rugby)

19 Andrew Durutalo (USA Rugby Sevens/Old Puget Sound Beach)

20 Mose Timoteo (SFGG)

21 Will Holder (Army)

22 Colin Hawley (USA Rugby Sevens)

USA Rugby Announces June International Team

USA Rugby recently announced the National Men’s 15s team who will face off with Canada, Georgia and Italy later this month. As expected, 2011 Rugby World Cup flanker and team USA captain Todd Clever is returning to captain the side, while Paul Emerick returns from a stint with the Aviva Premiership team London Wasps to help anchor the backline.

Interestingly, the Eagles coaching staff have added three names from America’s top college teams: Army’s Will Holder, Seamus Kelly from 8-zillion-time Collegiate Champions Cal Berkeley, and BYU’s Shaun Davies.  Adding three college players to the national team is something that team USA hasn’t done in quite a while.

Rounding out the rookie ranks of the squad is 6-2, 317-pound prop Tolifili Liufau. The Hawaiian born Liufau played football for the University of Utah, Rio Grande Valley Dorados and Arizona Rattlers (Arena League) before switching to the greatest game, where he currently plays for l’Uson in France’s Fédérale 1 – France’s top amateur level.

See the complete team selections on USA Rugby’s site.

(And a side note to USA Rugby – there has to be an easier way to link to stories on your site.)

So I have to admit something to the SuperSite nation (all 2 of you 😉 ) I’ve just finished watching the ’73 Barbarians vs. All Blacks match (for the 100th time or so) and, while a very nice piece of complete team play, I’m not convinced that Gareth Edwards’ try in the 4th minute deserves its title of “The Greatest Try of All Time.” Much like the U.S. Olympic Hockey team’s 1980 win over the Russians has become immortalized more for Al Michaels’ overhyping (“Do you believe in miracles??”), the never ending adulation for Edwards’ try seems to come from the fact that the announce team was hyped up on Meth as he scored.  Looking at the play of Gavin Hastings, Jonah Lomu, Ritchie McCaw or David Campese, many of their tries are just as exciting, if not as well lauded.

What do you think? Am I in the wrong? Was this in fact the “Greatest Try of All Time?”

Is Rugby Union in Danger of “Capping” Itself? (Part 1 of 2)

This thought occurred to me as I cooked dinner tonight and read this story from the New Zealand Herald.  In Australia, originally thought of as a hotbed for rugby (and it still is) rugby is the fourth most watched sport in the country. falling short to Aussie Rules Football, Rugby League and Soccer.  

This got me thinking, in a lot of nations rugby is a very popular sport, but it’s not the most popular. It doesn’t have the impact in Australia or Great Britain that, say, American Football has in America.  It’s still an incredibly popular sport, but it’s not quite as popular as soccer, or even cricket in some parts of the world. 

I also started thinking that because of rugby’s provincial background, coming from the schools for “upper class” kids, or in the case of South Africa, a very definitive white-black divide between rugby and soccer (remember the scene from Invictus where the two security officers, one white and one black, discussed Soccer vs. Rugby? The white security officer was talking soccer down and the African officer was having none of it.)

You see this is true today in the United States as well, as those who see themselves as the ‘true arbiters’ of the sport and pooh-pooh most things coming from USA Rugby tend to be from Berkeley, California (home of the perennial champion University of California Bears – more on why they don’t want change in a later post), or the east coast, another bastion of this schoolhouse mentality to rugby.

This upper class mentality led to a split in rugby in the 19th century, between rugby union (which is most of what I write about here) which was played by the upper classes and rugby league, played by working class players and becoming a professional league many many years before Union picked up on it.  The reason being was that if players were not being paid, then those that were hurt playing the game had no income to replace what they would lose by missing work. 

This didn’t impact upper class and “professional” professions (barrister, banker, etc) because they didn’t rely on their backs to make money. But for the players who would eventually become league players, they were the working class – the coal miners, the farmers, the people who couldn’t afford to play without getting a level of compensation. Thus led to one of the first splits of rugby, thanks to a class on class struggle. And you’re seeing this split occur in places like Australia where League appears to be more popular than Rugby Union, and in England, the home of both codes of Rugby. 

(as an aside, I remember visiting my dad in Texas and watching Rugby on ESPN late in the evening back in the 90’s, and even back then the games they were showing were League games, not Rugby Union)

Previously I extolled the virtues of the love of Rugby in New Zealand, as this N.Z. Herald story points out, Australia has about five times the population of New Zealand, which brings a lot more sponsorship and salary dollars to the Aussie’s National Rugby League than the Australian contingent of the Australian-New Zealand-South African Super 14 competition. 

In the long run, this could decimate the game of rugby, relegating it to a third or fourth popular sport in many nations unless something is done to change it.

And what can be done to boost rugby’s image in not only the traditional rugby powers but also in other parts of the world? Tune in tomorrow to find out!

 

Where might you find the Gonzo Rugby Report this year?

I’ve just been looking over the domestic rugby schedule for the next year, en route to a hopeful 2011 Rugby World Cup media appearance, and in addition to blogging about the international rugby scene I want to attend a few tournaments as writing warm ups.  Among them are:

2010 High Desert Rugby Classic – October 16-17, Albuquerque, N.M. (A southwest classic!)

2011 USA Sevens International Tournament – February 12-13, Las Vegas, Nev.

2011 Churchill Cup – Summer 2011, Denver, Colo.

And other matches to be determined.