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7s World Cup

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

Blitzboks are itching for action

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Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell can’t wait for some form of normality to return when the Blitzboks start the defence of their crown in the 2022 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, which kicks off in Dubai next month, building up to the Commonwealth Games in July and culminating in the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town in September.

The 2022 World Series will include 10 men’s and seven women’s rounds over six months, kicking off in Dubai and including new tournaments in Spain and France.

The World Series kicks off at the end of next month with Dubai hosting a behind-closed-doors round on November 26-27, 2021, followed by a second event on December 3-4 with fans in attendance at The Sevens Stadium.

The Series will then move on to Europe as Spain play host for the first time with combined men’s and women’s events in Malaga and Seville on January 21-23 and January 28-30, 2022 respectively.

The new venues in Spain temporarily replace traditional Series hosts Sydney (Australia) and Hamilton (New Zealand), who are unable to host in 2022 due to the logistical challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in their region.

The men’s teams will then travel to North America, with tournaments scheduled for Vancouver on February 26-27 and Los Angeles on March 5-6, before moving to Asia where Hong Kong returns to host a combined men’s and women’s event on April 1-3, followed by a men’s event in Singapore on April 9-10.

A standalone women’s event will take place in Langford (Canada) on April 30-May 1 before both men’s and women’s teams travel to a new venue in Toulouse (France), on May 20-22 where the women’s champions will be crowned. The men’s series concludes with the final event in London on May 28-29.

The Blitzboks will enter the 2022 World Series as defending champions after claiming the 2021 title in Canada in September.

“We’re very excited to see a full World Series return to the calendar,” said Powell. “We also realise the reality of the times we’re living in and know that it’s possible that some events may be changed or cancelled closer to the time, but for now it’s nice to see the planning in place for a full season.

“It’s also great to have a new country on the circuit with the two planned tournaments in Spain. They’ve also done well on the circuit and it’s a country that tries hard to grow the game, so it will be good to play in Malaga and Seville.”

Powell said the two recent tournaments in Canada, where the Blitzboks were crowned champions in Vancouver and Edmonton last month, showed the players’ hunger to play again.

“Hopefully the Springbok Sevens team can build on that excitement and have a good 2022 World Series,” he added.

After the World Series, the focus will shift to two standalone tournaments – the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (England) on 29-31 July, and the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town on September 9-11.

In other news, World Rugby announced that Japan will join the men’s series as a core team following their promotion as HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series champions in 2020.

Great Britain will compete in the opening two rounds of the Series in Dubai – as part of the standing agreement to play the calendar year 2021 – before reverting to compete as national unions (England, Scotland and Wales) for the remainder of the 2022 World Series.

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said: “Following an outstandingly competitive and highly impactful Olympic Games competition it is fantastic to announce a full schedule for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2022 today.

“Alongside popular and traditional rugby sevens venues it will be exciting to take the Series to new venues in Spain and France as the game continues to expand and captivate new audiences around the world with its fast, skilful and thrilling format. Rugby sevens is a key driver of global growth for our sport, particularly in emerging nations, and it firmly remains a top priority for our organisation.

“A lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes to ensure we can announce a full Series schedule today and we thank HSBC, the host organisations, unions, commercial and broadcast partners for their unwavering support and spirit of collaboration as we navigate the challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic together.

“We now look ahead to the return of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series at full throttle ahead of what promises to be a very busy and exciting year for sevens with the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town following the Series.“As ever, the health and welfare of players, fans and wider society continues to be our primary concern and we will work closely with all stakeholders to ensure the safe delivery of the Series.” – SuperSport

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Kolbe marvels at golden path that led to Toulon

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“I honestly never thought that I would come this far,” said World Cup winning winger Cheslin Kolbe as he was unveiled by his new club Toulon on Friday.

The 27-year-old Springbok, who joined Toulon this summer after four years at Toulouse ended with a Top 14 and European double, talked at length to AFP about the obstacles he has overcome, his love of France and his excitement at his new challenge and at the potential of winning World Cup and Olympic medals in the country in the next three years.

“Looking back now, I honestly never thought that I would come this far in my rugby career because of all the challenges I faced at a young age,” said Kolbe who is just over 5-foot-7 tall.

“Being told that I’m too small, I’m too light. I’ll never be able to play against the bigger boys, especially in South Africa and obviously the guys from New Zealand.”

“My dad always told me not to worry what other people said, just make sure to do what you set out for yourself.”

Kolbe’s father played rugby.

“I was never big into rugby. I did athletics. Just getting to watch my dad each and every week and go to training with him. I just fell more in love with rugby and I just wanted to be like my dad as well.”

“He’s done everything for me that he could do,” Kolbe said. “We haven’t had it easy. Growing up, we never had the best of things, but my parents always made sure that they could give me opportunities.”

“It’s been an unbelievable journey,” he said. “I need to make sure that I keep working as hard as I can because there’s so much talent out there that can just come in at any time.”

“I think the specifics of rugby nowadays with the impacts and the intensity, you’re lucky if you can play between 10 to 14 years of professional rugby, especially at the Top 14.”

– ‘Positive influence’ –

Kolbe was born and grew up in the northern suburbs of Cape Town and started his career with Western Province, winning the Currie Cup in 2014.

He joined Toulouse in 2017 and said his decision to join Toulon was partly motivated by a desire to remain in the Top 14.

“I wanted to stay in France because myself and my family, we just love the culture,” he said. “We’ve made friends that became family to us across France.”

He added that the family were contemplating staying “here as long as you can to hopefully qualify for our passports.”

Kolbe played in the South African team that won the World Cup in 2019 and also collected a bronze medal as part of the sevens team in Rio in 2016.

The next rugby World Cup and Olympics will be in France.

The World Cup comes first.

“Yeah, 2023 is going to be massive, especially in France,” Kolbe said. “For me, being here and playing here definitely helps.”

The Games follow in 2024.

“I’m not sure if my age is going to allow me to play in the next Olympics,” said Kolbe, who turns 28 later in October. “Obviously, it will be a privilege for me whenever I get to represent my country and hopefully win that gold medal.”

“For me, the most important thing is just to play as well as I can, and the rest will take care of itself.

“I’m just doing the best that I can to make my family proud, make the people that support me, make them proud and just have a positive influence.”

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Vancouver, Langford both back on HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series calendar in 2022

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Vancouver and Langford, B.C., are back on the full 2022 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series schedule.

World Rugby announced Tuesday that the 2022 season will feature 10 men’s and seven women’s rounds over six months, starting in November with a pair of joint men’s and women’s events in Dubai.

The 2022 season will feature new stops in Malaga and Seville, Spain, as well as Toulouse, France.

The World Series ground to a halt due to the pandemic after the Canada Sevens men’s tournament in Vancouver in March 2020. The women’s event in Langford, slated for May 2-3, 2020, was cancelled along with the rest of the season.

The 2021 campaign eventually was reduced to two events, in Vancouver and Edmonton last month, with some teams missing due to pandemic-related travel and other restrictions. The women’s event was limited to four teams in both cities.

South Africa won both men’s events in Canada with the Canadians finishing sixth in Vancouver and fourth in Edmonton. Britain won the two so-called women’s “Fast Four” tournaments with Canada third both times.

Both Canadian teams were missing veterans, either through retirement or players taking time off after the Tokyo Olympics where the men finished eighth and the women ninth.

The 2022 season will kick off behind close doors Nov. 26-27 with the Emirates Dubai Sevens. A second event Dec. 3-4 at the same venue will feature fans in the stands at the Sevens Stadium.

The World Series will then return to Europe as Spain plays host to combined men’s and women’s events in Malaga and Seville on Jan. 21-23 and 28-30, respectively. The Spanish events temporarily replace traditional stops in Sydney, Australia, and Hamilton, New Zealand, which are currently unable to host due to pandemic-related issues.

The men’s competition then moves to North America with stops Feb. 26-27 in Vancouver and March 5-6 in Los Angeles before shifting to Asia where Hong Kong will host a combined men’s and women’s event April 1-3, followed by a men’s event April 9-10 in Singapore.

After Hong Kong, the women will play April 30-May 1 in Langford before joining the men for a joint event in Toulouse where the women’s season champions will be crowned. The men’s season wraps up May 28-29 in London.

Rugby sevens will also take centre stage next year at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, (July 29-31) and the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town (Sept. 9-11).

Japan joins the men’s World Series competition as a core team following its promotion as HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series champions in 2020.

Britain will compete in the opening two rounds of the World Series in Dubai before reverting to competition as national unions for the remainder of the 2022 campaign, with England, Scotland and Wales participating on the men’s side and England on the women’s.

The 16 men’s core teams after the Dubai events are Canada, Argentina, Australia, England, Fiji, France, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, the U.S. and Wales.

The 11 core women’s teams after the Dubai events are Canada, Australia, Brazil, England, Fiji, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Russia, Spain and the U.S.

New Zealand’s Black Ferns were champions in 2020.

With Britain competing in the opening two rounds of next season, a points system will be used “that promotes fairness for all competing teams, including those who comprise Great Britain,” according to World Rugby. The system will also be used if teams have to miss events due to COVID-19.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 12, 2021

© Copyright Times Colonist



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