With the clock ticking down to the start of the historic USA v All Blacks clash in Chicago I sat down with Eagles Coach Mike Tolkin to discuss the big game and the run up to the Rugby World Cup. Continue reading
Rugby’s glitzy American cousin will soon be in the global spotlight once more as the Super Bowl rolls around again. The pinnacle of the American Football season highlights the best and brightest fighting to claim the ultimate prize in front of a global audience of over 111 million. Superbowl XLVIII sees the Seattle Seahawks take on the Denver Broncos in a chilly New Jersey on Sunday. Continue reading
The Americas Rugby Championship is upon us and I find myself in Canada!
I will update you all on developments with my day job soon but my travels with the USA Rugby have taken me North to British Columbia to work with the Eagles Forwards in the XV’s Tournament which features A teams from Canada, Argentina and Uruguay
The Americas Rugby Championship, last held in 2010, sees teams from the top Unions of both North and South America battle it out in a round robin format over 3 match days at the Westhills Stadium in Victoria for the prestigious title. The aim is to give emerging talent a chance to preform on the international stage to see if they have what it takes to progress to full caps for their countries.
My last foray North of the border was the double header against Canada with the All Americans (U20s) ahead of the Junior World Rugby Tournament in Utah back in May. We won the two closely contested games and I was impressed by the level of recent investment in the Canadian Rugby Centre of Excellence so will be interested to see how this is impacting on the players Coach Kieran Crowley has selected to take to the field for our northern neighbours.
Our opening match is against Argentina, a country which has embraced the game of rugby. They are holders of the Americas Rugby Championship title, their U20s came 4th in the JWC in 2012 and their men’s team performed well against the powerhouses of the southern hemisphere the Springboks, Wallabies and All Blacks in their first appearance in the recent Rugby Championship. We expect a stiff test in our opening encounter.
Uruguay will also offer strong opposition as they are currently the second ranked nation in South America behind Argentina and have a wealth of experience in their team at senior level. We face them in our final game on October 20th.
The USA Select team is headed up by Eagles Coach Mike Tolkin. I met Mike when the U20s had a training session with the Men’s team in Colorado but the Americas Rugby Championship will be my first time working with him and the other senior team coaches.
Mike has spoken often in the press about his belief in player development from Junior to Senior levels and this tournament is an opportunity to work with players who may be ready to progress.
On his approach to team selection Tolkin said “We picked the squad based on guys who were new to the Eagle squad or did not previously get as much playing time. The majority of these players showed well at the All-American camp, in club rugby and at other camps.”
“The ARC is a big opportunity for us. We rely on this to view our new prospects and to get some players who will play for the Eagles some actual game time in an international match” added Tolkin.
The Tournament will only feature two teenagers, so I’m unlikely to get much insight into individual players the USA U20s will face in the 2013 Junior World Championships however I will get a good indication of the standard the boys will come up against in France next summer as over a third of the players have competed at either JWC or JWRT.
This is an encouraging statistic and shows that the Americas Rugby Championship is another stepping stone on the path to International duty for the players I work with to strive for. It also highlights the importance of IRB tournaments such as the Americas Rugby Championship in raising the standard of the game in the emerging nations through competitive matches.
This may be my first time working with some of the coaches but some of the players I already know. It will also be a bit of a reunion for myself and former Belmont Shore hooker now Glendale prop Zach Fenoglio (above, far right). Some of you might recognise Zach from my training videos on the LineoutCoach You Tube channel. There will be trouble if he hasn’t been keeping up my drills since his move to Colorado!
So here I go, into another Tournament. Its always great to be part of a team, about to enter battle but I have to admit, it’s difficult staying on the sidelines! #GoEagles
Watch The Americas Rugby Championship
Each game will be held at Westhills Stadium in Langford, BC and live streaming will be available on the The Americas Rugby Championship website and SportsCanada.tv
The Americas Rugby Championship Schedule
- 5:30PM PST Argentina v USA
- 7:30PM PST Uruguay v Canada
Tue 16 Oct – The Americas Rugby Championship Round 2
- 5:30PM PST Argentina v Uruguay
- 7:30PM PST USA v Canada
Sat 20 Oct – The Americas Rugby Championship Round 3
- 5:30PM PST USA v Uruguay
- 7:30PM PST Argentina v Canada
The Americas Rugby Championship Teams
USA’s first match is against the holders of the 2010 title the experienced and powerful Argentina. Prop Ramiro Carrera weighs 125kg and is the heaviest man in the tournament so the front rows will have their work cut out to counter the force of Coach Daniel Hourcade’s side.
USA Coach Tolkin is positive going into the match. “It is always tough to play the Jaguars as they have a lot of guys coming out of the academy and training together. We will have our hands full for a challenging first game but our guys coming out of camp will be up for it.”
Domestic champions Ontario Blues form the bulk of hosts Canada’s A squad which features only home-based players. The club team toured South America this summer and beat Uruguay on their travels so will look to put this experience to good use in their opening match.
Coach Kieran Crowley has gone for a real mix of youth and experience with the youngest player Full Back Pat Kay (19) and the oldest Hooker Ray Barkwill (32).
Uruguay (Los Teros)
24 of head Coach Pablo Lamoine’s 26 players have full caps, totalling 150 appearances between them for their country. They also feature 3 JWC and 9 JWRT players and this experience should stand them in good stead.
Brothers Agustin and Juan Diego Ormaechea look more than capable of carrying on the tradition of top level performances for their country started by their father the legendary number 8.
The USA Select squad features players from wide range of domestic teams, with only one overseas based player. Derek Asbun, who played for English Premier side Wasps in 7s during the summer, plays professionally as Hooker for third tier side Rosslyn Park in the XVs format of the game.
The Americas Rugby Championship USA Rugby Team includes:
Nicholas Wallace (St Mary’s College)
Zachary Fenoglio (Glendale)
Derek Asbun (Rosslyn Park FC)
Stanton Moaalii (Glendale RFC)
Anthony Purpura (Boston)
Timothy Paulsen (Chicago Griffins)
Thomas Katzfey (Life University)
Nicholas Civetta (NYAC)
Graham Harriman (Chicago Griffins)
John Quill (Boston)
Kristopher Headlee (Life University)
Taylor Mokate (USA Rugby Sevens)
Eric Duechle (Belmont)
Cameron Dolan (Life University)
Shaun Davies (BYU)
Benny Mateialona (Life University)
Volney Rouse (San Francisco Golden Gate)
Zachary Pangelinan (OMBAC)
Casey Clark (At Large)
Jack Tracy (Belmont Shore)
Zachary Mizell (Arkansas State University)
Joseph Cowley (Life University)
Dean Gericke (Arkansas State University)
Miles Craigwell (OPSB)
Christopher Chapman (NYAC)
Gavin Hickie, USA Rugby U20s Forwards Coach, is a former Ireland A & 7s, Leinster and Leicester rugby player now based in California and taking rugby to the USA. He writes for RugbyMag.com and other publications when not coaching for Belmont Shore and blogging on lineoutcoach.com
USA Rugby make a strong showing in the Men’s Sevens Bowl final.
An electric Kenyan side stormed back in the second half of the Hong Kong Sevens Bowl Final to edge the USA Rugby out 12-14. A 28-14 win over Scotland in the Bowl Semifinal earlier in the day gave the USA Rugby Eagles momentum that they carried into the final, but couldn’t finish Kenya off.
The first half saw USA Rugby work extremely hard on defense, holding Kenyan ball-carriers up in contact and counter rucking well.
Rookie Rocco Mauer got over for the Eagles first after gathering a slick flick pass from his captain, Shalom Suniula, and burning down the touch line for 60 meters.
Mauer and Suniula played a key role in the next USA score stepping and bunching up Kenyan defenders on the right side of the field and then stretching them out left. Colin Hawley kept good width and depth and strolled in untouched, but worked to score under the posts.
Up 12-0 at the half, the USA Rugby Eagles were simply out played in the second period.
It began when Humphrey Kayange splintered the USA Rugby defense with an excellent angled run. Suniula nearly cut him off before he got to the try line, but the tall Kenyan stretched out and scored his team’s first points of the game.
Kenya pinched the ball from the Eagles to start their second scoring move. Kenyan and American bodies were piling up in the ruck and a quick pass released Willy Ambaka Ndayara for a try. With the successful conversion the Kenyans took a 14-12 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Late in the game the USA Rugby team worked their way deep into the Kenyan half and made an aggressive call to quick tap when the Kenyans were penalized 15 meters in front of their own posts. The Eagles backed themselves to score and button the game up, but couldn’t breach the defense. Kenya got a turnover eventually and kicked the ball a mile into the east stands to end the game.
Despite the loss, the USA Rugby team showed improvement over the course of the three day IRB Sevens tournament.
The Bowl Semifinal win against Scotland showed a glimpse of the type of rugby the Eagles aim to play; entrepreneurial and instinctive, featuring a high work rate on and off the ball.
“We’re working hard to get the culture right on the field,” said USA Rugby Head Coach, Alex Magleby of his team’s improvement. “It’s a work in progress, but we now have a good foundation to work from.”
The 2012 Hong Kong Sevens was historic for the Eagles for two reasons. First, 22 year-old Zack Test broke the all-time record for USA tries on the IRB Sevens Series, tallying 48 scores in his young career. Second, the Scotland win was Magleby’s first as head coach after taking over for Al Caravelli earlier this month following the performance in Vegas 7s.
The USA Rugby plays next weekend in the Tokyo Sevens from March 31-April 1.
USA Rugby Hong Kong Sevens results
Hong Kong Sevens Bowl Final
USA Rugby 12
Tries: Mauer, Hawley
Tries: Kayange, Ndayara
Hong Kong Sevens Bowl Semifinal
USA Rugby 28
Tries: Hawley, Palefau, Test, Punimata
Cons: Suniula (4)
Tries: Cairns, Fleming
Cons: Gregor (2)
Press release from USA Rugby
Gavin Hickie, The LineoutCoach, is a former Ireland, Leinster and Leicester rugby player now based in California and taking rugby to the USA. He writes for RugbyMag.com and other publications when not coaching for Belmont Shore and blogging on lineoutcoach.com
Gavin Hickie, former Leicester Tiger now California based Rugby Coach
Former Leicester Tigers hooker Gavin Hickie must feel like a boy in a sweet shop with just 10 pence in his pocket.
The affable Irishman left Welford Road in 2008 after two seasons with what he called “an amazing club” and headed to America to spread the word of rugby to a nation bred on American football, baseball, ice hockey and basketball.
He married an American girl called Jessica and has just been appointed forwards coach of Belmont Shore in Los Angeles.
While selling rugby to the Americans is not quite as tough as selling ice cream to the Eskimos, it is still some task.
“Every time I speak to someone about rugby over here, I always get the same reaction,” said Hickie.
“They think we are crazy to play such a tough and physical sport without any padding.
“They also find it hard to understand how a referee can have so much influence on the game.
“In American sports like football, baseball and ice hockey, there are referees all over the place making sure that all decisions are spot-on.
“It’s black and white for them. There is no subjectivity like there is in rugby from one person in the middle with a whistle.
“They also take up the game a lot later than we do. Because it’s not played in the schools, they are getting involved around 21, 22 years of age, and that can be tough to pick up the skills involved.
“There are certainly the athletes out here for the game to really take off and there are already some very good players and a lot of commitment.
“If we can get people into club rugby, learning about the game, the physical skills and mental attributes will come.”
Gavin Hickie‘s first experience of American rugby was eye-opening.
Having left Leicester after a lack of first-team exposure in his second season, he arrived in Los Angeles on a Tuesday and was playing for Belmont Shore in the Super League on the Saturday.
He said: “At Leicester, everything was done for you and laid on a plate, even your laundry.
“America was a serious culture shock. We flew to Seattle, hired some cars and drove to a park in the middle of nowhere. We put 50 points on them and flew straight home.
“That Super League is falling apart at the moment because they are all amateur clubs flying all over America to play games and there just isn’t the money to do so.
“But here on the west coast, we are hopeful of getting a league up and running that will be of a good standard because there are some strong clubs around in LA, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Las Vegas.”
“For 300 days of the year, it is bright, warm and sunny. People are active 24 hours a day with roller blading, surfing and the like. It’s incredible, I love living here.” While Gavin Hickie faces a battle at work, his time away from the pitch courts envy, and he said: “I am lucky enough to be living in an affluent area of America near Santa Monica and the lifestyle here is infectious.”
Gavin Hickie’s personal coaching is run through his website at www.lineoutcoach.com and was set up thanks to a huge amount of help from the RFU’s specialist forwards coach, Simon Hardy.
Thanks to Martin Crowson of the Leicester Mercury.
Leicester Mercury interview with Gavin Hickie
Gavin Hickie, USA Rugby U20s Forwards Coach, is a former Ireland, Leinster and Leicester rugby player now based in California and taking rugby to the USA. He writes for RugbyMag.com and other publications when not coaching for Belmont Shore and blogging on lineoutcoach.com #busy
|Coaching: Getting Started|
|Former professional Gavin Hickie opens his series of columns with a little background.|
How it all could have been so different if it were not for a few crucial decisions. A primitive and very violent version of rugby football was played in Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth as far back as the 1840’s. The sport grew rapidly within East Coast universities. However, public opinion turned against rugby due to its loose rules and mob like chaos. In 1861 Yale banned the sport for being too violent. A year later, Harvard followed suit. The United States was in the process of establishing it’s own identity at this time also. There was a conscious decision to move away from all things British. So, American Football grew out of rugby and the country’s youth were steered away from the British sport that was rugby….
For the rest of this interview and lots of in depth rugby news, visit www.rugbymag.com