With the impending expansion of the Super Rugby competition, I think it’s time USA Rugby switches its focus on how it develops the Eagles squad.
A lot has been said about the importance of the American varsity sports structure. It is the best talent identification and training system in the world.
Athletes filter into high school sports and then on to college.
This is the model which rugby must mold itsself into if we are to become a successful Test rugby nation.
However, it begs the question of what to do once an athlete is out of college?
The USA lacks a quality competition where our elite level athletes can continue to develop and mature into seasoned Test caliber players.
This hasn’t been a problem for Argentina and I feel it should no longer be a problem for the USA.
USA Rugby needs to take on the role of agent and guide its elite level players to clubs overseas, where the rugby competition is quality. Get these boys on a contract and as agent, take a small portion of their contract and put it back into the rugby at home.
Argentina has become a quality Test side because the players have gained experience at the highest level of club rugby and therefore are able to make that leap to Test rugby.
The USA has the athletes, they just need the time.
This is where I will get picky.
I don’t think it is good enough to send American rugby players to any old place.
The mega-rich European clubs do make the most sense economically, but at what cost in terms of the style of play? This is where Super Rugby comes into the picture.
Rugby in the Southern Hemisphere is played differently. I don’t really need to make too much of a stink about it, but who are the top three Test rugby nations in the world?
I rest my case.
The quality of the professional competition is not really the issue. It is more about the style of play and level of intensity.
Super Rugby would move American rugby up by leaps and bounds. They style of play suits our athletic abilities and the intensity brings players up to Test level much more quickly.
Even sorry teams like the Reds and Cheetahs produce outstanding Test players by virtue of the competition.
I know the Melbourne side will try its best to fill the roster with name-brand rugby talent, but I would urge them to look State-side to help fill the roster.
You don’t need to look much further than Todd Clever to know that we can produce the talent here in the States.
Give these boys a chance and watch out.