Archives for August 2014

Okaloosa & P-Cola Old Boys: Win handsome t-shirt









I’m guessing 1983, since Patroni is included and be didn’t play after he broke his ankle in 1984. But that would mean that’s not Smoke’s daughter in front of him, as she was then just a glint in Smoke’s eye.

P-Cola boys are Big John Harding, Mikey Owens, Fran Thompson, Smoke Carrigan, T-Bone, Dom Dimello, Carlos Diaz and Patroni. I suppose all our NAS flyboys were off winning a military tourney that weekend.

The aptly named Psycho from New Orleans.

Bear and David Van Winkle and I think the three other guys from Ft. Walton.

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Fran Thompson

The 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup: In Danger of Becoming a Masters Tournament

This article is my  final thoughts and some rambling about the 2014 Women’s World Cup and the USA’s 6th place finish .

England won and they seemed to be the team that had wanted to win the Cup the most for the longest time, and for many reasons that is how it should be. In the previous 6 World Cups England had finished second 5 times and third place once. Canada had some dynamic players who made decisions to focus on 7s and stayed home. New Zealand also had some who made similar decisions and would probably have made a difference in the Ireland match which would have led to a different final. The English women united to finally achieve their holy grail.

The reason for the title is a theory I have that the introduction of 7s in the Olympics will drain top 7s players away from this World Cup event and lead to women World Cup players who represent the better older women players from their countries. The USA’s Vanesha McGee, who was impressive on wing during the tournament, was released from her national 7s team contract soon after USA Rugby published a developmental scheme which placed Vanesha’s projected age during the Olympics outside the published optimal range for peak performance. Like Canada and New Zealand, the USA left some top 7s players at home. Will the actual Olympics have an even more powerful impact on the women’s 15s game? The emphasis that is already being put on the Nanjing Youth Olympics makes it hard to imagine the ‘real’ Olympics won’t have a much more profound effect.

When USA’s coach, Peter Steinberg, was asked in the post tournament press conference, after losing 55-5 to New Zealand to finish 6th, about bringing in crossover athletes, he said the future for 15s was in growing the talent through more girls playing rugby in high school and younger. I think that will maintain a club structure of support that will keep the 15s game alive as a minor women’s amateur sport. Over the past 23 years since the USA won the inaugural Women’s World Cup we have witnessed a gradual decline in where we place in the world. As competitive women’s rugby has gained popularity in countries where rugby is a mainstream sport, it has attracted more dedicated serious athletes and coaches with considerable international experience at top levels in both men and women’s rugby. Coach Steinberg lamented that our national side players were not getting enough international experience. He mentioned fly-half Kimber Rozier by name as being limited because of only at most 16 caps. With the financial focus shifting to the Olympics, it will be difficult to squeeze out funds to tour internationally over the next couple of years. Also, the disadvantage of few opportunities for international experience is emerging as an issue for our coaches. Coaching a university team doesn’t compare with coaches who have an annual 6 nations’ experience or southern hemisphere coaches who have experiences with both the men’s and women’s game in these countries. The New Zealand match showed a vast difference in skill levels in many areas: speed in recycling the ball, ability to set-up quickly in offense with strategic and varied backline moves, and possession controlling decision making. These skills crossover from 7s to 15s and without improvement in the coaching and mastery of them, the USA women will continue their slide into the second tier of women’s rugby.

There were many press releases about the packed, sold-out stadium. It was definitely not packed, and if it was sold-out, there were a lot of people who had tickets who didn’t come. I bought a ticket at face value from a French couple who had bought tickets and then received free tickets as an invitation from the mayor. There was no way to buy or pick-up previously purchased tickets at the stadium; although, there was a window passing out the tickets received through invitations from the mayor (and other people like that). There were a couple of ticket touts chatting to people as they came out of the invitation line, but the touts didn’t want to pay the 20 Euro face value as there were not a lot of ticket buyers around. With this ticket (which was on the 22 meter line about 8 rows from the pitch) I was right in the middle of the huge flag waving French crowd with a row of rugby playing, song singing women from Dortmund, Germany, behind me. The cries of Allez les Bleus mingling with the slightly bawdy tunes of the Dortmund Women Rugby Club provided the perfect sound track for France’s 20-9 third place win over Ireland. This Ireland side did claim a couple of places in history before falling to the overwhelming crowd favorite French. They were the  first Irish side to reach a semi-final, and they achieved what had seemed impossible by defeating the 19 consecutive World Cup match winning Black Ferns in pool play. That 17-14 victory  helped deny a New Zealand vs England final. England insured this wouldn’t happen by choosing to tie Canada in pool play.

For the Final match between England and Canada I wandered the stadium. After watching from a few spots, I returned to the Dortmund frauleins for the beginning of the second half. When England began to pull away, I headed back to the press box. There I spotted the nametag of the fellow I was looking for – Chris Hewett, rugby writer for the British paper The Independent. I wanted to get his name because earlier he had disturbed me a little when he didn’t stand up for the national anthems. I’m not sure why that bugs me,  maybe because of all the school children I made stand-up for national anthems back when that was my job. I wrote about an Argentine journalist who didn’t stand-up for the anthems at the Men’s World Cup in 2011. I thought at the time I should have found out the Argentine journalist’s name and make that something I do. Maybe I should try and find some of his primary school teachers and find out if they tried to teach why we stand for national anthems. Anyway, I googled Chris and read his article about England’s victory. The article was fantastic. He wove a fabric of prose and poetry around the people and forces that moved the championship game. (The last sentence was my attempt at a prose & poetry fabric.)

After the match I followed the English crowd to a nearby café for a bottle of divine Bordeaux, repeated ad nauseam singing of “Swing Low”, and exploring the glories that are being in Paris on a lovely summer evening celebrating England’s much deserved 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup victory. As I began a second bottle, the world champion’s bus pulled up. The English team, with gold medals swinging low from their necks, climbed down from their chariot, and the love of their supporters carried them home to celebrate.

New Orleans Plans Fall High School 7s

By Nick Conte
Here is a recap of the meeting from last night of the High School 7s Organizers. These are the details decided upon by those in attendance. We will shortly cover this topic at the full high school coaches meeting next Thursday.
Please pay attention to item 5 below. Our newest rugby entrepreneur, MJ Wathen, would like to have a group photo to promote the league. He hopes to have two players from each team represented in the photo. So he will bring a camera to touch rugby on Tuesday at City Park to photograph whichever players would like to be highlighted. Coaches, if you could, please pass that info on to any players you would like to see represented in that photo.
Thanks everyone,
New Business
1. Day, Time, Location, Length of Season
Day: Saturday
Time: 10am to 1pm
Location: City Park
Season: 8 Weeks
Start Date: September 20th
End Date: November 8th
We ​left the end of the season subject to change. We may have a potential change in venue for the final championship Saturday, and we may also eliminate one week to keep the wear and tear down.​ ​​
2. Royale Camp
​We will begin with 2 warm-up weekends to instruct new players and ease our way into full competition. ​These weekends will be lead by the NORFC’s Royale 7s team. Buck is in charge of coordinating the Royale’s involvement.

3. Format​
The format was selected as rec style, mix and play. However the exact breakup of players and teams will be decided when the coaches meet again after the first practice.

4. Girls Participation
We will include girls touch rugby on the condition that there are sufficient girls to participate.​ Woneata and Nick are in charge of that element. Matt will assist with Lake Area and Mount Carmel recruitment. Paul will assist with the Maritime Academy.

5. Promotion & Recruitment
MJ has volunteered to lead promotion. His first effort is a photo shoot. He would like 4 Royale players and two players from each high school represented in a promotional photo. That photo is scheduled for this coming Tuesday at City Park, 5:45pm prior to the evening touch rugby. Nick will assist with recruiting players via their coaches.

6. Registration & Safety​
Players must be registered by paying their dues to USA Rugby and Louisiana Rugby before participating. Paul is going to investigate the best possible option for us to register all players.

7. Coaches
We need to have 1 coach for every team present, so approximately a 1:9 coach to player ratio.​ We anticipate 25 players the first week. At the moment we have enough coaches, but we should always continue to recruit other interested coaches regardless.
I submitted a request today for a Level 200 Coaching course to be held Sept. 27th. This course will be for all new coaches we recruit so that they are covered before competitive play begins. This will be the only Level 200 Course offered in New Orleans for the 2014 – 2015 year. I will confirm the date when I hear from USA Rugby.
8. Referees & Other Costs
To keep costs to a minimum, we will ask for volunteer referees to officiate​ our matches. The referee society intends on having a training prior to the beginning of our play so that they may give their new recruits some experience before the 15s season.
At present there are no other costs associate with the league. Depending on developments for the championship weekend, we may ask players to bring a small amount to cover items such as food and drink.
On Thu, Aug 14, 2014 at 4:07 PM, Nick Conte  wrote: Afternoon Coaches,
I don’t mean to inundate you with meetings, but we’re trying to give Don lots of business.

In preparation for our full coaches’ meeting on the 28th, the small group organizing the Fall 7s season is meeting on Tuesday to discuss final details. If you are interested in being involved with the 7s season or simply want to know more, then please look to join us at the Pub at 6:30 on Tuesday.
Nick Conte

Aug. 14th, 2014 -French Passion & Courtesy & Mandy Marchak for Prime Minister

If you are reading this, there is a good chance you already know that England and Canada will be settling their pool match draw by facing off in the 2014 Women’s World Cup Final on August 17th in Paris. England cruised to an easy 40-7 win over Ireland, and Canada battled an inspired French side to win 18-16. A missed French conversion as time ran out kept the game from going into overtime. The USA, also, won their 6th/7th place match 23-20 when the Australian kicker missed a penalty kick in the 84th minute. The Eagles will face New Zealand for 5th place on the final day of the tournament. New Zealand won their pool match with the USA 34-3.

I think I covered my who, what, where, when, and why in the first paragraph, so now time to explain the title.

The 20,000 seat Jean Bouin Stadium grew from about half full for the England-Ireland match to roughly 80% for the final match of the evening – France vs Canada. I have watched France’s men play New Zealand in a 1999 World Cup semi-final at Twickenham, a 2007 quarterfinal in Millennium Stadium, and a 2011 final at Eden Park, but these occasions did not hold a candle to the volume and passion with which La Marseillaise was sung on Wednesday night. The cries of Allez Les Bleus literally thundered inside one’s chest as if you were standing next to a speaker at a heavy metal concert. The crowd roared and booed at the ref every time a call was made that favored Canada. Weirdly they would start the barrage at the ref when the French were smoothly mauling their way down the pitch. On one occasion I turned to a French journalist and asked what they were yelling about. His reply, “I don’t really know the rules. I just started following 8 days ago. We support the team.” Aux quais, you have to admire the passion.

When a kicker was setting up penalties or conversions a sign flashed on the stadium video screen in French and English to “Please respect the kicker.” The noise would slowly diminish with an audible shushing around the stadium, a strange politeness while they chain smoked next to you.

Following the match I had an opportunity to speak with Mandy Marchak (#13 for Canada). I have been a fan of Mandy’s on the 7s circuit for several years now. Marchak crossed the pitch to have at least 2 solo try saving tackles and her vision began the movement from their own try line that led to Magali Harvey’s magical run the length of the pitch for Canada’s final try.

Her analysis of Canada’s play was, “It took us a little while to recognize things that we needed to recognize sooner, but we played the game we wanted to play. Even though, we would have liked to play more expansive. We went out and did what we planned. The French played exactly as we expected. Their forwards are extremely physical. We knew that this is where most of the game would be played, in the contact area.”

I asked her if the crowd had been a factor. Her reply, “The crowd wasn’t a factor, and you know the beauty of the French is they cheer for good rugby. Whether you are French or not, they are cheering for the better of the game.”

Several of the best women players from many countries have opted not to play in this World Cup as they prepare for the Olympics. I asked Mandy if their trip to the final in Paris would have been easier if some of the stars of the Canadian 7s team who remained in Canada had been part of the World Cup squad. She declined comment. That question certainly has the rock on one side and the hard place on the other. Such charm, diplomacy, vision, and tenacity in a 29 year old, Canada could do worse than her as Prime Minister one day.

Thoughts & Expectations for Day 4 of 2014 Rugby World Cup

It’s Tuesday, August 12th. In thirty minutes the Eurostar will whisk me away from Ashford and two hours later spit me out in Paris. My last taste of English cuisine (a heavily buttered sausage sandwich lathered with brown sauce) rumbles through the chunnel of my digestive system. A quick perusal of the Times sports section shockingly turns up not even a mention of England and Ireland’s historic semi-final clash in the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup tomorrow. If Ireland and England’s men were a day away from a World Cup semi-final, there would be pages devoted to the match. I find a Daily Telegraph that has half a page on the match. It also has a half page article on national eligibility for 7s in the 2016 Olympics. For the past few days I have lived among my English in-laws. Several are sport fanatics, but none had more than the slightest of interest in this World Cup. If I wander too far from #WRWC2014 on Twitter, large parts of the sports world seem oblivious to this tournament .

I have arrived in Paris and go to the stadium to pick up my press pass. I can’t see a banner or poster anywhere on the street, not in the windows of bars and restraurants, not on the side of the stadium. I get that this tournament should at least break even and  tickets are only 25 Euros or less, but you would think a sponsor would come forward to help celebrate what is about to take place here.

I’ve heard that the 20,000+ seat Jean Bouin Stadium has been sold out for the final day of the tournament on August 17th and is close to sold-out for tomorrow’s three matches (New Zealand/Wales, Ireland/England, France/Canada). Playing 3 matches in the same stadium is a good idea to fill the stadium. France will be appearing in this stadium both days. They play the last match tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if what is expected to be a large French crowd will turn up for the earlier matches.

I reserved my hotel close to the Jean Bouin Stadium many months ago fully expecting to watch the USA play here. A photographer friend who also booked in this area said it took him 3 hours each way to cross Paris to watch pool matches at the French Rugby Federation’s pitches in Marcoussis on August 9th. I erroneously thought there might be a press shuttle between the two locations. I am expecting to be able to watch USA vs Australia on a video feed in the Jean Bouin Stadium tomorrow.

Here are the teams I expect to win on Day 4 of 2014 Women’s World Cup:

At Marcoussis: South Africa over Samoa, Spain over Kazakhstan, USA over Australia

At Stade Jean Bouin: New Zealand over Wales, Ireland over England, and Canada over France

(I cheated a little on the last two. I just listened to a podcast with Allison Donnelly of @ScrumQueens and liked her reasoning.)

The hotel room comes with breakfast. I am expecting the petit-dejeuner to be better than the sausage sandwich I had in Ashford this morning.

Expectations are high!


Aug. 1st #WRWC2014 Day One

Day One & Done … So Have Some Fun!!

Day One of the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup was a day of frustrations. The USA Women Eagles struggled to a 23-17 loss to Ireland. They face an impossible challenge of defeating New Zealand on Aug 9th to have even a small possibility of getting to the semi-finals . The Black Ferns will be entering the match with 21 consecutive World Cup victories.

The loss to Ireland was frustrating because there were 3 players in the USA who certainly would have made at least a one try difference in the outcome: Griffin, Javelet, Folayan. Will the Olympics sap talent and interest from this tournament? Four years ago the announcement of rugby entering the Olympics was only a year old. Would these 3 talented rugby players have been waiting this one out in Chula Vista then? I suppose if the announcement had not been made, one of them would still be playing field hockey and Chula Vista would not exist for rugby.

The USA coach’s statement after the game that, ‘Ireland was the best mauling team in the world and we will be ready for that next time’ was a little frustrating in that you wonder, “Why weren’t you ready for it this time? Why was it a surprise?”

The challenge for the women is tremendous now.They have to run in a bunch of tries against Kazakhstan and beat New Zealand. (New Zealand beat Kazakhstan 79-5.) This week will tell if they are going to conquer the tower or enjoy Paris. Either way they have a lot to be proud of.

Ireland was not an easy team and from how I was able to follow the game on Twitter … which brings up another frustration.

I foolishly assumed that I could stream the matches through Universal Sport which the IRB website was telling me was the provider in the USA. When I went to log-on, I found out they were only streaming the USA matches. So I followed New Zealand doing their thing against Kazakshtan  and the Magali Harvey 24 point  first half magic for Canada.  I meant to write down the names of the tweeters in the stadium and say thanks, so if you were doing that ,” Thanks”.

Then I tried to log-in to Universal Sport to get the stream of the USA match , but my cable provider was not approved … or something like that. So I followed the USA match on Twitter. Thanks again to those tweeters at the USA v Ireland match. I tweeted about my problem streaming Universal Sport and became a follower of Universal Sport. I got a message from someone at Universal Sport asking who my cable provider was. I sent back, “Comcast,” and that was the end of that conversation. The stream got strange when the England vs Samoa match started, and the English tweets dominated … and then there was the HIT! The Twitter stream was overwhelmed with the HIT! The Samoan player got a red card .There was a tweet about ,“Remind me not to get in a domestic dispute in that country.” Things moved on.

I’ll have to try to see some video of the hit. I hope that doesn’t make me sound too violent, but we all do play rugby … or did.

There was a tweet in French  from, I think, a Japanese tweeter. My rough translation is ‘There is no doubt that the athletes and the competition are spectacular, but do not fool yourself by calling this a “world” cup.’ I’m taking that to mean the tweeter thought the selection of the world cup  teams was not fair. Was Japan robbed of a chance at the cup?

I’m going to leave this article on that question as I need to go pack for Paris.

Au Revoir