Wednesday, January 30, 2008

NZRU and USA Rugby forge deeper ties

More positive rugby developments in the United States...

NZRU Partners with USA Rugby

BOULDER, Colo. -- The New Zealand Rugby Union and USA Rugby have signed a formal agreement to promote rugby in the United States of America.

The Memorandum of Understanding will see the two Unions collaborate in areas ranging from community rugby to commercial development.

“The rugby world wants to see the game grow in the United States and we’re taking concrete steps to help USA Rugby,” said NZRU CEO Steve Tew.

As a first step, the NZRU will give coaching curricula and resources to USA Rugby at no charge, supporting the American Union’s youth, referee and coach development programs.

As well as resources to grow participation at the community level, the agreement will also see the two Unions explore opportunities for high-profile matches in the USA as well as age-grade competition between the two nations.

“We welcome New Zealand’s help as we work to tap the potential in the United States,” said USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville. “The coaching resources are an immediate benefit, but longer term we’d like to look at joint sponsorships, merchandise agreements and anything that can benefit both Unions.”

The agreement, which takes effect immediately, is for five years.


The same press release can be found at the NZRU website.

Updated NZ Herald story, including NZRU CEO Steve Tew mentioning the possibility of All Blacks tests in the USA, click here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

American rugby odds 'n sods

Brian Vizard is putting up another jersey for auction to support the United States Rugby Football Foundation:

Todd Clever Autographed USA Jersey is on the Auction Block

Want to feel even more connected to the US team when they take the pitch at PETCO Park for the USA 7s? Be the high bidder for this autographed Todd Clever Eagles jersey and you will be. Arguably the best 7s and 15s player in the country, Todd is donating a jersey he wore at the recent tournament in George, South Africa to the USRFF.

If you recall, that tournament also happened to be one of the best showings ever by a United States team in an IRB Sevens World Series event as they pulled off victories over sevens powerhouse, Samoa, France and Canada. Their weekend performance in George gave them 6 points in the standings, good enough for ninth place, and ahead of the likes of Australia, Wales, Canada, France and Tonga.

"I am honored to be asked to donate one of my USA Rugby jerseys to the Rugby Foundation," said the just turned 25-year-old sevens prop. "It's a great feeling knowing that the funds raised from my jersey are going to a great cause and helping to grow the sport in America."

Photos, a more detailed description of the jersey and more information about Todd and his US team can be found on eBay, item #180209806852. The bidding will conclude at 9:00 a.m. (PDT) on Saturday, February 2, 2008.

More information about the USRFF, click here.

Also ~ don't forget! ~ ~ ~ There's Still Time to Scrumble!


Monday, January 28, 2008

Tri-Nations Fast Track to China

(Updated below:)

New Zealand Herald reports this morning:

All Blacks and Wallabies to meet in Hong Kong

Monday January 28, 2008

The All Blacks and the Wallabies are set to play a one-off test in Hong Kong, the first on neutral turf outside a World Cup. The match has been slated for October after approval from the International Rugby Board, said the South China Morning Post.

The teams will be in Hong Kong as they make their way to Europe for a series of matches after the Tri-Nations series with South Africa.


Update: The test will be played November 1st.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Say wot, English double-standards toff?

Posted Without Comment Dept:

Beware the moral high ground

Posted by Mick Cleary (The Telegraph) on 11 Jan 2008

Is Lesley Vainikolo now an Englishman?

Tongan-born: Lesley Vainikolo has been selected for England

And what does that mean?

The Volcano still looks like a Pacific Islander to me. A Kiwi at a push.

Yes, appearances, in the modern rugby world, are deceptive. In fact, they count for nowt.

Beware, too, the moral high ground.

Not that England's claim to that elevated vantage point ever had much credence. Like them all, they do whatever it takes. If he's good enough, he's English enough.

So much for lobbing stones the way of New Zealand for plundering the Pacific Islands for talent. I like to think my take on all that was no more than a pebble of criticism, noting that it was about time the All Blacks took themselves out more to the Islands to play test matches.

My view was that Pacific Island players playing for New Zealand was little different to the second generation Irish players playing for England here. Economic migrants and all that. Kyran Bracken comes to mind.

Even Lawrence Dallaglio had claim to play for Ireland through his Irish mother. Shane Geraghty of London Irish will soon join that clan of sons of their fathers who opt for the white rose rather than the shamrock.

As for big Lesley, well, he's responded to overtures and gone for it. Tonga didn't get in touch as far as we know. And England is where his home has been for the last six years.

Is it time the three year residency role was scrapped? Or perhaps nobody gives a stuff these days who plays for whom as long as there’s a spread of talent and a good game. Should the eligibility rules be changed? Country of birth? No exceptions?

What I would like to see is a retrospective dispensation for those Islanders who might only have won a few caps for NZ or Oz (or England!) but are prevented then from playing for their native country. That way, we'd see a more equitable flow of talent.

As it is, Vainikolo is now in the English fold, ready to explode.

Posted by Mick Cleary on 11 Jan 2008 at 14:52

Bold-emphasis mine.


Patriot Games

England’s choice of Lesley Vainikolo continues a trend that is legal - but it is morally wrong

David Walsh
The Sunday Times
Jan 13, 2008

[...] Ashton said he was delighted to include Vainikolo. From Ashton’s point of view, it was straightforward: Vainikolo qualifies for the team because he has been an English resident for three years and under the laws of international rugby, that’s enough. Forget the fact that Vainikolo was born in Tonga, of Tongan parents, and did most of his growing up in New Zealand and little more than a year ago, he played rugby league for the Kiwis. Forget that we have long criticised New Zealand and Australia for cherry-picking talented Samoans, Tongans and Fijians. [...]

Soon, the Maori centre Riki Flutey will be eligible to play for the England rugby team and if Vainikolo is good enough, Flutey is good enough. He has almost completed his three years of residency but Flutey, who played for the Maoris against England in 2003, understands the vague absurdity about him becoming an England player.

“I got quite a fright when I turned up for training (at Wasps) and saw these articles pinned up on the wall, with headlines saying, ‘Flutey wants to be an England star’. I thought, ‘Jeez, this is embarrassing. I never once said anything like that’. What I did say, in answer to a few questions, was this: if I was eligible and I felt I was playing well, and the England coach came up and offered me an opportunity, I wouldn’t shake my head immediately and tell him ‘no way’. But this wasn’t something that had occurred to me until I was asked about it and to be honest, I’d feel pretty strange. It would certainly be a shock to everyone back home. I’m still young and it may be that I’ll return to New Zealand one day and pursue the ultimate goal of becoming an All Black. That was my childhood dream from the moment I saw Michael Jones and those guys play for the first time.”

Flutey’s honesty is admirable and, spiritually, it should disqualify him from playing for any team except the All Blacks. Why would a proud and powerful rugby country like England want to play a young man whose ultimate dream is to represent the All Blacks? But if you pick Vainikolo, morally you have to consider Flutey, but the truth is that in selecting the Tongan, England have taken a wrong turn.

1st Annual USRFF 4-Player Scrumble Golf Tournament

Always Happy To Help Out Viz Dep't:

USRFF press release:

There’s Still Time to Scrumble!

There are still some open spots remaining in the 1st Annual USRFF 4-Player Scrumble Golf Tournament set for Friday, February 8, 2008 at the Salt Creek Golf Club. Get your USA 7s weekend started right by teeing it up in what promises to be a fun event. The Scrumble will commence with a shotgun start at noon. Don't miss out on what will certainly be a full international field.

Read more.

Dave notes: Salt Creek Golf Club is at-or-near San Diego, California. Wish I Was There.

Julian White plays old time hockey

English-international Julian White loses his mind in Saturday Heineken Cup action (Leicester beat Leinster 25-9, however both teams are eliminated from knockout stage), and is handed a yellow card for his Tie Domi impersonation on a defenseless Malcolm O'Kelly. It should have been a red, and if cited, you'd think a possible suspension. But something makes me think once the on-field officials have adjudicated on the matter, that's the end of the story, it can't be further reviewed. (I could be wrong... I'll try to find out.)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Tombstone Piledriver for the Springbok?

Springbok gets its marching orders

January 19, 2008
New Zealand Herald
By Ian Evans

For more than 100 years it has been a powerful symbol in South Africa, first dividing and then uniting a population once riven by racial division. But the springbok looks set to be kicked into touch as the national rugby union team's emblem and replaced by a flower.

The ruling ANC says it wants to unite all its sporting sides under one emblem and so the leaping antelope, which has never been more popular in the republic, looks set to get its marching orders.

The graceful animal has featured on the green and gold rugby shirts of South Africa for 102 years since being adopted during a tour of Britain in 1906-07.

Read the rest of the obituary.

Is somebody trying to tell me a Protea is capable of this?

And lest people think the Springbok is still a symbol of racist apartheid South Africa, I thought that was all put to bed when Nelson Mandela wore Francois Pienaar's jersey at the 1995 World Cup Final as a symbol of inclusiveness in the Rainbow Nation.

Let's hope the ANC thinks this one over before doing anything foolish.