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The way for rugby to make most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

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I have found it fascinating following the debate this week regarding the future of the global game. You could almost hear the tectonic plates shifting as one by one club owners and administrators acknowledged problems which have long been issues but which have now been brought to the fore by the coronavirus pandemic; the over-reliance on television revenues, on rich benefactors, the unsustainable commercial structure of club rugby, the unwieldy international calendar, the self-interest which has influenced decisions.

The interesting thing is that this crisis might actually prove to be good for the game in the long run. I thought London Irish owner Mick Crossan was spot on when he said the pandemic might be the “the kick up the backside” the professional game needs – for all the right reasons.

Certainly that is the way the game has to look at it. As much as there is going to be short-term pain, this forced hiatus has at least provided an opportunity to hit the reset button (off the field at least – onfield, in my opinion, the game has never looked so good).

When you think about it, it’s easy to see how we have reached this point. After the initial ‘land grab’ when the game went professional in the mid-1990s, everything has just been bolted on; a competition here, a TV deal there. We have had 25 years of largely opportunistic growth. Every union, every league, every tournament developed down its own path, with the result that everyone is out to protect their own interests. 



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USA Names Women’s Rugby Olympic Squad

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CHULA VISTA, CA—USA Rugby has announced its full 15-player women’s roster for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, pending approval from the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

Led by Head Coach Chris Brown, the roster features 12 starters, one alternate and two traveling reserves. 

Abby Gustaitis and Kristen Thomas will serve as co-captains as the USA Women fight for their first medal in only the second appearance for rugby sevens at the Games. The program finished fifth at Rio 2016. 

Ten of the 12 starters are first-time Olympians; Lauren Doyle and Alev Kelter both competed in Rio. Kelter leads the squad in several statistical categories including tries, tackles, and overall appearances in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. 

The squad also features Ariana Ramsey who hasn’t debuted in the World Series but made a strong showing at the PanAm Games Lima 2019 where the U.S. won silver.  

Nana Fa’avesi (2016 Olympian) and Kasey McCravey will support the team as traveling reserves after an incredibly competitive selection process. 

“In the past month we’ve had our most competitive intrasquad scrimmages since I started with the program back in 2018,” said Brown. “All individual players contributed heavily and showed, if called upon, they could represent this wonderful country at the highest level well. This obviously made selection of the extended squad extremely tough but the unity we’ve shown for the past 18 months has been second to none. 

“Although this announcement is exciting for many of our players, it’s devastating for a number of their closest teammates. I say this because it’s important to acknowledge that those going to Tokyo have a huge responsibility to represent the entire program, all our families and the United States of America. 

“As a team, we have a great deal of strike power across the park. But looking at the increasing progress and competitiveness of the women’s game, we won’t be anywhere near winning a gold medal if we play as individuals as opposed to working as a group. 

“That said, we have enough big match experience from the last three years to fully trust and believe that when we focus on the task at hand, play with discipline and fight as a collective, we are extremely hard to handle and we will be exactly where we need to reach the podium.

“Over the next few weeks, our emphasis in training will be to continue sharpening our defensive approach, focus on the opposition and connect our specific tools to challenge each of them.” 

Recent Results 

Brown and his team finished 2020 ranked fifth after the World Series was disrupted mid-season due to COVID-19. Prior to that, the program completed its most successful year in history, claiming five medals in six tournaments to end 2019 as No. 2 in the world. For more information on team history and records, visit tokyo.usa.rugby. 

Next Competition 

The named roster will compete in one final prep tournament at Quest for Gold Sevens in Los Angeles from June 25-26. Held at Dignity Health Sports Park, this will be the final opportunity for USA fans to see the team in-person ahead of Tokyo. Both days will be streamed LIVE (details TBA) while Saturday will welcome fans in the stadium. Tickets start at only $25 and are available at questforgold.usa.rugby

 

Movements in Japan 

Departing for Japan in mid-July, the Eagles Sevens will spend the first week training in Mimasaka before transferring to Tokyo for the opening ceremony on July 23. Rugby Sevens competition runs July 26-28 for the men and July 29-31 for the women. The USA Men’s Sevens roster will be named publicly on July 2. 

All team nominations are subject to USOPC approval. 

 

USA Rugby Women’s Roster for Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
PLAYER NAME HOMETOWN POSITION WORLD SERIES EVENTS
Kayla Canett-Oca Fallbrook, CA Halfback/Flyhalf 10
Lauren Doyle Boody, IL Flyhalf/Wing 30
Cheta Emba Richmond, VA Prop 16
Abby Gustaitis (Co-Captain) Baltimore, MD Prop/Hooker 13
Nicole Heavirland Whitefish, MT Hooker/Scrumhalf 23
Leyla Alev Kelter Eagle River, AK Center/Prop 33
Kristi Kirshe Frankfurt, MA Center/Wing 8
Ilona Maher Burlington, VT Center/Prop 12
Jordan Matyas Calgary, Alberta, CAN Prop 14
Ariana Ramsey Bridgeport, PA Wing 0
Naya Tapper Charlotte, NC Wing 21
Kristen Thomas (Co-Captain) Philadelphia, PA Hooker/Center 26
Alternates and Reserves      
Nia Toliver
(Alternate)
Los Angeles, CA Prop/Wing 0
Kasey McCravey
(Traveling Reserve)
Scottsdale, AZ Hooker/Flyhalf 4
Nana Fa’avesi
(Traveling Reserve)
Sacramento, CA Prop/Wing 18

 

Nia Toliver

(Alternate)

Los Angeles, CA

Prop/Wing

0

Kasey McCravey

(Traveling Reserve)

Scottsdale, AZ

Hooker/Flyhalf

4

Nana Fa’avesi

(Traveling Reserve)

Sacramento, CA

Prop/Wing

18

 

U.S. Women’s Staff for Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

Head of Women’s High Performance | Emilie Bydwell

Head Coach | Chris Brown

Head of Physical Performance | Matt Long

Athletic Trainer | Nicole Titmas

Team Leader | Liz Strohecker 

Team Physician | Alex Myers

Performance Analyst | Emily Record

S&C Coach | Trey Ford

Dietitian | Jacque Scaramella

Sports Psychologist | Peter Haberl 

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Jamaica name Rugby League World Cup train-on squad and announce camp

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NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS and former Huddersfield teenage wing sensation Dom Young is one of a number of new faces selected for the initial Jamaica 2021 Rugby League World Cup train-on squad. The Reggae Warriors will become the first nation from the Caribbean region to play in the final stages of the tournament later this year and will be based in Leeds.

Castleford’s experienced back Jordan Turner and Hull KR’s Luis Johnson also receive their first call up, as do Sheffield’s Izaac Farrell – who joins his brother Joel, Bradford’s Dee Foggin-Johnson and Lloyd White, who has previously played for Wales.

Young’s brother Alex, who is at Workington, is also included along with the 17 English-based players who helped the side qualify for the World Cup when winning the Americas Qualifiers in 2018 including Huddersfield’s Ashton Golding who joins club mate Michael Lawrence, who made his Jamaica debut against England Knights in 2019.

A total of 14 players from the Jamaica domestic league have also been chosen including Khamisi McKain and Renaldo Wade who played in the 2018 qualifiers, and Liguanea Dragons’ Akeem Murray who sparked Jamaica’s win over the USA in their clash in Kingston in 2019.

Jamaica will face Greece in a World Cup warm up game at Castleford on October 5 which will double as Turner’s testimonial game, and head coach Romeo Monteith has announced a three-day camp at Weetwood Hall in Leeds for the English-based players in preparation from June 22 – 24.

The Jamaican contingent are not yet allowed to travel because of Covid-19 regulations and the camp will be run by their UK based lead coach Jermaine Coleman who will oversee on field activities and will be supported by Leeds Rhinos assistant Chev Walker.

HEADING TO ENGLAND: Jamaica’s World Cup bound squad

Monteith believes that the balance of the squad is right and competition for spots will be fierce. “We have named a strong train-on squad which gives us coverage in all positions,” he said from Kingston.

“Only 24 players can make the final cut and so I know everyone will want to put himself in the best position to be selected. For the first time we have adequate options in the halves and our forwards are looking to have depth. Our backs have always been our strength and we will again have plenty options there.

“It’s extremely disappointing that we weren’t allowed a mid-season international,” Monteith added. “But second to that a camp is the next best thing we can arrange. Our UK operation directors Alex Simmons and Jason Robinson have worked hard to make it a possibility and I am confident our preparations will greatly benefit from it.

“We also hope to have a similar camp in Jamaica for the domestic-based players but we are still waiting on Government approval to return to activities on the island. Certainly, it’s not been a normal time and like other sports we have suffered greatly.”

JAMAICA WORLD CUP TRAIN-ON SQUAD

Greg Johnson (Batley Bulldogs), Dee Foggin-Johnson, (Bradford Bulls), Jordan Turner (Castleford Tigers), Kevin Thomas (CMU Spartans) Kadeem Williams (Coventry Bears), Jon Magrin, Keenen Tomlinson, (Dewsbury Rams), Danny Bravo, Ross Peltier (Doncaster), Danny Thomas  (Dewsbury Celtic), Andre McFarlane, Andrew Simpson, Fabian Turner, Jenson Morris, Kenneth Walker, Khamisi McKain, Marvin Thompson, Owen Linton, Renaldo Wade, Ryan Grant (Duhaney Park Red Sharks) James Woodburn-Hall (Halifax) Chevaughn Bailey (GC Lions) Ashton Golding, Michael Lawrence (Huddersfield Giants), Luis Johnson (Hull Kingston Rovers), Aaron Jones-Bishop, Alex Brown, Jordan Andrade, Jy-mel Coleman (Hunslet Hawks), Mo Agoro, Zach Braham (Keighley Cougars), Adrian Hall, Akeem Murray (Liguanea Dragons) Jacob Ogden (London Broncos) Abevia McDonald, Jerome Yates, Lamont Bryan, Maliki Lloyd-Jones, Omari Caro, (London Skolars), Joe Brown (Newcastle), Dom Young (Newcastle Knights), Christopher Ball, Izaac Farrell, Joel Farrell (Sheffield Eagles), Nico Rizelli (St. Helens), Lloyd White (Toulouse Olympique), Alex Young (Workington Town), Ben Jones-Bishop (York City Knights), Mason Caton-Brown, Tyronie Rowe (Unattached).

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Haskell backing ‘buzzing’ England Rugby scene to lay foundations for summer rebuild

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This year’s Guinness Six Nations may not have gone to plan for Eddie Jones’ England – but James Haskell believes a mouth-watering epoch of English rugby is firmly on the horizon.

England slipped to a fifth-place finish in this year’s Championship but are now gearing up for a crack at the USA and Canada in front of returning fans at Twickenham this summer.

England Women recently racked up their third Six Nations title on the spin and with grassroots clubs also welcoming back players and supporters too, the buzz is back for Haskell.

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“I think English rugby is in an amazing place,” he said.

“I think Eddie Jones is in the process of picking a new England side, he did the same in 2018 and to great success in 2019 in Japan.

“There’s real strength in depth and lots of unbelievable players. Every sport has a period of transition and you learn far more from maybe taking a couple of steps back than consistently winning. I am super excited to see what happens with England next.

“Rugby has a buzz about it, I think people have really missed it, you don’t know how lucky you are until something’s taken away from you.

“Seeing people back in stadiums, cheering and with smiles on their faces is amazing.”

Haskell was speaking during a visit to Coventry-based rugby club Old Coventrians RFC to celebrate their work as part of the NatWest RugbyForce programme.

NatWest RugbyForce, now in its 13th year, is a national programme developed in partnership with England Rugby to provide an opportunity for rugby clubs to open their doors to volunteers and help make improvements to their clubs.

Old Coventrians, celebrating its centenary year, is one of eight clubs across the country to receive the support of NatWest to improve their facilities – with young volunteers getting involved.

For the Midlands club, the project has focused on the creation of a new outdoor social area with pagoda, as well as internal redecoration of the changing rooms.

The veteran of 77 England caps surprised the club’s committee members and players as well as the volunteers, and even lent a hand with the ongoing work.

Haskell, who has fond memories of his young playing days with Maidenhead Rugby Club, could not underplay the significance of the NatWest RugbyForce programme and thinks the importance of the grassroots game has never been stronger.

“I used to run around and get tired,” Haskell said. “I remember all the characters, going on tour, finishing training, and just wanting a chocolate bar.

“All these things were so important, and it teaches you how to get on with different people, about teamwork and responsibility and they’re some of my most fond memories.

“NatWest RugbyForce has helped to transform so many clubs and it encourages people to come together, there’s nothing better than working hard together and bonding.

“I think it brings the best out of the clubs, you get the members down and it brings out the true characters and that’s what rugby’s all about – the grassroots game.

“The fact that these clubs get these opportunities, like to put a seating area in, to build a pagoda and paint the dressing room, means that they can thrive and keep playing and it means that they’re set up for the future.”

It is not just Haskell that has been blown away by its impact. Old Coventrians chairman Stephen Springate is thankful for the support of NatWest – and believes its impact will lead to a bigger and better long-term future for his club.

“Our involvement with NatWest RugbyForce has been essential, we get promotion, and it helps with the finances,” he said.

“We’re very much a family orientated club so the idea behind this project was that it’s a safe environment for the whole family.

“It’s wonderful for the volunteers too. It is nice for them to get confidence, get out and learn a skill.

“It’s also a catalyst for more, we’re already thinking about what we can do next.”

NatWest is an Official Partner of England Rugby. NatWest RugbyForce is a nationwide programme developed in partnership with England Rugby to help rugby clubs get set for tomorrow. @NatWest_Rugby @EnglandRugby

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