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New Plan For USA U20 Men As U20 ARC Looms

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The USA Men’s Under-20s finally has a real series of games to play, and is also getting a helping hand from an unlikely source.

The U20s will join five other national U20s teams in a tournament in Montevideo, Uruguay. This U20 Americas Rugby Championship is supposed to be an annual event that gives all of these countries a chance to expose young talent to international play.

Furthermore, with the USA playing Canada, this is also where those two teams play-off for a spot in the Junior World Rugby Trophy.

June 10 – Round 1
Argentina v Paraguay
Uruguay v Chile
USA v Canada (qualifier for Junior World Rugby Trophy)

June 14 – Round 2
USA v Argentina
Uruguay v Canada
Paraguay v Chile

June 18 – Round 3
Argentina v Uruguay
USA v Chile
Paraguay v Canada

Now all the USA team needed was a way to fill out the team and find a place to train … and fund it.

Head Coach Scott Bracken has had to rebuild the program in the shadow of USA Rugby’s financial meltdown. The program has no funding from USA Rugby, and while Rugby Americas and World Rugby are funding the U20 ARC, that’s not everything.

A Chance Meeting

Enter Colombia. Bracken attended a Rugby Americas meeting in December, and during that time he ended up sitting next to a representative of the Colombia Rugby Union. They got to talking, and eventually Bracken was asked what his buildup looked like for the U20 ARC.

At that time, the plan was to meet in Miami, train for a few days, and then fly to Uruguay.  But he was given another option. Train in Medellin, Colombia. The Colombian Rugby Union would provide free transportation and set them up with a training ground and reasonable accommodations.

“It was a really nice gesture on their part,” said Bracken.

And the kicker? They’d get a warmup game against the Colombian U20 program, which is desperate for more game time.

“It works out to cost less than being in Miami,” Bracken told Goff Rugby Report. “But there’s more to it than that. Just to have some time together is good, but in the years I’ve been involved with this program, we’ve never had an international match together before we played our first competition match. In Colombia we get that, and we also can create that bunker mentality, us against them, that we need.”

The U20s will take 32 players to Colombia. Six of those will be on the younger edge of the age-grade window, and will know ahead of time that they aren’t going on to Uruguay.  The game will allow Bracken and his staff to find out who can perform in an intense game situation.

“It’s just so valuable,” said Bracken. “It’s a good way to put our systems in place, and a good selection vehicle.”

And one more thing—Medellin is about 5,000 feet above sea level. It’s not so high as to make training a massive hardship, but it might give players an edge when they go back down to sea level in Montevideo.

The Money Side Of Things

“We had three camps last year, and I worked out that if a player attended all three, the cost would be close to $7,000,” explained Bracken. “And the thing is, we never had the entire team for Canada in any one camp. The fact was, the athletes and their families were having to pay and we weren’t getting the yield.”

The solution is listed below, but without the camps, with the side trip to Colombia, and with some additional fundraising, the USA U20s could once again save USA Rugby from the shame of not funding a team many feel they should be funding before anything else.

Finding The Players

Without player ID camps, Bracken instead decided to find players through ingenious use of … letters.

One letter, sent around the country, asking coaches to nominate players. He wanted players who were born in 2000 or 2001, who were good players, athletic, and of good character.

He asked for film.

“The letter was a really big success,” said Bracken. “Some programs that felt overlooked or forgotten by USA Rugby now feel part of the process again.”

The letter was sent overseas, and while a large number of well-known US-based players will be selected, we will likely see US citizens or US-eligible from around the world.”

This brings up a bit of a question—should that be the plan? Bracken says, unequivocally, yes. This is not the High School All Americans, which is made up of players in high school in he USA (usually). This is not the Collegiate All Americans, which is made up of US-based collegiate players. This is a USA team made up of players who need a little time before graduating to the full Eagles team.

This is about the Eagles.

(It’s also worth noting that the team that won the Junior World Rugby Trophy in 2012 included Madison Hughes and Will Magie, who were both in school in England.)

“We’re going to select the best team that is USA-eligible,” said Bracken. “If they’re eligible for the USA; if they have the paperwork, then just like the senior team, they will be selected. This is the USA Under 20 team, it’s not the team for players who live in the USA. It’s for future Eagles; we want to pick players who will be in the next World Cup.”

The team will assemble on May 29 and travel to Medellin, Colombia on May 30. They will train there and play Colombia’s U20s. After that they will travel to Montevideo in time for Round 1 of the U20 ARC.

If there is a conflict with those dates, such as a major collegiate sevens tournament, Bracken will not accommodate—players need to be available for one or the other, but can’t do both.

The cost? By Bracken’s estimation, the team needs about $70,000 to accomplish this.

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7s World Cup

Ugandan Rugby: The 2021 Wrap Up

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Twelve months ago, if you told me that Uganda would play, for both men and women, two tournaments of XVs and Sevens rugby separated by international test matches hosted at home, amidst all the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, I wouldn’t believe you. But, somehow, here we are now.

It certainly could have gone a lot better but we shall take, generally happily, what we got and call it a year.

So, let’s revisit the journey that has been 2021.

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Garry Ringrose Signs New Three Year IRFU Contract

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The rugby family can now cast their vote for six of the prestigious World Rugby Awards 2021 categories after the nominations selected by the star-studded panel were revealed on Monday.

Fans will be able to select their winners for the World Rugby Men’s and Women’s Players of the Year in sevens and 15s, as well as the International Rugby Players Men’s and Women’s Try of the Year scorers on the Awards’ voting website and join the conversation using #WorldRugbyAwards.

Voting will be open from 10:00 GMT on Monday, 15 November until 23:59 GMT on Sunday, 21 November.

CAST YOUR VOTES NOW >>

The remaining six categories will be voted by the World Rugby Awards panel, a stellar team of rugby legends who will have the hard task of selecting winners for the World Rugby Breakthrough, Coach and Referee awards as well as the newly created Men’s and Women’s 15s Dream Teams of 2021.

To maintain the integrity of the outcome, the panel will have the opportunity to review the public voting to ensure the recipients are fitting winners in their respective category.

VIEW THE FULL WORLD RUGBY AWARDS PANEL >>

Nine countries are represented among the nominees in Argentina, Australia, England, Fiji, France, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and Wales, with France having the most representatives with eight, two more than England and New Zealand. Fiji are also rewarded for their teams’ performances at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with four nominees in the Men’s and Women’s Sevens Player of the Year categories.

WORLD RUGBY AWARDS 2021 NOMINEES

World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year in association with Mastercard (fan vote)

Antoine Dupont (France)
Michael Hooper (Australia)
Maro Itoje (England/British and Irish Lions)
Samu Kerevi (Australia)

Australia captain Michael Hooper – who became his country’s most-capped captain in September – and England’s Maro Itoje have both previously been nominated for the Award, but lively scrum-half Antoine Dupont becomes the first Frenchman to be nominated since 2012 while Samu Kerevi is rewarded for his impactful return to the Wallabies midfield in 2021 which saw them win five tests, their best run outside of a Rugby World Cup year since 2008.

World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year in association with Mastercard (fan vote)

Zoe Aldcroft (England)
Caroline Boujard (France)
Poppy Cleall (England)
Laure Sansus (France)

Four first-time nominees in this category representing the two teams that have led the way in women’s rugby in 2021. Poppy Cleall and Zoe Aldcroft are two powerhouses of the England pack, both comfortable in either the second row and back row, while Caroline Boujard scored what is believed to be the joint-fastest hat-trick in Women’s Six Nations history against Wales in April. Laure Sansus’ selection, meanwhile, make it three years in a row that a French scrum-half has been nominated for the prestigious award.

World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year in association with Tudor (panel vote)

Will Jordan (New Zealand)
Andrew Kellaway (Australia)
Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales)
Marcus Smith (England)

Three flying wingers and an exciting talent at fly-half who have all lit up the international stage over the last year. Will Jordan is the second-fastest All Black to 15 test tries and has only failed to score in two of his 12 tests, while Andrew Kellaway is closing in on the Australian record for most tries in a debut season with eight in 12 tests in 2021. Louis Rees-Zammit became the youngest British and Irish Lion player for more than 50 years after impressing for Wales, while Marcus Smith has looked like a veteran in the England No.10 jersey since his debut in July.

World Rugby Coach of the Year (panel vote)

Allan Bunting/Cory Sweeney (New Zealand Women’s Sevens)
Ian Foster (New Zealand Men)
Simon Middleton (England Women)
Dave Rennie (Australia Men)

All first-time nominees split across sevens and 15s, Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney led New Zealand to Olympic gold in Tokyo, the one remaining accolade they were missing, while Simon Middleton led England to another Women’s Six Nations title and back-to-back record victories over world champions New Zealand in 2021. Ian Foster coached New Zealand to Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup success in a record-breaking year, while Dave Rennie has injected youth and experience into a Wallabies side that won five matches in a row, two of them against world champions South Africa.

World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year in association with HSBC (fan vote)

Napolioni Bolaca (Fiji)
Scott Curry (New Zealand)
Marcos Moneta (Argentina)
Jiuta Wainiqolo (Fiji)

The nominees blend the guile and experience of New Zealand’s co-captain and talisman Scott Curry to the fresh exuberance of youth of Argentina’s Marcos Moneta, the top try-scorer with six in Tokyo. Fiji continue their proud record of having at least one player among the nominees from 2013 onwards with two gold medallists in Napolioni Bolaca and Jiuta Wainiqolo, the latter marking his Fiji debut in a global sevens tournament with the opening try of Tokyo 2020 to quickly announce himself to the world.

World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year in association with HSBC (fan vote)

Anne-Cécile Ciofani (France)
Sarah Hirini (New Zealand)
Alowesi Nakoci (Fiji)
Reapi Ulunisau (Fiji)

New Zealand’s inspirational captain Sarah Hirini led the Black Ferns Sevens to the Olympic gold that had driven them on for the last five years, while Anne-Cécile Ciofani was a standout for France on the way to silver. Two players who helped inspire Fiji become their nation’s first female Olympic medallists are also nominated in Alowesi Nakoci and Reapi Ulunisau, the latter belying the fact it was her debut in a global tournament by finishing as top try-scorer with eight, including a record four against Brazil in the pool stage.

International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year (fan vote)

Lukhanyo Am (South Africa A, v British and Irish Lions on 14 July)  
Pierre-Louis Barassi (France, v Australia on 17 July)
Luke Jacobson (New Zealand, v Argentina on 12 September)
Damian Penaud (France, v Scotland on 26 March)

Three tries that began deep in their own 22 from a free-kick or scrum and were quickly turned into tries after free-flowing attacks and the fourth a run back from a clearing kick to halfway. Damian Penaud’s try against Scotland in the Six Nations saw the winger gather his own chip dot down, while France team-mate Pierre-Louis Barassi finished off a move that had begun five metres from their own line against Australia in July. Cheslin Kolbe’s dancing feet and offload released Lukhanyo Am to score for South Africa A against the British and Irish Lions, while an outrageous offload from Beauden Barrett was gratefully received by Luke Jacobson to finish another flowing move from the All Blacks in The Rugby Championship against Argentina.

International Rugby Players Women’s Try of the Year (fan vote)

Sara Barattin (Italy, v Scotland on 13 September)
Emilie Boulard (France, v Wales on 3 April)
Abby Dow (England, v France on 30 April)
Romane Ménager (France, v Ireland on 17 April)

Two French tries in the Women’s Six Nations, one to round out an impressive debut from Emilie Boulard late on against Wales when she finished off a slick passing move in the corner and the other another run-in from back-row Romane Ménager against Ireland. England swung the ball wide quickly from a lineout to find Abby Dow, the winger running around the outside of the defender to race in against hosts France a week after their Six Nations final triumph. The final nominee comes from the RWC 2021 Europe Qualifier, hosts Italy stealing an overthrown Scottish lineout near halfway to quickly send Sara Barattin over near the posts. 

After a special edition in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the prestigious World Rugby Awards return in 2021 to celebrate on-field achievements of the calendar year and recognise the teams and individuals who have inspired players and fans around the world. The pandemic has continued to impact the international stage with a number of teams having only returned to test rugby in the last couple of months.

Placed at the end of the November international window, the biggest accolades in rugby union will be virtually handed to their recipients from 6-10 December. The 12 categories will be unveiled on World Rugby social media channels including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube (@WorldRugby).

The other categories to be awarded next month are the World Rugby Referee Award, the Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service and the World Rugby Men’s and Women’s 15s Dream Teams of the Year in association with Capgemini.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The World Rugby Awards are the ultimate accolade for rugby, and we are delighted to honour the outstanding players and individuals who have made an impact on our game on and off the field in 2021.

“The pandemic and its consequences have restricted several unions from playing international games this year and we recognise that not all rugby stars have had a chance to shine. Nevertheless, the World Rugby Awards Panel has done an amazing job in selecting suitable candidates in each category and I would like to congratulate all nominees who, deservingly, have been shortlisted for this year’s awards.”

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World Rugby gives coach award to first from women’s team

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DUBLIN (AP) — Simon Middleton is the first coach of a women’s team to be awarded World Rugby coach of the year.

His England Women’s side just completed a second straight calendar year unbeaten, stretching their winning streak to 18, their third best run in test history.

This year, the English won a third straight Women’s Six Nations. Across their autumn series, including successive record wins against No. 2-ranked New Zealand, beating No. 3 Canada and No. 6 the United States, the women scored 239 points and conceded 39.

But Middleton, in charge of England Women for seven years, warned other teams will catch up by the time of the Women’s Rugby World Cup next October in holder New Zealand.

The other coach nominees were Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney of the Olympic champion New Zealand Women’s Sevens, Ian Foster of the All Blacks, and Dave Rennie of the Wallabies.

Two England players, forwards Zoe Aldcroft and Poppy Cleall, are nominated for World Rugby women’s player of the year, to be announced on Friday.

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



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