Rugby at Louisiana State University, 1970-2017

Bahamas here we come.

By Rob Haswell

My arrival on the LSU campus, as a visiting geography professor, in September, 1970, prompted two responses. Firstly, David Dukes, a local leader of the Ku Klux Klan, encouraged all of his followers to sign up for my culture worlds course, on the assumption that I was an apartheid apostle. When I set the record straight they staged a walk out. Secondly, I was beseeched by two Americans to start a rugby club: Jay McKenna had played rugby in Maryland, and proved to be a very good club secretary; while David Terry became equally invaluable – he made our first goalposts and became our very competent, and sober, bus driver. Terry had played in a rugby game at LSU in 1968, but it had ended in a brawl.
On 27 October, 1970, The Daily Reveille, the LSU campus newspaper, carried the following enticing invitation:
“A beer bust; hookers; scrums; knock-ons; and props. That’s what rugby is all about Rugby?? The newcomer to the LSU sports scene is the ancient game of rugby. Recruiting for the Tiger squad will be held in the Union all day Thursday, followed by an impromptu elbow raising party in the Tiger Lair at 5 pm.”
Needless to say more than eighty pitched up for the beer, and two weeks later we headed to New Orleans to play Tulane, who boasted an 8-1 record. We were fortunate to have a sprinkling of foreigners in key positions, such as front row, hooker, fly half and full back, but nine Americans made their rugby debut and we registered a 15-3 win. For the record, Sonny Jeffrey scored the first try in LSU’s rugby history.
Our first home game, on 7 January, 1971, against Hammond, received the following review:
“Imagine 15 athletes decked out in unnumbered grey sweatshirts and shorts, chasing, carrying, kicking and lateralling an oval-shaped ball; tackling, forearming and otherwise maiming their more experienced opponents and you have an accurate picture of LSU’s newest, potentially most appealing, yet officially unrecognised minor sports team.
The game they are playing is rugby and though it was conceived in other parts of the world, it was made for concrete canyon fans. Rugby combines the artistic footwork in soccer with the blatant brutality of football and most Americans, especially Louisiana Americans, love institutionalised bloodshed”.
Initially we played on narrow American football practice fields, but after being recognised as a club sport, thanks to the efforts of Hal Rose, we laid out an almost full size rugby field on a cow pasture alongside a concrete car park. Terry made our goalposts – his finest erection — and we had to squeeze the field into the space available, and so we named it Gerry Mander Field – it took the Athletic Director, who drove right past the field every day, several weeks before he got the pun, laughed his head off, and provided us with the scaffold materials to build our not- so- grandstand. Then he invited us to play a curtain-raiser to an LSU football game, in LSU’s Tiger Stadium, which we did by playing against Rice in the stadium on 2 October, 1971. It was an historic occasion, but the narrow field inhibited backline play, so we followed it up by playing Notre Dame, on Gerry Mander Field, in front of several thousand spectators, many of whom then went to Tiger Stadium to watch the LSU vs Notre Dame football game. There is no reason therefore, why rugby and football cannot co-exist, in a mutually beneficial relationship, on American campuses, and, in fact, rugby tackling is now belatedly recognised as being a far safer option, than using your helmet and suffering the inevitable head injuries being sustained by football players.

Establishing ourselves as the best team in the southern U.S. wasn’t all that difficult, but resulted in us travelling to the Bahamas, in late 1971, and becoming the first U.S. college team to defeat the Freeport Rugby Club. The drive to Miami, in three vehicles, and the boat ride, sponsored by Governor Edwin Edwards, is the stuff of legends.
My brother John, who was living in Bulawayo at that time, visited us and added much-needed coaching for our forwards. When he explained that the town’s name could be translated as ‘The Place of Slaughter’, the Americans decided then and there, to form a huddle before the kick off of a game, link hands and shout out “BULAWAYO”, and to this day it is LSU’s equivalent of the Haka, and the word also appears on the club’s crest.
1972 saw LSU finish third in the first National Collegiate Rugby Tournament, losing to Palmer Chiropractic College, who just happened to have Roy and Ian McCullum in their team. We avenged that by narrowly beating Palmer, minus their Boks, at LSU later that year. Our national recognition saw us invited to the annual Sevens Tournament, held over the November Thanksgiving weekend, in Washington D.C. Imagine driving all that way for a sevens tournament, but of course each road trip was epic, with pillow fights, mooning and partying the order of the day. We crisscrossed the South, and beyond, from Texas to Florida, and from Tennessee to Virginia, and north to Big Bend, Indiana. ‘We were young and we were strong but running against the wind’.
I insisted that we played hard and partied hard, as the camaraderie in rugby is completely absent in American sports. We played a running and passing game as befits a University team, but is also attractive to American athletes and sports fans, who see more than enough crash ball plays in American football. Rewardingly, the LSURFC has produced a steady stream of rugby players, who have earned representative and international rugby recognition. Boyd Morrison, Bob “Big Red” Causey and Gary Lambert have played for the U.S. Eagles, with Causey and Scott McLean, a former LSU and Eastern U.S. scrumhalf, coaching the current LSU team, who play in the Red River Conference.
In addition, Les Bratton, a founding member and player, established the Louisiana Exiles as an alumni club, who successfully and annually participated in the Saranac and Aspen Tournaments. Furthermore, LSURFC alumni, particularly, Gary Giepert and Tim Falcon, have played a leading role in establishing rugby in high schools in The Big Easy, and hence the rise to national prominence of the New Orleans Rugby Club. In fact, the Falcon family, Tim and his three sons, have made a major contribution to rugby in Louisiana, and that will continue with Tim being the driving force behind the establishment of the NOLA GOLD professional franchise in 2018. I urge rugby people throughout the South, to support this important step in the growth of rugby in the U.S. After all, a little Nawlins never hurt nobody, so make the trip.
I was able to maintain contact with the club by visiting the U.S. regularly in the 1980s and 1990s – two of our sons, Bobby and Benjamin, were born in and now reside in the U.S., so I have also been a bi-annual visitor more recently.
In summary then, although I planted the rugby seed at LSU, many others have watered and nurtured it over the years. So much so, that on 29 October, 2020, the LSURFC will be 50 years old—no mean accomplishment and testament to the blood, sweat and beers of so many over so many years. Hopefully, I will make it to the celebrations. BULAWAYO!!!!!!!!!!

Toast to first rugby field on LSU campus.

LSU team in D.C.

LSU Rugby Crest.

LSU Inaugural Meeting.

Early newspaper clipping.

Les Bratton telling Rob how to play rugby.

Robert Markel Cup Kicks-Off 2nd Season

The first Robert Markel Cup was won by NOLA Green on Dec. 31st, 2016, in their 65-12 victory over Crescent City Blues.

The second season opened on Sept. 2nd, 2017, with 6 teams competing for the trophy. The teams are Krewe of Gretna, Crescent City Blues, Pontchartrain Po-Boys, Baton Rouge, Gulf Coast, & Mobile Battleship.

The Cup is named for Robert Markel – founder of Spring Hill, Jackson, Smiley Faced Warriors youth rugby, Jesuit, and many other rugby initiatives in the Deep South. 

For more on Robert Markel see article at: http://www.deepsouthrugby.net/2007-2008-articles/robert-markel-a-grandfather-of-deep-south-rugby/ 

Aug. 9, 2017 USA 24-Italy 12 When is Just Winning Not Enough?

Sometimes it is not about winning or losing but about how much you won by. In their first pool match of the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup the USA Eagles defeated Italy 24-12.

In the women’s world cups there are 3 pools of four teams. Four teams go through to the knock-out (semi-final) round. The first team in each pool and the second best team with the biggest point differential.

In Pool B Canada crushed Hong Kong 98-0 and New Zealand convincingly beat Wales 44-12.

England, the reigning champs and recent victor over both Canada and New Zealand, is in our pool. How did we go from world champs in 1991 to a second tier side in 2017?

So many questions swirl in my head.

Will somebody someday tell the story about the coaching transition from Ric Suggitt to Julie McCoy to Richie Walker all in a year before the Olympics? Are there many stories about rapid coaching changes in USA Rugby?

Peter Steinberg has been USA Women’s 15s coach through it all. At the last women’s 15s World Cup in Paris several players chose not to play for fear of injury before the Olympics. (Hats off to Hurana Manuel of New Zealand who chose to play, got injured, came back, and played in the Olympic final.) A little over a year ago in an interview with DeepSouthRugby.net at the Clermont 7s Steinberg said, ” If Richie (USA 7s Coach Walker) continues, he is a great believer in people need to play rugby. You take someone like Richelle Stephens. She is a great player, but Richelle will make ten tackles here this weekend … total. There are only five tournaments. Someone like her, who is 19/20 or Lilly, they just need to play more rugby.”

Why are neither Richelle or Lilly Durbin on the team?

How do we come out of an Olympic cycle with players and coaches regularly at the Olympic training facility and not have one cross-over 4th place hurdler or pentathlete or sprinter or pole vaulter on the squad? Lev Kelter & Kris Thomas are cross-overs from Ric Suggitt (RIP) days.
Where are the new Kelters and Thomases?

In 4 years will we be struggling to beat Japan, who lost to France 72-14? Or will we struggle against them in Belfast in a couple weeks?

On a more personal note: I will increasingly know even less about what I write than in the past. For various reasons travel has become more difficult and my rugby viewing is restricted to mostly The Rugby Channel. The Rugby Channel isn’t carrying the World Cup. What ‘sup with that? I followed the USA v Italy on Twitter.

2016-17 Deep South News

2016-17 Deep South Rugby Articles

8/31/17  Pete Maud Died (1938-2017)

Pete was a major influence on the development of rugby in Louisiana and the Deep South.

Link to his history of Deep South Rugby:

Maud’s History – Part 1 – Tulane’s Beginning

8/5/17 USA Rugby National Collegiate Academic Honor Roll

The following rugby players in the Deep South Region made the 2016-17 USA Rugby Collegiate Honor Roll for maintaining 3.5 grade point average.

Katie Noriego             Junior                  Univ. of Alabama

Jade Barkett             Junior                    Univ. of Alabama

Carrie Kukelhan      Sophomore           Univ. of Alabama

Lily Wissinger          Junior                    Tulane

Elena Garides           Senior                    Tulane

Hannah Hoover       Junior                     Tulane

Gwendoyln Leifor   Sophomore             Tulane

Caroline Scott           Sophomore             Tulane

Trista Peronard        Junior                      Tulane

7/29/17 FLO Rugby Website 2017-18 High School Hot List

The following Louisiana high school rugby players were selected to the list:

Props: Justin Livaudais (NOLA Barbarians),  Kieran Webb (Bayou Hurricanes), Nick Gauthe (Jesuit)

Hooker: Reece Guidry (Bayou Hurricanes)                                                            

Flanker: Charles Lobrano (Jesuit)

Scrum Half: Josh Cashio (Jesuit)

Fly Half: Case Ellis  (Jesuit)

Center: James Williams (Bayou Hurricanes), Logan Neill (Brother Martin), Matt Palmer (Jesuit)

Wing: Gabriel Cardenas (Bayou Hurricanes)

Fullback: Drake Roethele (NOLA Barbarians), Jack Gab (Jesuit)

7/29/17 Rugby Americas North Championship in Georgetown, Guyana

David Coleman (Birmingham) selected to play in championship match for USA Rugby South Panthers vs Guyana for championship. USA Siuth Panthers win championship 23-19.

7/22/17 Southern 7s Atlanta

NOLA as the True South champions in Pool B with Charlotte, Boca Raton, & Optimus in competition to qualify for national championship  held August 12-13.

NOLA results in tournament:

NOLA 14  21 Optimus

NOLA 14  7   Boca Raton

NOLA 14  19 Charlotte

Charlotte and Optimus went through to the semi-finals. They both won those matches. Charlotte defeated Optimus 24-5 in the final.

7/19/17 2016-17 Collegiate All Americans

Honorable Mention

Lukem Beaumont – LSU

Kadis Simmons – LSU – Alexandria

5/27/17 South Panthers Fall 36-29 to Mexico

Saade Bou-Mikael (NOLA) and David Coleman (Birmingham) were part of USA Rugby South’s side that traveled to Puebla, Mexico, in the 36-29 losing effort vs. Mexico in the Rugby America’s North Championship.

5/14/17 South Panthers Defeat Cayman Islands

David Coleman and Zach Blalock (Birmingham) and Saade Bou-Mikael (NOLA) were part of the USA Rugby South Panthers 39-5 victory over Cayman Islands in the Rugby America’s North Championship.

5/9/17 NOLA to Have Pro Rugby Team

New Orleans joined Glendale, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Salt Lake City as cities planning to host a professional rugby team in 2018. New Orleans entered talks to partner with the professional French club Clermont-Auvergne in the professional team venture.

4/29/17 Jesuit Captures 10th State Title

Jesuit defeated the Bayou Hurricanes to win its 10th Louisiana high school championship. The NOLA Barbarians took 3rd plac with their win over Brother Martin Crusaders.

 

04/23/17 Chattanooga Edges Birmingham for Div. 2 True South Championship

Birmingham defeated Knoxville 28-25 in the semi-final. In the final Chatanooga squeezed past Birmngham 26-25.

(5/6/17 Chatanooga loses to Miami Tridents 74-14 in South D-2 Championship. Miami would lose to Charlotte Rugby 34-33. Charlotte would lose to the Detroit Tradesmen who would lose to Life who would defeat St Louis Bombers in the Final.

Montgomery defeated Mobile to claim the Div. 3 True South Championship. Montgomery would lose 36-24 to Southern Pines who would cruise past Gainesville 44-5, and defeat Saratoga before losing to Bremer County Bucks in semi-finals. Bremer County lost to St. Louis Royals in the Final 29-19.

04/23/17 Tulane Women in Spring Div. 2 National Championship

Tulane traveled to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and defeated Grand Canyon University 22-20 in the semi-final in their attempt to retain their 2016 national championship. The final was a rematch of the South Independent Conference championship. Kennesaw State ended up edging Tulane 21-15 for the title of spring champion.

(5/6/17 fall champion Davenport crushes Kennesaw State 71-5)

04/02/17 Deep South College Conference Champs

LSU fell to Baylor 25-22 in the Red River championship match.

LSU-Alexandria captured NSCRO Mid-Atlantic South Region championship with a 26-15 victory over Loyola.

(LSU-Alexandria ends up 4th in NSCRO losing to Xavier University 32-19. Claremont claimed the title with 65-0 win over Tufts.)

02/10/17 Tulane to Host NSCRO Qualifying Tournie

On April 8th Tulane will host a National Small College Rugby Organization qualifying tournament. This is NSCRO’s fifth year holding its championship tournament alongside the ‘larger’ school CRC 7s tournament which receives national television coverage. The championship tournaments will be June 3-4, 2017, near Philadelphia.

12/20/16 NSCRO Top 50 Fall 2016

From what was once Deep South region the following university rugby sides playing among the 185 colleges in the National Small College Rugby Organization made the top 50 for fall season 2016.

#26 LSU-Alexandria

#34 Tulane University

#35 Loyola University

#40 University of North Alabama

12/05/16 Alabama’s Depperschmidt SCRC Player of the Year

Ross Depperschmidt has been named 2016 SCRC Player of the Year. This award is voted on by coaches and delegates of conference teams. Ross is a senior and captain of Alabama. He played center. Max Dodds of Ole Miss (flyhalf) was a finalist.

12/03/16 Birmingham Represented in USA Rugby South Panther Squad

Birmingham players Brendan Smith, David Coleman, and Zach Blalock were selected to be part of the USA Rugby South Panther squad that played the Capitol Rugby Union in Richmond, Virginia, on December 3rd.

11/24/16 Alabama Wins SCRC Championship

Alabama defeated Tennessee 12-8 to capture the Southeastern College Rugby Conference (SCRC) 2016 Championship. The match was played at Life University in Marietta, Georgia.

The following was the Uiversity of Alabama’s team:

Alabama
1. Tyler Pollock / TJ Patterson
2. Pat Feimer
3. Shawn Dawley
4. Bobby Collins
5. Jackson Moss / Ian McDonald
6. Heath Ross
7. Connor Ray
8. Christian Abbatiello
9. James Puente
10. Jgnacio Guisasola
11. Andres Kallas / Brett Walsh
12. Ross Depperschmidt (c)
13. Taylor Carpenter
14. Caleb Strum
15. Tyler Hsin

10/27/16 USA Rugby South Panthers Squad to Face Life University

The following players from the Deep South Region were part of the USA Rugby South squad picked to play 2 matches against Life University on Nov. 6th.

Adam Hicks Birmingham
Brendan Smith Birmingham
Cameron Falcon New Orleans
David Coleman Birmingham
Robert Smith Birmingham
Saade Bou-Mikael New Orleans
Zach Blalock Birmingham

Plans for LA/Deep South Youth Rugby 2017-18

On Jul 6, 2017, Gary Gieper wrote, “With our General Meeting coming up in August, I am trying to gauge how many high school teams we will have in the La/Deep South High School League next year.

Will Niceville and Mississippi be able to field a team next year? What about Shaw, West Jeff, NOMMA, Lake Area, Warren Easton, Shreveport or Capt Shreve?

Can we get a high school team started at Holy Cross? Can we resurrect a team at Rummel or De La Salle? Can we get a high school team started in Baton Rouge, Lafayette or Alexandria?

I would also like all high school teams to try to form a middle school team for their 8th and 9th graders. I tried at Br Martin last year but failed. I will try again this year.

Scully, Dan Falcon and D J has told me he plans on resurrecting West Jeff and /or Shaw. Francis Mayer has told me he plans to start a team at Catholic in Baton Rouge.
Matt Austin replied:

“I met with Holy Cross admin. They will be under Barbarians again and we hope to add middle school. I’m setting up a meeting with Frank and their admin.

I’m working on St Aug and I’ll reach out to my contacts at Lake Area about resurrection.”

Sam Brock replied,”Shreverport would be interested in the middle school division if it is 6th through 8th but not if it includes 9th grade. Middle schools here are 6th through 8th grade and would have to draw  9th grade from high schools and those players would not be interested. SHARC from Shreveport will have a high school team but is currently not planning to compete in the high school league but is open to scheduling matches with anyone interested.

11 LSU Players Make Red RiverAll Conference Team

Red River Conference Player of the Year

Brennan Falcon

 

First Team

Hunter Breit – hooker

Zach Stratton – flanker

Brennan Falcon – flanker

Trevor O’Neil – wing

Cameron Troxler – fullback

 

Second Team

Joseph Ruocco – flanker

Todd Dupree – 8

John Crilly – fly-half

Alec Miller – wing

Honorable Mention

Andy Mullins – forward

Mike Lloyd – back

New Orleans bound Mardi Gras rugby players are invited to participate in the 2nd Annual Krewe of Ruckus

New Orleans bound Mardi Gras rugby players are invited to participate in the 2nd Annual Krewe of Ruckus on Mardi Gras Day. The group will congregate at Markey’s Bar (640 Louisa) in the Marignay at 9 a.m. and join the St. Anne’s Parade at 10 a.m. for the march over to the French Quarter. Ruggers from all clubs and all the age groups are welcome to participate. “Looking forward to seeing the rugby community come together on a great day,’’ said event organizer Frank Palumbo. “Last year was epic and this year looks to be even more so. Think 20 person scrums, huge lineouts, and all sorts of rugby shenanigans. I can think of no better advertisement for rugby in the area than 100’s of ruggers walking the streets representing the various clubs.’’ More info: fjp1812@gmail.com.

Capt Shreve’s First 2 Matches in New Orleans

High School Rugby action opened up this weekend with the newly formed Capt Shreve Rugby Club traveling to New Orleans to take on both Jesuit and the Barbarians. Capt Shreve started the season with a tough task of having to go against one of the oldest high school rugby teams in the state. Capt Shreve played the Blue Jays tough but Jesuit prevailed 27 – 5.

It was tired group of Capt Shreve players who had to face the Barbarians within a few hours after its first game against Jesuit and
Capt Shreve’s fatigue showed as the Barbarians rolled to a 48-0 win.

Capt Shreve has to be congratulated on starting a team and traveling to New Orleans for its first two matches. We look for good things to come from them in the future.

We now have two teams in Shreveport and one in Covington and would love to have one in Baton Rouge and one in Lafayette next year.

To keep up with the league go to Louisiana Rugby’s website.

By Gary J. Giepert

Tulane Women USA Rugby Div. II National Champs

In a bittersweet ending to an inspired season the Tulane University women’s rugby side conceded the USA Div II Rugby championship, kind of. After capturing the spring season championship by defeating Humboldt State University 39-32 in Moraga, California on April 23rd, the Green Wave was to return to Moraga two weeks later to play fall season champion Davenport University from Michigan. A second trip to California in two weeks was a bridge too far for Tulane.

Division I fall champion, University of Connecticut, were unable to travel to California for the May 7th championship match against the spring champion because of conflict with graduation. USA Rugby cancelled the national championship; although, it is rumored that Davenport will have the opportunity to play Humboldt State on May 7th.

This is not the first time the championship has been cancelled. The current system with fall and spring seasons and separate champions has proven on other occasions to be untenable.

NORFC to 2016 National 7s Club Championships

The NORFC and Olympic Elite qualified from the True South and NORFC finished behind Atlanta Old White in the South qualification tournament. The two qualified for the national tournament

The following report by Evan Lappen (07.25.16) in Rugby Today

Ten qualifying tournaments in four regions culminated at the South 7s Championships in Charlotte, N.C. on Saturday. A total of 12 men’s and women’s teams from the Carolinas, Florida, Georgia, and the True South Rugby Unions competed for the four spots at Nationals in Denver, Colo. on August 13th and 14th. With temperatures nearing 100°F all day, the South 7s Championships ended with Atlanta Old White and New Orleans representing the men and Orlando and Charlotte advancing for the women in Denver.

In the men’s championship, Charlotte (Carolinas), the Legion (Georgia), the Oklahoma Elite (True South), and Orlando (Florida) were grouped in one pool and Miami (Florida), New Orleans (True South), Atlanta Old White (Georgia), and Charlotte B (Carolinas, not eligible) rounded out the second pool.

After three rounds of pool play, Charlotte and Orlando advanced to the semifinals out of Pool A. Charlotte went undefeated prevailing over the Legion, the Oklahoma Elite, and Orlando by a combined score of 80-19. Orlando won its first two games before succumbing to the North Carolina team in its last match.

Pool B was more competitive as Miami, New Orleans, and Atlanta battled to identical 2-1 records. Miami opened with a 36-7 victory over New Orleans, beat Charlotte B, and then were blanked, 28-0, by the Old White. Following its loss to Miami, New Orleans let out its frustration on Atlanta winning 24-14 before crushing Charlotte B, 54-0. The Old White began with an easy 41-7 win over Charlotte B, lost to New Orleans, and shut out Miami. Atlanta and New Orleans advanced to the semifinals based on point differential.

In the penultimate matches, New Orleans scraped by Charlotte in one of the closest matches of the tournament, 15-12. The Louisiana club didn’t wait too long before they knew their opponent in the final as the Atlanta Old White clobbered Orlando, 31-12.

The Atlanta Old White attributed the success of the tournament to the team-centric attitude of the team. “Our coach, Ronn Omondi, challenged us to share the workload during the day,” said Atlanta captain Jamie Gasparella. “That can mean many different things in different games. The outcome was that we had different guys step up at different times in each game to shoulder the load, play with great intensity, and inspire the rest of the team. I believe that was the difference maker for us.”

The team first ideal powered the Atlanta Old White to a 28-5 victory in the cup final against a well-drilled New Orleans club. The Old White jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead and scored one more try in the second half as Zach Miller (2, 4/4 on conversions), Rashaud Moore, and Coop Jackson each dotted down tries.

Commenting on the final, Gasparella remarked, “New Orleans beat us earlier in the day and the reason why they won the pool play game was because of intensity from the beginning. In the final, we made a commitment to ourselves to come out with just as great of an effort and win that first battle. We came out with a lot of fire and passion and played with our backs against the wall leading to the momentum in our direction and we were running after that.”

The NORFC community came together to send the 7s side to Denver.

The following letter from NORFC club President inspired donations:

Subject: NORFC HEADING TO THE USARFU 7’s NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

> > To the New Orleans Rugby Family

August 1, 2016

When your future is in your own hands, you know it couldn’t be in a
better place. That’s how I feel today about New Orleans rugby club
embarks on a new chapter. We are all aware of the extraordinary demands that the last few
seasons have placed on our players and our organization. From the
pinnacle of national championship competition, New Orleans rugby has
for the past few seasons faced a demanding road schedule and
doubleheader weekends in order to play at a high level.
That has been a difficult time for the club on personal and
institutional levels. But New Orleans rugby responded and fulfilled
its commitments on the pitch.
The season, however, have a new deal.
Earlier this year, our club was prepared to exit Division 1 play and
reenter the True South D-2 division and let the chips fall. During
our petition to join the True South D-2 club, however, the national
competitions committee recognized and acknowledged our geographic dilemma and the financial burden brought on by the excess travel.
The upshot: New Orleans Rugby has been granted waiver to compete
USARFU Division 1 independent, meaning we are no longer tethered to
a union. We do however, need to fulfill a quality schedule of our
own making (approximately 12 quality fixtures). We are currently in
the process of inviting some quality snowbird sides down to help fulfill our commitment.
This means the terms of our competition will be more self directed.
The ball, and our club’s future, is firmly in our hands.
The support and commitment of our club members, sponsors and
supporters remains as vital as ever as we navigate new waters, and
I’m confident we will find success.

> > ASPEN RUGGER FEST
You may remember that last year we targeted a number of quality
young recruits and invited them up to the Aspen Rugger Fest to
supplement our own player pool. Some of these recruits did in fact
play on the Nola Rugby First IV last season.
We are going to do it again this year and play to win the
tournament. I invite you to join us in Aspen this year to enjoy some
quality rugby while supporting your Nola Rugby Club. This year’s
Aspen Rugger Fest will take place on September 15-18. Some of the
Nola Rugby Old Boys will team up with Florida and play on the
September 15 and 16, while our young bucks will play on September 17 and 18.

> > EVENTS & SPONSORSHIP
Many of you have asked what happened to the past years Nola Rugby’s
2016 Hall of Fame, Purple Benefit Dinner, Awards Banquet, and Golf Tournament.
The short answer is the administration and players were spread pretty thin.
We did our best to fulfill our fixtures while we figured out how to
keep the ship moving in the right direction. Given we are a fully
volunteer organization, we sometimes lack the volunteers. We will
hopefully regroup and get all these events back on the books.
In addition to all our quality sponsors, Nola Rugby has been proud to have Cembell Industries in our corner. Larry and Mary Antonini
have been faithful supporters of Nola Rugby and I couldn’t be more
proud to have their support. I thank them both for their generosity and continued support. We are always looking for quality sponsors to
partner with Nola Rugby. Please stay vigilant to sponsorship opportunities.

NOLA Rugby GOING FOR ANOTHER NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP Nola Rugby 7’s
has punched their ticket to compete in the finals of the USARFU National Championships in Denver Colorado in 3 weeks. Father Mike
has been asked to retrieve the collection plates from the vault in
the sacristy and polish off the past couple years patina. The club
and 7’s players have covered most of their travel and lodging costs
to date. I would like to get the players up to Denver to compete
without placing additional financial burden on them. My goal is to
secure $7,500.00 to cover the air fare and lodging for the guys. Our
boys have trained hard and played hard. Nola 7’s Rugby is 1 of 12 elite clubs to have earned their place on the national stage. Our Pay Pal account set up to help facilitate donations or you can send
a check made payable to NORFC to my address, 6965 Colbert St. NOLA
70124. Your generosity is always cherished and valued, when our
boys earn their way to compete for a national championship, I know I
can rely on you and your support. I will get the pump primed with a
$250.00 donation.
> > NEW BROOMS
I have had the pleasure of leading the Nola Rugby ship for the past number of years, the patina I wear does not polish off. Likely,
this may be my last term as club president. I have been considering
stepping down for quite some time. I have had a tremendous run and
have been fortunate to influence the sport I love in the city I
love. I am going nowhere and will always stay involved in some
capacity. I believe a new broom sweeps clean and I look forward to
the onslaught of worthy candidates to put their hat in the ring. Thank you for all your support over the years.
Sincerely,
Mike Kerrigan

$5700 was raised by the end of the fundraiser at Finn McCool’s on the Saturday before the team left for Colorado. Jeff Reuther provided the following list of donors:
Mike Kerrigan
Jerry Gallion
Jack Biven
Jack Mauer
Henry B Hahn
Jimmy Rehkopf
Saade Bou-Mikael
Tom Crosby
Jack Tillay
John Edginton
Daniel MacLeod
Jarrett Falcon
Nick Benvenutti
Neal Henderson
John and Jan Reuther
Adam Massey
Conrad Breit
Chris Beacher
Joe Guinta
John Long
Ron Gibbs
Cliff Fontenot
Lance Kiley
Bobby Johns
Adam Ducoing
Chance Doyle
Andrew Larkin
Jason Deleaumont
Robert Waterwall
Joseph Doucette
Dan Reid
Stanley Smith
Matt Austin
Seth Magden
Sean Malek
James Sims
Lisa Crawford
Buzz Phillips
Ian McNulty
Matt Sisson
Peter Maud

In pool play NORFC was winless losing
54-0 to Seattle Saracens, 21-19 to Austin Huns, & 28-12 to Kansas City Blues.

In knock-out play they lost 26-7 to Little Rock Stormers, 35-0 to Olympic Club Rugby, and ended the tournament on a winning note defeating Austin Huns 27-19.

Deep South Rugby 2015-16 Season

August 13-14th NORFC Competes at National Club 7s in Denver

NORFC quaified for the club side championships in Denver by finishing second to Atlanta Old White in the South Tournament.
At the national tournament NORFC lost 54-0 to Seattle Saracens, 21-19 to Austin Huns, and 28-12 to Kansas City Blues in pool play. In the knock-out round NORFC lost 26-7 to Little Rock Stormers and 35-0 to Olympic Club Rugby, and closed out the tournament with a 27-19 victory over Austin Huns.

July 9, 2016, New Orleans Loses 26-28 to Nashville at Tennessee 7s
New Orleans narrowly lost to Nashville, 28-26, at the 40th annual Tennessee 7s in Knoxville on July 9th. Nashville decided not to qualify for the South Championships, so New Orleans received the points to advance.
Six clubs participated: Knoxville, Bowling Green, New Orleans, Nashville, Ticks, and Oklahoma City. New Orleans emerged from pool play undefeated.
New Orleans defeated Knoxville, 40-5, in semi-final and led for most of final before Nashville’s late match comeback. The South 7s Championship begin on July 23rd.

July 9, 2016, Jesuit’s Massey on South U-19 Squad vs Bermuda
Gabriel Massey (Jesuit) was on South U-19 squad vs Bermuda at the Rugby Americas North U-19 Championships in Miramar, Florida.

July, 2016, LSU’s Bower Finalist for Player of the Year

Christian Bower (LSU) was finalist for Goff Rugby Report’s College Player of the Year.

June 7, 2016, LSU Alexandria 7th in NSCRO National 7s

LSU Alexandria defesated North Alabama 17-12 in the regional 7s national qualifier held in Chattanooga to qualify for the Penn Mutual/NSCRO national tournament in Philadelphia. LSU Alexandria went 0-3 in pool play (21-0 to New Mexicao Highlands University, 10-0 to Susquehanna, and 19-12 to Babson College), On Day 2 of national tournament they defeated Ithaca 26-10 to capture 7th place. New Mexico Highlands University captured the national championship with a 31-7 victory over St. Mary’s College.

Lawson of Jackson on USA South Panthers

James Lawson of Jackson RFC made the USA Rugby South Panther squad that played against Bermuda in Atlanta on May 7th.

5/14/16 Ft Walton Beach 7s

Okaloosa Islanders men’s club host the No Shoes Barefoot Beach Sevens Tournament with men’s, women’s, and high school teams. The event is sanctioned by USA Rugby.

5/5/16 Bayou Hurricanes State Champs/Perfect Season

The Bayou Hurricanes went undefeated in capturing the Louisiana/DeepSouth state title 28-12 against Jesuit. The Blue Jays would have had a perfect season, also, except for 3 losses to the Hurricanes.

4/23/16 Tulane Women USA Rugby Div II Champs

The Tulane Women’s rugby team defeated Humboldt State University 39-32 in the spring season championship final. The final was played in Moraga, California. Humboldt State is in northern California.

4/23/16 Tulane Wins Golden Eagles 7s

Tulane Men defeated the hosts, Univ of Southern Mississippi, in the final 40-14 to claim the championship.

4/19/16 Brennan Falcon Starts for the USA u-20 in World Trophy Tournament

 In the USA’s opening pool play match in the World U-20 tournament in Zimbabwe, Brennan Falcon (Shaw, LSU) started at #7 for the USA. The Junior All-American squad lost 46 – 44 to Namibia. The new 6 points for a try rule is being trialled by World Rugby at this tournament.

Brennan started at #7 in the USA’s second pool match victory where the u-20 All Americans were victorious over Hong Kong 32-12.

4/16/16 LSU Faces Univ of Arizona in Div 1A Playoff

LSU went undefeated to capture the championship of the Red River Conference. They gained home field advantage for their USA Rugby Div 1A play-off match with University of Arizona. The Tigers lost 30-10. Arizona lost to Utah in the Quarterfinals 36-14th. LSU would end season ranked #14 nationally.

4/10/16 Tulane University Women Make Div II Final Four

Tulane Univeristy Women’s Rugby team, under the direction of Coach Jessica Mallindine and in only their 2nd year back after disbanding over a decade ago following Hurricane Katrina, have become the first Louisiana women’s rugby side to advance to a USA Rugby final four play-off. In the Elite Eight playoff they defeated Eckerd College from Florida 30-10 and University of Arkansas 37-0 to continue their hunt for a national championship in California.

In the semi-final vs Salisbury College on April 23rd in Davis, California, the Tulane Women were victorious 53-38. Humboldt College defeated University of Southern California in other semi 45-10.

4/8/16 Brennan Falcon Selected USA Rugby U-20 World Trophy Squad

Brennan Falcon (Shaw, LSU) was selected for the USA Men’s Junior All American squad that will travel to Zimbabwe on April 14th to compete in the World Rugby U-20 World Trophy.

3/30/16 LSU Captain Red River Player of the Month

Christian Brower was named the Red River Conference player of the month for March.

3/29/16 Cameron Falcon Signs Pro Rugby Contract

Cameron Falcon (Shaw ’11, LSU, NORFC) signs to play professional rugby with the Ohio team in the newly formed Pro Rugby league.

3/19/16 Spring Hill 7s

Saint Louis University defeated the University of Florida 19-12 in overtime to win the 2016 Spring Hill 7s.

The University of Alabama fell to Saint Louis in their semi-final 7-0. The Gators  slipped by Mississippi State 21-14 in their semi-final.

2/27/16 New Orleans Collegiate Rugby 7s Tournament

The New Orleans Collegiate Rugby 7s Tournament began Saturday, February 27th, at the NORFC’s home field in Gretna. Teams from Mississippi State, Tulane, Loyola, Spring Hill College, Louisiana Tech, Troy University, University of South Alabama, and University of Southern Mississippi participated. The tournament was organized by Matt Austin.

Tulane defeated Mississippi State 17-12 in the final.

Tulane, Mississippi State, Spring Hill, and Loyola met in the second round. Tulane beat Spring Hill and Mississippi State defeated  Loyola to set up the final. Spring Hill  took 3rd.

2/13/16 Brennan Falcon Starts for USA U20s vs Canada

The USA  U-20 side defeated Canada 19-18 in Austin in a match following the USA Eagles 30-22 victory over Canada in inaugural ARC championship. Brennan Falcon (Shaw and LSU) started and played the entire match.

1/29/16 Cameron Falcon on USA Eagle ARC Squad

NORFC hooker, Cameron Falcon, was selected to be one of the 37 athletes on the USA Eagle 37 member squad for the inaugural American Rugby Championship (ARC). The ARC’s initial plan is to involve USA, Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and Brazil in an annual “6 Nations” type competition. Cameron was selected as reserve for USA’s match vs Brazil on Feb. 27th.

1/23/16 First High School Match in Shreveport

The Shreveport area high school team played their first match ever against the Bayou Hurricanes from Houma. The Gary Kennedy Memorial Rugby Classic  held on Saturday, January 23rd, in Shreveport was three matches.  LSU played Louisiana Tech and  University of Alabama  in the first two matches. Shreveport, coached by Sammy Brock, took the pitch in the third match of the day.

Deep South area players in USA Rugby South Panthers 2016 NACRA Championship Campaign

On Dec. 12, 2015,  the USA Rugby South Panthers defeated a select side from the largely Virginia based Capital Rugby Union 41-32. This was a warm-up match before the Panthers begin their North American Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) 2016 championship campaign against the Bahamas in Nassau on January 9th.

The following is a quote from Christ Porter, coach of the Capital Union select side, as reported in Rugby Today:
“They (USARS Panthers) were quick in the backline and they hit things at pace. Their forwards hit the ball at pace and their backline hit all their moves at pace. Jeff Reuther is a great veteran player as he has really developed into a great leader and runs a great backline. Chance Doyle, from fullback, was hitting the ball at pace and their center, Amir Khan, from Detroit, did a great job. He as very difficult to take down, he has some really quick feet and made some good moves to set guys up really well.”

See more at: http://www.rugbytoday.com/clubs/rugby-south-outlasts-capital-union-select-side-match#sthash.VNZtZrYL.dpuf

The following are Deep South region players selected for USARS Panthers vs the Bahamas:
Zach Blalock Birmingham
Chance Doyle New Orleans
Ben Lopata Louisiana Tech
Jeff Reuther New Orleans
Thomas Savoie Louisiana Tech

2015 Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference (SCRC) All-Conference players from the Deep South area

SCRC Player of the Year – Matt Schick    #8   Alabama

1st Team

#8              Matt Schick                        Alabama

center       Ross Depperschmidt        Alabama

center       Dylan Turner                      Mississippi

2nd Team

hooker        Mathew Lund                     Alabama

lock              Jacob Matrella                   Auburn

flanker         Zach Carmello                    Alabama

scrumhalf   Jordan Speights                 Mississippi State

center          Nick Magnella                     Auburn

wing             Terrance Mathews              Mississippi State

fullback        Naoki Kawahara                  Alabama

Nov. 25th Week #11 (Final) Goff Rugby Report Div 1 Fall College Ranking
#16 LSU
#24 Alabama

11/21/15 Olympic Identification Camp in Mobile

Saturday, November 21st, an Olympic identification camp was held in Mobile, Al. Paul Holmes, USA Olympic rugby coach, and Justin Goonan, USA Jr. All American S&C coach, and Spring Hill College assistant coach, Callum Corley, held the camp at Spring Hill College.

LSU’s Falcon & Troxler USA U-20 Invite

Brennan Falcon and Cameron Troxler with LSU were invited to tryout for the USA U-20 All-American team. The camp will be held December 19 – December 22, 2015 in Casa Grande, Arizona.

USA Rugby South Panthers NACRA Side

The USA Rugby South Panthers Select Side squad selected to compete for the NACRA title.

Squad: Tyler Bishop (Tallahassee), Zach Blalock (Birmingham), Irving Carcamo (Charlotte), Waymon Cassel (Nashville), Casey Davidson (University of Georgia), Nathan Driggers (University of Georgia), Ty Elkins (Charlotte), Daniel Falkner (Appalachian St.), Jarrett Gartin (North Atlanta), Amro Gouda (Charlotte), Jesse Hackworth (Middle Tenn St U), Matt Hughston (Charlotte), Corey Jones (Little Rock), Amir Khan (Detroit Tradesmen), Ben Lopata (Louisiana Tech), Zach Miller (North Atlanta), Ron Omondi (Atlanta Old White), Alejandro Ospina (Charlotte), Jeff Reuther (New Orleans), Nathan Ring (Nashville), Thomas Savoie (Louisiana Tech), Todd Sherer (Columbia), Doug Stillwell (East Carolina), Calvin Storey (Raleigh), Kermit Tyler (Atlanta Renegades), David Winiarczyk (Atlanta Old White)

10/24/15 Louisian Youth/Rookie Rugby Fall Tournament

Louisiana Youth/Rookie Rugby holds end of fall seaon tournament, Saturday, October 24th, at Gretna Park (860 Gretna Blvd) and then watched the New Orleans Loup Garoux team play the Houma Hurricanes at 3 p.m. Louisiana Youth Rugby is for children between the ages of 7-12 that may be interested in joining us for our spring season.

10/9/15 LA Tech’s Crawford Player of Week

Oct. 9th  Louisiana Tech University #8 Will Crawford was chosen as Gift-Time Rugby Network Spotlight Player of the Week.

10/3/15 NORFC Garreth Stubbs Passed Away 

Oct. 3rd Garreth Stubbs passed away of an apparent heart attack. Garreth was a true Welshman, born to rugby,
and he made a significant contribution to the New Orleans club both
on and off the pitch during the early 1990s until he was diagnosed
with diabetes, forcing him to retire from the game he loved.

9/18/15 Louisiana Represented in Aspen

A few Old Boys and a bunch of Young Boys just went to Aspen the weekend of Sept. 18th. Young players from around the New Orleans and Louisiana area were invited to come along. Recruiting, reloading, and reshuffling the deck was the primary mission. The tour group came away with 2 wins against Glendale and the Denver Barbarians. Two matches were lost, one against Aspen and one against The Misfits. All in all, it was a successful weekend of rugby.

9/5/15 Lake Area High School Team Disbanded

Sept. 5th What follows is an email from Matt Austin about seeking to include the Lake Area’s players in a multi- school club as Lake Area administration goes to main stream sports:

” I met with Lake Area’s AD yesterday and they will not be fielding a single school team. They will still help the boys as they can, but there won’t be financial or organizational assistance from them as they are focusing on LHSAA sports as they now have a full sports compliment, which they didn’t when they started rugby. I think that by support that they mean they will let them use lockers and train with the football team.

I am going to make the effort to organize a city club team to involve
players from Lake Area, Warren Easton, Holy Cross (1 player so far), and anyone else interested in playing who doesn’t have a school team. I want to ensure that those players don’t stop playing rugby for lack of a team.

Anyone interested in helping to make the club team happen, please contact me and we can set up a meeting of interested parties. I know many guys want to help but are busy. But even if anyone can help coach a day a week even that would be a big help. I’m at Jesuit teaching now and would like to be there coaching, but if no one steps up as a head coach for that city club, I will. For now I’m going to commit to at least organizing the structure and setting the team up. Send the word out, especially to those who would like to help, but may be short on time or experience.

I’m working on a few division possibilities. I’ll work a few scenarios and have those prepared soon. Matt”
Fri, Sep 4th It is reported that the youth Shreveport team is 100 % sure. A second Shreveport High School asked to be included for the 2016-17 school year.  A coach was in place and would train under the 1st Shreveport team for this year.

8/7/15 NO Royales Win Shreveport 7s

Aug. 7th New Orleans Royale wins Shreveport Horseshoe Casino and Hotel Bossier City Louisiana 7s.

May 28, 2016 Pete Steinberg on 7s, 15s, & Pathways to Future

Following the USA Women 7s’ team first two pool matches at the Clermont 7s Tournament (26-7 loss to England & 12-10 loss to Spain), DSR.net spoke with Pete Steinberg who is USA Women’ 7s’ assistant coach & head coach for USA Women 15s.

DSR.net: What are you saying to the team now?

Steinberg: In terms of the actual tournament it probably isn’t going to be a huge difference as long as we come as one of the top third place teams; because, if we had won that game (vs Spain) and beat Kenya, we would play Australia, and now we’ll probably, if we can get the points against Kenya, end up playing New Zealand.
(Note: USA ended up the second best third place team and played England in the quarterfinal. England won 21-12.)
So in terms of the outcome of the tournament not a huge difference for us; however, in terms of our growth as a team with a new coach, there was a lot of learning that happened in that game.

DSR.net: Learning in what respect?

Steinberg: When the team was really able to execute our structures and how we want to play, we play both on offense and defense and play really good rugby.The team is still trying to work on those structures with a new coach. Unlike every other team here that has had years to implement them, we’re still inconsistent. It is just a question of building up the consistency and understanding of what Richie wants from the players.

DSR.net: We seemed to just be getting the ball straight out and passing letting us down?

Steinberg: Yeah, what we would say is that we want to stretch the field, and we want to stretch the field a couple of times to really stretch the defense before we really attack. We are just being a little bit too eager. You see we try to stretch the field once and then we try something else. We need to have a bit more patience, playing with width again, and then looking to go an attack.
The conditions aren’t great and some of the passing is again a different alignment that Richie wants the team to have, and that is new to them, and that causes timing and depth issues.
When we scored our try, especially in the second half, we moved the ball wide, attacked hard, won the ball, moved it wide, – we scored. That was really good.

DSR.net: The speed on the outside? Excluding when Lilly Durbin scored her first try, the outside backs are getting caught?

Steinberg: Yeah, we are o.k. with that. The try came from Vix (Victoria Folayan) taking the outside, running hard, bringing the defenders in, to create space all the way on the other wing when Lilly scored. So we are o.k. with that, but we need to do that a few more times. We just need a little more patience straight through three or four phases to really break down some of the better defenses, a defense like England’s. It takes that sort of time for us to be able to disorganize them.

DSR.net: Can I ask a 15s question?

Steinberg: Sure.

DSR.net: For the Paris World Cup in 2014 there were some issues getting 7s players to play with the USA team. Is that going to be an ongoing problem?

Steinberg: What we always want to do is put the players and their careers first. In the discussions I have had both with Richie and Alex Maglesby, I’ve expressed that having 7s players available will be important for the performance of the 15s’ team, and I think you saw that. In Paris we were basically the top ranked team that didn’t have 7s players available. Both us and Australia struggled to get our 7s players available.
From an organizational perspective there is an understanding that we are now into this cycle. The year after the Olympics is going to be a focus on Women’s 15s going to the World Cup. Then the focus will move back to 7s with the 7s World Cup in San Francisco.
It will be interesting, but it is the players’ call.
If Richie continues, he is a great believer in people need to play rugby. You take someone like Richelle Stephens. She is a great player, but Richelle will make ten tackles here this weekend … total. There are only five tournaments. Someone like her, who is 19/20 or Lilly, they just need to play more rugby.

DSR.net: I saw in 2013 there was this development plan designed so players would be brought along to peak at 27 or 28 years old. Now this squad is all over the place. Lilly is 17, and Carmen Farmer is 35. New Zealand they are all around 27 and Australia is even younger?

Steinberg: The difference we have had is that the USA hasn’t had a defined pathway up until last year. Last year the pathway was unified. There is now a collegiate 7s program. There is now the high school, U-20s, and Collegiate All-Americans all aligned with the Eagles and 7s teams. We can now do that. That is something that has always been in place in traditional rugby nations. That allows us to now identify that future.
Before we had no defined pathway, so we didn’t know who the 17-18-19 year olds were who we should be developing for 2020. Now we do.
We already have a list of players identified for 2020. We didn’t have that in 2013.

DSR.net: Is the vision now toward 2020 more than 2016?

Steinberg: No, No. No! You can’t only work on four year cycles.
From Richie’s perspective he is focused on 2016. This team is focused on 2016.
If you look at like my role because I also do the pathways stuff, we’re the people, like Tam Breckenridge and Alex Maglesby, we are saying, ‘While Richie is focused on 2016, what is the group look like for 2020.’ We are building those structures, and I think we have them pretty much in place.
I think we are going to be in good shape. Richie has only been on the ground for two months and has two more months, so he is only half through.
I think we are in pretty good shape for the culture he wants to develop and the game he wants to play.

DSR.net:Thanks.

Steinberg: No problem. Enjoy France.

May 29, 2016 Clermont 7s Day 2 & Beyond

The USA Women’s 22-19 loss in the plate final of the Clermont 7s to host country France placed the USA in 6th place in the tournament. Unless miracles happen in the next two months, this is the likely place the USA ladies will find themselves on August 9th in Rio. Against any well coached, experienced international side the Eagle women struggled. England eclipsed them 26-7 in pool play and then again 21-12 in the cup quarterfinal. The USA’s 2 victories in the tournament (31-0 vs Kenya, 14-12 vs Fiji) were over sides with considerably less experience in top level international tournament play, and the narrow victory over Fiji was a sad indicator that the USA is losing ground against emerging sides. The nation of Fiji has a population about the same as the city of Jacksonville.

Canada defeated series winning Australia in the cup final. Australia, who had already claimed the first ever tournament series championship for an Australian team with their quarterfinal (35-0) victory over Spain, battered through arch-rival New Zealand 14-5 in the semi-final. Canada had a relatively easy semi-final after a few easy try opportunities in their 31-10 win over England. It is hard to believe that beyond these 4 teams (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, & England/Great Britain) there is another team that will be competitive for medals in Rio. This tournament was also a good reminder that initial seeding and resulting placement in the knock-out round will be crucial to making it to the gold medal match with the right condition and attitude to carry the day.

As mentioned when I started these articles on the London 7s and Clermont 7s, this is the end of DeepSouthRugby.net’s coverage of international 7s. As I look around media centers, I see that not only is the sport for the young, but the reporting on the sport seems to also be for the youngish. Recently as we struggled to convince USA Rugby that we were deserving of press accreditation to events, we were told that media services (like the game itself) is becoming more professional. DSR.net has never accepted advertisement. Fran & I began the website to fill a gap for providing information and record the history of a rugby union that has since been dissolved into the True South Union. Our extension of this mission to cover the USA’s national teams’ achievements in international play will hopefully continue with articles on the USA Women and Men’s 15s and their path to World Cup success while continuing our coverage of rugby in the region once described as the Deep South (Louisiana. Mississippi, Alabama, & the Florida Panhandle).

In my previous article on Day 1 of Clermont 7s, “Horror & Hope”, I took some comments by assistant coach Peter Steinberg out of context and with a bit of tongue-in-cheek tried to make the USA’s poor performance on Day 1 seem like a coach’s sly strategy. Over the next few days I will transcribe the very thoughtful and sincere answers that Peter gave to my questions as I think they give a nice vision of where USA women’s rugby finds itself today and where it hopes to be by 2020. image

May 28, 2016 Clermont 7s Day 1: Horror & Hope

It was a warm and partly cloudy day as New Zealand and Russia kicked-off the Clermont7s. Kayla McAlister announced her return with the first try of the tournament. The New Zealand machine was truly impressive with McAlister, Woodman, Manuel, and Goss all back and in good form.

The Eagles seemed almost desperate in their opening 26-7 loss to an English side which was resting leading try scorer Joanne Watmore. If there was a bright spot for the Eagles it was the play of Leyla Alev Kelter. Her work rate, intensity, and individual effort led to her scoring the USA’s only try. The USA’s passing was dreadful. The English side drove the Eagles off loose ball. Careless mistakes handed over possession in penalties. Coach Walker sent on Jessica Javelet and Katherine Johnson with 3 minutes to go. If the intent was to have fresh legs to make an impact, there was a brief break by Javelet which quickly ended when possession was kicked away. The Eagles’ play (excluding Kelter) was mundane at best and very sloppy at its worst. The Eagles’ single try and final 22 point differential was a definite wake-up call for the tremendous gap that needs to be filled if this side is to be competitive in Rio in a little over 2 months.

The USA lost their second pool match 12-10 to Spain. From the knock-on at the kick-off to Spain’s tying try before their winning conversion, the Eagle performance was fraught with errors and failure to create enough space outside for anyone until 17 year-old Lily Durbin put the Eagles briefly ahead late in the second half. Her taking the pass at pace and cruising easily in for a try is promising of good things to come.

USA assistant 7s coach Peter Steinberg in a post-match interview explained the USA’s strategy as attempting to develop a side that can quickly stretch defenses wide. Excuses were made for the short length of time Coach Walker has had to work with the side. He is two months on the job with two months to go before the Olympics. For most rugby players the strategy and skills involved in getting the ball quickly to the outside is a basic you work on from your first practice.

As far as this tournament goes Coach Steinberg was reasonably comfortable that the USA would qualify for the cup knock-out round by finishing as one of the two best third place sides out of the pool matches. Perhaps this is a strategy the Eagles are working on for the Olympics. They play a deceptively simple game in the early rounds, save key players, and slide into the knock-out round as a third place underdog, and then unleash the hidden talents. Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this and giving it away to the world. Fortunately very few people read my stuff and even fewer get past the first two paragraphs.

In the third pool match the Eagles showed the team they can become. Granted Kenya is playing their first tournament at this level, but they have some speed and skills. The Kenyans threatened early, but were stopped by two try saving tackles by Victoria Folayan. The early stalemate cracked. Eagles passes were sharp even though drizzle made things slippery. Kelly Griffin set up Lily Durbin’s second career try. Alev Kelter continued as an unstoppable force, adding a try and two conversions. Folayan added a try as did Javelet & Johnson as the Eagles cruised to a 31-0 victory.

The USA finished Day 1 as the second best third in the pool round and will face England in a cup quarterfinal tomorrow. The very sly tactic is working. The English will find a big difference from the side they beat 26-7 in pool play.

May 27,2016 – Tomorrow Clermont7s, Today VixFly’s Birthday

My journey as a rugby journalist following the USA Women’s 7s team began a little over three years ago during the inaugural series of the women’s 7s’ tournaments in Houston. The Eagles took second in that tournament. Vix Folayan scored two tries in their semi-final 17-5 victory over Australia which set up the Eagles’ 29-12 loss in the cup final to England. Over the ensuing three years Australia rose to be the dominant side in women’s 7s, and eight of the members of that Eagle squad played their last 7s matches as Eagles. A USA Rugby development plan that envisioned players peaking at 27 was a factor in some players being released. Vix Folayan was 27 in Houston three years ago. Today in Clermont-Ferrand, on the eve of the final tournament in the women’s series before the Olympics, Vix turns 31, and is still a key player for the Eagles.

Many of the early Eagles’ players were cross-over athletes coming from track and/or basketball. Tomorrow Lily Durbin will play in her first international tournament as an Eagle. She is 17 and has been playing rugby for four years in high school. Also, on the squad is Carmen Farmer, a 35 year-old player from the Eagles’ 15s program. One wonders what happened to the development plan if this is the squad that is being fine tuned before the Olympics.

During the last three years there was a period of focused effort to recruit more cross-over athletes. Players like Jessica Javelet (30) and Alev Kelter (25) joined the team and have had significant impact. Does the recent effort to bring up to international competitive levels players like Durbin and 19 year-old Richelle Stephens, a rugby player from the same high school as Durbin, indicate a shift away from cross-over athletes or something else?

After the 7s World Cup in 2013 I wrote that the USA Men’s team had little to no chance of medalling in Rio, and the USA Women’s team had a good outside shot at bronze. Those estimations have reversed. The USA Men brought in an outstanding coach, Mike Friday, and seemed to have developed a squad that hovers around the age of 27. The USA Women went into coaching chaos when Richie Walker replaced Jules McCoy who replaced Rick Suggitt and all within a year of the Olympics. Rumors swirled about a player or players who were more persuasive to Alex Magleby, USA Performance Director, than coaches who disagreed about the player or players’ value, and this led to the coaching changes.

Coach Walker’s eclectic mix of ages and sporting backgrounds seems more an approach to developing a squad for medalling in 2020 than a team that will bring home medals this coming August. Tomorrow they get to prove me wrong. Today … Happy Birthday, VixFly!

May 23,2016 – Eagles Win 3rd at London 7s & Lose Olympic Sweet Spot

If you depended on British newspapers for your sports news, the only happening on British soil over the weekend that USA rugby fans had to cheer about was Chris Wyles’s imagetwo tries in Saracens’ 44-17 Aviva Premiership semi-final victory over Leicester. The USA Eagles’ victory over Fiji in the London 7s’ battle for third place went unmentioned.

The win over Fiji, while being a fantastic result over the current dominant side in world rugby, has to be measured against what was lost in the tournament. In the USA’s semi-final clash with eventual tournament champs Scotland long-time Eagle inspirational player Zach Test went down with what seemed to be a serious injury. And, if my information and calculations are correct, the USA passed England, and thus Team Great Britain, to gain fifth place in the two year world ranking system the Olympics are using to place nations in pools for August in Rio. This moves the Eagles out of the sixth place sweet spot and an all but guaranteed pool win over relative 7s lightweight Brazil. As the Olympics 7s will have a twelve team tournament, the 8 teams to go through to the knock-out round will be the top two teams in each pool plus the two best third place finishers. Point differentials will be important. Having a team like Brazil in your pool could be critical to even making it through to the medalling phase. My calculations put the USA in a pool with South Africa, France, and the repechage winner who will be decided in a 16 team tournament in Monaco in June. My money will be on Samoa to win that final Olympic spot.

On a personal note for those who have read earlier posts in this series of articles about DeepSouthRugby’s coverage of the London 7s and the women’s series final tournament in Clermont-Ferrand, I wrote earier that this would be the end of my coverage of international 7s for DeepSouthRugby.net. Yesterday at Twickenham as the tournament moved into the finals of bowl, plate, shield, and cup play a writer for Rugby World invited me to go to the World Rugby booth to interview Brian O’Driscoll and watch the final matches there. Sitting around a table with BOD, sipping a lovely malbec, and discussing the rumors of his playing pro rugby in the USA and Ireland’s chances to qualify for the Olympics has me questioning my line in the sand decision to end this part of my rugby journalist avocation.

London 7s Day 1 – Mardi Gras in a Bubble

A strong defensive effort in a 14-10 loss to South Africa and the occasional magic of Perry Baker was enough for the USA Eagles to find a way to the Cup Quarterfinals at the London 7s.

The Eagle started Day 1 defeating Paris 7’s champs Samoa 12-5. The Samoan side would prove to be not of the same ilk as the team that defeated Fiji in the Final in Paris a week earlier.
They would go 0-3 on the day. In their second match the Eagles would equal South Africa with two tries apiece. South Africa’s tries would come from perennial stars of the game Cecil Afrika and Seabelo Senatla. The Eagle’s tries came from relative newcomer to the series Nate Augsburger and Ben Leatigaga, playing in his first tournament. Perry Baker made an amazing try saving tackle on Senatla to maintain the narrow point margin. The Eagles’ inability to convert either try gave South Africa their margin of victory. In their third match the Eagles drew 12 all with Canada. Perry Baker got both USA tries and Madison Hughes converted one.

For the Eagles the good was a defense that allowed only 5 tries in their 3 pool matches. The bad was an offense that only scored 6 tries. The ugly was lots of passes that forced Eagle speedster Perry Baker to play shortstop and scoop up the bouncing ball before turning on his jets.

An occasional drizzle did not dampen the party atmosphere at Twickenham and fancy dress (costumes) were everywhere. Drink and good spirits of all varieties flowed well past the 5 pm closing of the stadium bars. It was like Mardi Gras in a gigantic bubble. image

May 21,2016 London 7s, Fancy Dress, Families, & Secrecy

It is Day 1 of the London 7s. England Rugby lifted the ban on costumes (fancy dress) at the eleventh hour with an email to ticket holders last night. Their attempt to change the tournament from a giant party that rivals the Hong Kong 7s to a family friendly event is being met with a little skepticism. The main shift in approach seems to be introducing and promoting an international food experience. I don’t think that would have been something that would have enticed my kids to spend a day at the rugby grounds. Supposedly as a result of last year’s fatality, ticket sales have been limited to 35,000 for each day of the two day tournament. Twickenham holds 79,000. The hours of alcohol sales have been cut, also. It is definitely commendable that the RFU is foregoing considerable revenue for the sake of safety.

The English papers seem to be ignoring the tournament. Yesterday the one article I found about international 7s in the Daily Telegraph was about English scrumhalf Joe Simpson leaving 7s to try for an Olympic place, and he is not even picked for the English side playing in the tournament. Perusal of other papers found less or nothing. All the papers had articles on the semi-final match-ups for the Aviva Premiership semi-finals: Exeter vs Wasps and Saracens vs Leicester.

Yesterday in a leafy green suburb an hour south of London the USA Women Falcons played in a tournament with seven other international teams. With maybe a dozen spectators watching the main prize of the tournament was to impress coaches that you deserved an Olympic spot. The poorly advertised tournament was not easy to find. My source of information on location of the tournament was a brief chat in Spanish with someone on the Spanish women’s team who happened to land at Gatwick airport at the same time. I arrived at the Guildford Rugby Club just outside of Farncombe as teams were having lunch. Taking the opportunity to refresh myself with a pint of hand pulled London Pride, I wandered to the balcony that overlooked the pitch and struck up a conversation with someone on the English/Great Britain data analysis team. Her job was analyzing the data that they received from the GPS chips in the players’ jerseys. She was sworn to secrecy on the data, so I couldn’t pry info on Team Great Britain’s fastest player. I wondered if the order for secrecy had also extended to any information about the location of this tournament.

2016 London 7s – Eagles Well-Placed for Bronzing

This year in rugby will be about who medalled. My English wife hates when I use “medal” as a verb, but I checked dictionary.com, and it backs me up. Who will win the gold? Betting on anyone other than Fiji, New Zealand, or South Africa would be lost money. Samoa might have looked strong in Paris, but Paris wasn’t about winning at all costs for many teams. And Samoa still has to qualify in Monaco on June 25 against 15 other teams including Ireland, Tonga, Russia, Canada, Zimbabwe, and Uruguay.

The bronze is where there is a big question mark. One of the above mentioned three could be eliminated in the knockout round, so who is left to take the bronze? That is where the USA has a shot. The rumor I’ve heard is that pool assignments for the Olympics will be based on world rank position at end of HSBC series. Sixth or seventh are the sweet spots. There is only one team most of the teams would think, “Yeah, we can beat them.” That team is Brazil, bless their zika-infested-samba-dancing hearts. Host team Brazil will end up ranked 12th and will be in the pool with teams ranked 1st, 6th, and 7th. You still have to get to the bronze medal match, but it is one step closer. The USA positioned themselves in one of the sweet spots in Paris and Zach Test laid clam to a place on the Olympic team if he hadn’t earned it long ago. Baker, Hughes, Barrett, and Bender are definites. I’d give them all a rest. I imagine Carln Isles is avoiding injury, but a little playing time before the “Big Show” in August might help with Olympic jitters. I should probably check if the roster has been announced.

The trick now in London is to play to stay at 6th or 7th. If Coach Friday were to follow my selection suggestion and leave all the above mentioned players off the London squad, hFullSizeRender-5ere is the world rank position risk if his London selections don’t win a match. The following teams could pass the USA: Samoa (who hasn’t qualified yet), Kenya, and England – on their holy ground, Twickenham. Just saying the word makes you want to stand and sing, “Sing Low”. My wife loves when I do that.

May, 2016 – Last Chance to Stake Claim on an Olympic Dream

Life is made of changes. Everything around us is changing, and we change to accommodate. Goals help us remain constant to whom we want to be and what we want to achieve. For most of us the goal of being an Olympic athlete has passed through our consciousness at some point in our lives. For the athletes competing in the London 7s and France 7s over the next few weekends this goal is very close to reality.

One of my first USA press passes was to the Womens 7s inaugural series tournament in Houston where the USA lost to England in the final. There were maybe three journalist there. The stadium was mostly empty. After the tournament I was on the pitch with an IRB (now World Rugby) person. She said the tournament was committed to building in Houston. But change happens while a few things remain constant. The England side I saw in Atlanta in March looked very similar to the side that won in Houston 3 years ago. From the USA team who were part of the squad in Houston there are possibly four players still competing for an Olympic spot. One former USA player, Nathalie Marchino, will realize her Olympic dream playing for the birthplace of her mother, Colombia.

The weekend before the women have their final tournament of the season May 28-29th in Clermont-Ferrand, the men will end their 2015-16 season in London. Although this seasons 7s series have been more about developing the right side for Olympic success than winning the series, the final stops will bring plenty of drama as coaches try final changes to the teams they will select to go to Rio. The USA coach, Mike Friday, seems to have picked close to what will be his Olympic squad for the Paris 7s starting May 11th except no Carlin Isles. If the USA men do not end up in the cup final, I would expect a lot of changes for the next weekend in London.

My childhood dreams of being an Olympian have long faded. Soon I will be 64. There have been many changes to a life that since my first match against Pensacola in 1972 has been largely spent as a rugby fan. My retirement from a career in education in 2011 allowed me an opportunity to play sports journalist and follow the sport I love through many incredible events like the 2011 World Cup New Zealand, 2013 7s World Cup Moscow, 2014 Women’s World Cup Paris, 2015 World Cup England, and many World Cup qualifying and HSBC 7s competitions around the USA. Unfortunately getting to the matches is getting harder and writing about something you watched on a bad stream depressing. The final at Clermont-Ferrand will be my last 7s where I play like a sports journalist.
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LA 2016 High School All-League Selections

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Tulane Women Can Claim 1/2 of a USA Rugby National Championship

imageIn a bittersweet ending to an inspired season the Tulane University women’s rugby side conceded the USA Div II Rugby championship, kind of. After capturing the spring season championship by defeating Humboldt State University 39-32 in Davis, California on April 23rd, the Green Wave was to return to California two weeks later to play fall season champion Davenport University from Michigan. A second trip to California in two weeks was a bridge too far for Tulane.

Division I fall champion, University of Connecticut, were unable to travel to California for the May 7th championship match against the spring champion because of conflict with graduation. USA Rugby cancelled the women’s division I and II national championships; although, it is rumored that Davenport will have the opportunity to play Humboldt State on May 7th.

This is not the first time the championship has been cancelled. The current system with fall and spring seasons and separate champions has proven on other occasions to be untenable.

DeepSouthRugby.net has asked several questions about the split season championship and how it evolved and if it is under review. We have yet to received confirmation of receiving our questions, but we have been waiting several weeks for an answer.

Below is our interview with Jessica Mallindine, Tulane’s coach:

How did you become the Tulane coach?

Two years ago there was an email that went out to the womens rugby community asking for help coaching by Tulanes coach, Woneta Stallworth, who was a grad student at the time. I started going out to help intermittently the Spring of 2014. At the time they only had about 8 or so girls and were trying to set the ground-work for a functional club. By the time Fall came around, they recruited a very large incoming freshman group and Woneta asked if I would please help her as their assistant coach, primarily to help with backs-related skills and general support as they started to play in friendlies and tournaments. In Decembe of 2014 Woneta graduated and they asked me to take over as their head coach.

I have been working with Tulane for two years. I have never coached before, any sport. I am learning as I go and we have, to a large extent, grown up together in the sport.

When did you feel the team could win the spring championship?

I don’t think I or the team went into the Spring Championship thinking we could win. There were jokes about it at practice early in the season but I think it was generally felt that expecting us to go far in our first year as a competitive club was a little out-landish and unrealistic.Our original goal was to make it to Regionals. Once we achieved that goal every game became about playing our best game so that if we lost we knew that we had played to the best of our ability and could away proud of what we have accomplished. It just so happened that our best game kept winning matches. Even right up to the Final, we would get get together and talk about what they could do to improve themselves or what we wanted to tweak to see if we could get a little better at a specific aspect of the game. Never once did we talk about how we were going to win it and to some extent I think that really gave them room to step onto the field with no pressure. Their only concern was that they individually and, subsequently as a group, gave it everything they had.

What do you think of the idea that the spring season winner and fall season winners sort out their own play-off by the end of … July?

I think, in concept, it is a great idea. The issue arises when you are dealing with short turnarounds to raise money and travel as well as factoring in missed class time. Particularly, with the Spring Champions, they do not have any time to prepare following their Spring Championship win. There are only a couple weeks to book everything and raise the funds. Given how costly the tournament up until that point is, it really pushes the limit on what a club ca reasonably do. Of course the other issue is timing. Both DI and DII teams backed out this year because of graduation, which falls on the same weekend. This Championship schedule as currently laid out will most likely always conflict with finals and graduation.

 

4/13/16 Update: Mobile Area Rugby Foundation and Battleship Rugby

Rendition of the Brookley Field rugby complex

Artist’s rendition of future home of Battleship RFC released.

“It has been a lengthy process and everyone has worked diligently to get to this point.” From Robert Corley, Chairman, Mobile Area Rugby Foundation Coordinator,

To our teammates (new and old), friends, family and supporters, I hope this email finds you well in these early months of 2016. For some, the recent passing of friends and family members may darken the skies. Trust that you are never alone, and your Battleship family will be WITH YOU and your family at all times. Please allow me to offer condolences from my family and your Battleship Rugby family. While this can be a difficult time, there is much to celebrate around the Battleship community and still plenty of work left to be done.

Mid-last year, the administrators and club members of Mobile Area Rugby Foundation and Battleship Rugby Football Club began discussing the future of rugby in the Mobile area. The executive committees of both organizations explored the best pathways for growing rugby, at all levels, across southwest Alabama. A recommendation to consolidate the two entities was presented to both organizations’ constituents and approved at the Battleship Rugby AGM in August. As part of the reorganization, Mobile Area Rugby Foundation acquired new administrative duties, including rebranding all non-collegiate rugby in Mobile as Battleship Rugby. This will include Battleship’s U12 flag rugby league, the U19 7’s, and the senior men’s and women’s teams. This transition has not been without its opportunities and we realize updates have been lacking. Please trust this is merely a function of the admin hard at work growing rugby in all channels and know the flow of information will improve over the coming weeks and months.

I want to thank the current Battleship Men’s players, coaching staff and administrators for the grit they displayed in playing through this past season. The competition cycle started off promising but fell short of expectations. There is no lack of talent or determination in the current XV’s team, and we look to build upon the efforts displayed by our storied veterans and novice-players alike.

The 2015-2016 season also witnessed Mobile’s first women’s XV’s and 7’s sides taking the pitch. At the GRU meeting earlier this year, Battleship Women’s RFC was approved to enter the True South’s competition cycle for 2016-2017. This is a huge milestone, and the women have earned their accolades every step of the way. We will continue to grow the brand many of you have built and serviced through your hard work, sweat, and broken bones.

Roughly two years ago, Battleship Rugby’s home for nearly 20 years was condemned by the City of Mobile due to structural concerns with the lighting and the clubhouse. This came as a shock considering the close relationship we have all fostered with the Business Innovation Center and the City/County of Mobile.

After exploring a number of options, we determined that the best course of action would be to identify new strategic partners and a new home for Battleship Rugby. We have since agreed on Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley as the new location for rugby operations. Many of you have probably heard rumblings or mentions of this new arrangement. The limited information broadcast publicly is intentional, as we would like to hold off on publicizing our move to Brookley until we have established our presence within the Aeroplex. Over the weekend, the first of three shipping containers was delivered to the site, where it will be upcycled for storage and a viewing pavilion. I have attached a rendering of the final product we intend to call home for Battleship Rugby. There are some significant steps in phase 1 that will need to take place for all of us to recognize the fruits of our labor.

We have initially budgeted a sum of $10,000 to complete the construction of this site. That money has been earned, built and protected by all of you, for this purpose. I remember discussions in 2001 where Steering Committees and Old Boys envisioned a home of our own, aside from the BIC. I was invigorated by the long-term planning and had faith in the club administrators to take action that would allow Battleship to flourish and prosper for many years after my playing days. You guys have positioned us to make a bold move to ensure the program’s sustainability, but also to increase the visibility of rugby in Mobile. For that, I thank you. Without the members of Battleship Rugby, past and present, there would be no purpose to all of this and no history to preserve.

Some of you have been called upon to make connections, bridge gaps, or to provide services to help us create the new home for Battleship Rugby. A huge thank you goes out to you for your time and effort to help us preserve our legacy. In the coming weeks and months, many others of you may receive emails, calls or a knock on the door asking you to use your time, money or material to realize our goal of building a new, lasting home for our club. You all have done so much in the past forty years, a thank you is just not enough. The work we have done in the past twelve months to earn your trust and respect is just scratching the surface. Our aim is to reward your efforts with a facility deserving of the time you’ve spent away from families at fish fries, BBQs, and scraping aluminum.

Whether you are a current member, recent BOB, or a revered founder of this fine institution, please consider donating time, money or material to help us to complete the construction of our new home. You can donate to the facilities fund through paypal at Mobile Area Rugby Foundation Inc. If you can contribute time or material (dirt, grass seed, dozers, seeders, mowers, lighting equipment), please contact rcorley@mobilerugby.org so we can complete this facility for the Fall social cycle.

You should anticipate monthly updates on the progress of not only the facility, but our growing Men’s, Women’s, and Academy Programs. Currently, we are preparing to launch a touch rugby program, a highly-competitive Summer 7’s program, and defend our U12 flag rugby gold medal at the Alabama State Games. We will also be announcing this week a vacancy in the Men’s XV’s and 7’s Head Coach position for the 2016-2017 competition cycle. In addition, we will be deploying a Rookie Rugby P.E. curriculum for homeschoolers in early May. If you are interested in getting involved in any of these programs, please feel free to call or email me directly.

In closing, there are a number of great things on the horizon for Battleship Rugby. You all have paved the way for our current opportunities. For that, I thank you. We do have a lot of work to do over the next few weeks and months, and we could use your support to accomplish our vision. Please consider contributing in any manner. We have many needs and will be making additional program changes to ensure the viability of this club and organization. How will you help shape the future of Battleship Rugby? As a player on the 2001 National Championship team, I take great pride in the history and the future of this organization. As a player that began his career in the wake of Battleship’s 1992 National Championship, I have immense respect for those who paved the way. Help us realize the vision we have all talked about for nearly twenty years.

With you, Robert Corley

Source: BOB Old Boys List

4/09/16 Atlanta 7s Day 2: Prospecting for Gold

imageEngland showed Australia could be beat on day 1 in Atlanta, but for the rest of the tournament no one else could find a way. The USA fell to the Aussies 22-7 in their cup quarterfinal match. The Aussies then rolled over Canada 26-14 in their semi-final battle.
In the Final New Zealand clawed their way back from a half time deficit of 19-7 to end five points shy of Australia at 24-19 final score. Australia has now won all three of this season’s HSBC Women’s Sevens tournaments.

The USA’s coach, Richie Walker, is looking to make 5 changes to the squad before Canada. He is also looking forward to more time with the team. There is only one week before USA take the pitch in Vancouver (Langford),Canada. The final tournament of the series will be six weeks later in Clermont-Ferrand, France.

Several teams are still trying player combinations. Two Eagles who were not on the roster in Atlanta, Victoria Folayan and Kelly Griffin, should add speed, defensive skills, and experience to the squad. New Zealand left stars Kayla McAlister and Huriana Manuel at home while three Kiwis made their debut in Atlanta. The New Zealand coach, Sean Horan, seems to be holding his cards very close to his vest; although, he is consistent in his message that, “It is all about three days in August.” There are few, if any, who argue this.

Right now the Olympic medal contenders seem to be Australia, New Zealand, England, and Canada. England came storming back in Atlanta from the previous tournament in February in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where they lost matches to the USA, France, and Fiji. In Atlanta they beat Australia in pool play, lost to New Zealand by five points in the semi-final match, and then dominated Canada (26-14) to take third place in the tournament.

The USA is struggling to find the right combination of players with enough speed to beat the top 4. The recent appointment of Richie Walker as coach has not helped. Rumors abound about what happened with the coaching switch from Ric Suggitt to Jules McCoy to Walker over the last seven months. The situation reminds me of a school I worked where the director called an emergency faculty meeting for the end of the school day. At the very brief meeting the director announced, “These rumors have to stop.” That was it. Of course, the first thing that happened when we walked out of the meeting was everybody asked, “What are the rumors?”, and more rumors erupted.

One consistent theme through all rumors is Walker should have taken over directly from Suggitt, and this is not because McCoy was a bad coach. Walker was Suggitt’s assistant and knew the players and systems. McCoy’s surprise appointment less than a year before the Olympics introduced unnecessary complications. Somebody in charge of those decisions (Magleby?) needs to stand up and say, “We made a mistake. Sorry Dr. McCoy. Hope you can forgive us. Now let’s work together for some gold in Rio.”

4/08/16 – Atlanta 7s Day 1

The USA women started the 2016 Atlanta 7s tournament with a convincing 24-0 win over Spain. Three years ago at the Sevens World Cup the USA luckily squeaked by Spain for 3rd place. On a rainy evening in Moscow, as time ran out, Spain missed a conversion in front of the goal posts to send the match into overtime. Vanesha McGee scored the match winning try to give the USA third place. Much has changed in three years.

As the sun went down and a cold breeze chilled the bones of fans at the Atlanta 7s, the USA Eagles eclipsed 2013 World Cup champs New Zealand 12-5 on a fantastic try by Jessica Javelet. This put the Eagles at the top of Pool C. In the final match of the day Japan, who didn’t participate in the 2013 World Cup, defeated Spain 15-7 and sent the Spanish to the bottom of Pool C.

This year’s 7s series is part rugby and part chess match. Coaches have strategies to put their teams in the best position to win a medal in Rio. The victory over New Zealand on the face of it would seem to be a good indication of the USA’s ability to win gold, but to medal you need to be not just good, but also smart. Sean Horan, New Zealand’s coach, said, “We aim to win in August and that means trying new combinations and tactics over the next three tournaments, so that come Rio we’ve given ourselves every chance of winning.”

One tactic is to find the easiest way through the knock-out round. By beating New Zealand the USA will face the current number 1 team in the tournament series, Australia. New Zealand will face the weakest quarterfinal opponent, France. Did New Zealand intentionally lose the match. Probably not, but star player Portia Woodman did not play. Three previously uncapped players featured in the match against the USA.

Former assistant coach and now head USA coach Richie Walker has a daunting task ahead. Tomorrow, April 9th, his side has to show they are medal contenders by beating at least 2 of the best teams in the world on home soil with home crowd support; otherwise, confidence that they can do this in Rio in August will dwindle. There is definitely talent on the USA team, but today’s performance showed weaknesses in handling and whole match intensity. Although they easily defeated Japan 33-12, toward the later stages of the second half a small Japanese team began to dominate. USA Eagles with Coach WalkerTeams like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England and emerging sides like Fiji, France, and Russia will play the USA much closer, and in Rio the Eagles will pay for mistakes with gold, silver, & bronze.

4/2/16 Atlanta, New Coach, & 125 Days Until Olympics

On April 8th and 9th Atlanta hosts the middle leg of the five leg 2015-16 HSBC Women’s Rugby Sevens Series. The USA is currently in 8th place after the first two legs in Dubai and Brazil. The first two legs were played under the leadership of new coach, Jules McCoy. McCoy was recently released amid a flurry of rumors about conflicts with players. Similar rumors swirled around Ric Suggitt when he was released early from his coaching contract this past September. Richie Walker, an assistant coach under Suggitt, took over as coach a little over two weeks prior to the Atlanta tournament.

This year’s series is overshadowed by rugby’s upcoming inclusion in the Rio Olympics. New Zealand’s coach, Sen Horan, has openly said finishing in the top 3 in this year’s series is fine. This year is all about winning a medal in Rio.

For USA’s Coach Walker a top 3 finish in Atlanta is important. In Dubai (December, 2015) the Eagles finished 11th out of 12 teams losing to Fiji, Ireland, Japan, and Canada. In Brazil (February, 2016) the Eagles did much better finishing 3rd. In their 3rd place effort they beat Russia and England but lost twice to New Zealand and once to Australia. In the three matches they played against New Zealand and Australia the USA scored 1 try. The total points for and against in those 3 matches was 5 for and 97 against. The road to Olympic glory was full of potholes before Walker was handed the reigns of a team that doesn’t seem to be often pulling in the same direction. A top 3 finish on home soil will give a much needed confidence boost.

The Rio Olympic format will be similar to the women’s series with twelve teams competing in three pools. Eight teams will come out of the three pools to compete for medals. The first two teams in each pool plus the 2 best third place teams which will probably be decided by point margins. I recently saw an article on the Olympic seeding but have not been able to find the same information on the Olympic website. The article said that the seeding will be based on this year’s standing in the women’s series. The 1st, 6th, 7th, & 12th seeds in Pool A. The 2nd, 5th, 8th, & 11th seeds in Pool B. The 3rd, 4th, 9th, & 10th seeds in Pool C. Brazil as the host nation has claimed a spot in the tournament and is seeded 12th. If this information is correct, the USA is currently set to be in the same pool with New Zealand, Great Britain, and Ireland. A sixth or seventh place finish in the series would put the USA in Pool A with the relatively weak Brazilian side and a better chance to get into knock-out play for a medal. A strong finish in Atlanta will put the Eagles in a much better position to possibly control their Olympic destiny rather than chasing a form that will give them a long shot chance at even bronze.image

A Brief History of Deep South Rugby

What will follow is the story, as it has been pieced together, of the chronological beginning of the teams that arose, faded, thrived, and survived in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. If you have further information or corrections, please send them to deepsouthrugby@hotmail.com.

The first match played by a Deep South team was Southeastern Louisiana University against a Texas side. SLU was started by a Brit named John Healey(sp?) and the match took place in either the spring or fall of 1966. The Texas side was either a Houston club side or Rice University and the return match played in the same year in Hammond was the first match played by a Deep South team in the Deep South. (See article in archive of 2007-08 articles on Hammond’s 40thAnniversary Reunion.)

In 1967 several clubs sprang up in the region: Tulane, Birmingham, Redstone Arsenal (Huntsville), probably Pensacola, and there was a side at an airbase in north Mississippi.

Peter Maud’s account of the beginning of Tulane RFC: The club was founded in the Spring of 1967 by a bunch of med students. Their first match was against Hammond. I think that they just played one or two games in the spring. I joined the faculty that summer and started playing and helping to coach. Andre (or was it Arnold?)DuPisani, who was with the South African Consulate in N.O., was both a player and our coach. Later I coached until leaving in 1970. The founding members were, I believe, Bill Terry, Howard Goldberg, and Mike Keys – all med students. Other students were Jay Scully, Pete “the boot” Anderson, (both med), Nick Price(architecture), Randy Starett and Fred King (law), Pat Kelly (LSU anatomy prof)and others who joined later such as Stan Smith, Brian Travis, Mike Maffet, Ken Roy, George Stelling, Joe Chiapella, Tim O’Mara, and Pat Scow,` all of whom I believe were med. Bob Urann (who would become a lawyer in New Orleans) was also an enthusiastic member of the team. One, if not the first, undergraduate to play for us was Bob Edmundson, followed by John Howe. (See John Howe’s article “Tulane’s All Time (Early Days) 15 in the Issue 1 archive).It was not until the early 70’s that the team became primarily undergrad. For the years 1968 -1969the first team won 14 (226 pts. for) and lost 4 (91 pts. against) and the second team won three and lost one. The first Mardi Gras tournament was held in the spring of 1968 and was a joint effort between Tulane and S.E. at Hammond (after that both clubs held their own tournaments). The preliminary games were played in Hammond on the Saturday and the semi finals and final at Tulane – on the field that used to be in front of married student housing. The cup for the winning team was given by the South African Consulate and presented by theconsul following the final. The 1968 Mardi Gras winner was Wisconsin with Tulane 2nd, in 1969 Tulane won and in 1970 Wisconsin took first with U. of Waterloo second. I moved away to work on my advanced degree and returned in 1972. Nobuo Hayashi was coaching the club at this time. As there were several ex-Tulane players and others from LSU and S.E. in the city, I, with help from Bob Urann,Stan Smith, and others formed the New Orleans club.

Birmingham’s first match was against Huntsville. The following is the story of Birmingham’s first match as told by Chris Krebs:

The first match played by the Birmingham club was played on Sunday, December 17, 1967 at Mountain Brook Elementary School field in Birmingham, Alabama. The teams involved were Birmingham and Redstone Arsenal(Huntsville, Alabama). The day was bitterly cold, but the action was plenty hot. The Birmingham side had
only three players who had played the game before: Tom Krebs (Virginia), Mike Rediker (Princeton) and William Major (Princeton).The Redstone club was captained by Carter Wellford who had been a teammate of Tom’s when they had played for the University of Virginia side. After graduation, Carter had found employment with a
defense firm in Huntsville where he also found a plethora of British and Scottish scientists (and also rugby players) with which to build the Redstone side. While Birmingham did not have the experienced players that characterized the Redstone club, it had more than its share of capable athletes. With the leadership of the three players mentioned earlier, the Birmingham team gained a hard fought 23-14 victory, probably largely because the Birmingham players knew little about pop-kicking, passing the ball (laterally), or kicking for position. The net of it all was that, to the surprise of the Redstone team, the Birmingham players simply ran the ball in heavy traffic rather than exercising one of the more strategic options. This worked out very well for the Birmingham team because it had  a number of talented, if inexperienced, players. Additionally, Birmingham had an edge in speed as the Krebs brothers had just recently given up running in AAU track meets where they competed largely in the sprints and what was then the 440yard dash. In fact, we had an in-the-family mile relay team which frequently competed against the college teams in regional meets. After the holidays Tommie and Wam returned to law school, and the Birmingham team (sans our experienced players) again played Redstone in early February of the next year. In that match, the Redstone team handed us a 28-0 beating which was far more literal than figurative. Redstone had learned that we did not know when to pass or kick the ball, and they had adjusted their match strategy accordingly. I think that I hurt for weeks after that match.

In 1968 the short lived New Orleans Blues formed. Robert Markel became probably the first high school rugby player in the Deep South when he played for the Blues. The Blues spring season consisted of 3 matches all against Hammond. Markel recalls that he had graduated from high school before he played with the Blues. Markel credits Tim McConnell as being the first high school rugby player in the Deep South. Tim played for New Orleans RFC in 1975

In 1969Markel went to Springhill and started the Springhill side. Their season consisted of home and away matches with Hammond, Tulane, Pensacola, and the New Orleans Blues. The team was coached by an old
Welsh scrumhalf named Mr. Marshall who would joyfully subjectively ref any Springhill fixture. Dennis Fitzgerald (whose son 40 years later played flyhalf for NORFC) played center with Markel. In 1970 Springhill played the University of Florida in UF’s first rugby match. In August of 2009 Spring Hill officially joined the Deep South Rugby Union as a Men’s Collegiate Div. III side

The Southeast Gulf States Rugby Association(which later became the Deep South Rugby Union) had a brief beginning in 1969.Pete Maud(an expat-Brit who had played rep side for Canada and was teaching PE at
Tulane) formed an association of the teams in the area. Pete would move away in 1970 for graduate studies and the association fizzled. Pete returned to Tulane’s PE department in 1972. The Southeast Gulf States Rugby Association reformed in 1975 (again under Pete’s leadership) and connected itself to the Eastern Rugby Union because of Pete’s friendship with Ed Lee (then President of the ERU).

In 1970 LSU formed and played its first match against Tulane defeating the Green Wave 15-5. The major forces in the formation and development of a strong LSU side were Hal Rose and Rob Haswell. See LSU website
for a good and detailed history of the club. http://www.lsurugby.com/history.php

In 1972 or 1973 Loyola formed. Loyola has had an on again-off again existence and its website lists 1996 as the date the club was founded.

New Orleans RFC began in 1973 when Tulane Univ. passed and began to enforce the ruling that you had to attend the university to play on the rugby team.  NORFC  played its first game (and won) against LSU B side in Baton Rouge in the fall. Pete Maud, Bob Urann, and Stan Smith were a large part of the energy behind the forming of NORFC. The team was also composed of ex-LSU players (Mark Lawson, Barry Haney, Lawrence Williams, Whit Oliver) and some ex-Hammond players (Rick Odom, who played for SLU in the very first Deep South match) and others new to the area (Richard Evans – Clemson). The first practice field was on the soccer pitches along Marconi Dr. For more info on New Orleans Rugby Football Club history visit the NORFC website at http://neworleansrugbyclub.com/home/history .

The following paragraph on Crescent City Rugby Club was submitted by Billy Goodell who played for New Orleans in the fall of 1973, after leaving Spring Hill, and then switched to Crescent City.

Crescent City was formed in 1973 out of a mixture of Loyola (Danny Brasseaux, Kevin Kelleher, Joe Savoca, Bill Merritt) Southeastern Louisiana /Hammond(Gene Gerdes, Randy Johnson, Jackie Starks, Don Evans), and Springhill (Fred Schwartz) players and  merged with New Orleans in the mid 80’s. Crescent City and New Orleans were bitter cross town rivals. The two teams hated each other and matches often turned into brawls. New Orleans won the first two matches as they had more experience and a possession pack that dominated the game. Their backs basically sucked – no speed, no moves, no power and played “pussy ball” as it was openly called by Crescent City. The NORFC backs would kick 80-90% of the time. Their backs did not enjoy contact.  Their pack rarely worked it out – and when they did,  the backs kicked. Even though Crescent City strategy was to hit the NORFC backs as hard as they could every chance they got, it did not work. The New Orleans pack on the other hand was VERY good, big strong, and well versed in pack technique. Some of them openly engaged in questionable play, especially when there was a pile and no one could see what was going on. One player in particular, Mike Porter (prop, German professor at Tulane, and former NY Athletic Club player), was known for his dirty cheap tactics. New Orleans just crashed rucked and mauled their way up and down the field in a slow, methodical, plodding, boring, (but effective) manner. By 1974 Crescent City gained a little more experience in the pack and whipped New Orleans for the first time in Pan American Stadium in City Park.  There was so much bad blood and fights that the two teams stopped playing each other after the next game which Crescent City also won. Crescent City lost numbers and basically became inactive in 75 but came back and reformed in 76 winning the Baton Rouge sevens tournament. Crescent City went on a run winning Hammond Mardi Gras and Battleship tournaments a couple of times, and making finals of a tournament in Memphis before merging with their hated rival sometime around 1986.

In 1974 Robert Markel moved to Jackson and saw a sign put up by Frank Godwin enquiring about anyone interested in starting a rugby side. The Jackson RFC was born and in 1975 they played their first match against Lamar College from Beaumont, Texas, at the Hammond Mardi Gras Rugby Tournament.

The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) formed its first rugby side under the mentorship of Memphis Old #7 in 1974. John Buntin, Tim Joffrian, and Mark Canapa were Ole Miss students who provided leadership and motivation. For more info and pictures on OleMiss Rugby history go to:  www.olemissrugby.org/rebelrugbyghistory70s/umrugby1975.html

The University of Alabama RFC formed in Fall of  1974. According to Sean Duffy when he started playing in 1981 the old boys claimed they had never had a winning season, but had never lost a party. 1981 was the first winning season (4-3). The team had several successes in the 1980’s – SEC runner-up in 1984, 1986, &1987 and in 1988 they won the Mardi Gras and Joe Dong Tournaments, had an undefeated (8-0) spring season and were 2nd place in the Deep South Collegiate Tournament. In 2006 they were the Deep South Collegiate side champions.

In 1975 Mobile Rugby Club was formed and in 1978 changed its name to Battleship Rugby Club. In 1992 Battleship won the Div-II National Championship and in 2001 won the Div. III National Championship. For a list of championships won by Battleship RFC go to http://www.battleshiprugby.com/history.htm .

In 1975 the USA Rugby Union formed. The same year Pete Maud (one of the founders of the New Orleans RFC and an early leader in the development of Tulane) formed what was called the Southeast Gulf States Regional Authority. This association would later become the Deep South Rugby Union.

In the spring of 1977 Mississippi State University Rugby Club formed and played its first full season in the fall of that year.

Baton Rouge Rugby Club also played its first full season in the fall of ’77 and quickly became the rugby power in the region. Several New Orleans players would commute to Baton Rouge to practice and play with BR. In
1985 Baton Rouge won the USA Rugby South Regional Championship defeating Atlanta Old White RFC. In 1994 the Baton Rouge RFC won the ERU Div. 2 championship and went on to take 3rd in the national championships.  That team was made up of equal players from B.R., Lafayette, and Hammond.  They referred to themselves as the “Tri-cities Finest”. (1994 information contributed by Dirk Thomas, who played on the championship team.)

In 1978 The New Orleans Women’s ‘Halfmoons’ Rugby Club formed and hosted its first Mardi Gras “Throw Me Something Mister” Women’s Rugby Tournament in 1980.

In January, 1979, Rankin Tippins formed the Choctawhatchee Bay RFC, named after a local body of water, in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida.  The club was later renamed the Okaloosa RFC. (Rankin began playing rugby at Tulane University in 1972 and played there through his undergraduate graduation in 1974.) Half the Choctawhatchee Bay RFC members were military from the local Army Ranger training camp and the two Air Force bases, and the other half of the club were non-military residents. Some members had previous rugby experience, but about half
had never played rugby before. The Club established the Boggy Bayou Rugby Tournament and the Summer Sevens Rugby Tournament, the latter of these tournaments was still being held at the writing of this history
in 2008.  Okaloosa RFC represented the Deep South Union in Division II in 1989, but lost in the first round of playoffs. The Club made one international tour to the Bahamas (year?) and its senior players
participated in the 2004 Golden Oldies Rugby Festival in San Diego. Several players have been recognized and played on military select sides in addition to players playing with the Deep South Select sides. The military members of the club have represented the club in military rugby club competitions. The club will hold its 30th anniversary alumni match in September of 2009.  (Information contributed by Rankin Tippins.)

1984 the Montgomery Yellowhammers RFC formed.

1996 the Smiley Faced Warriors, a New Orleans high school side made up of kids from various schools and coached by Robert Markel, played its first match against Catholic High inBaton Rouge. Both teams would fold
and Robert would go on to coach the national power Jesuit High School Blue Jays rugby side.

In 1997 Episcopal School of Acadiana under Brian McIntyre and a side at the high school on Pecan Island formed and played a 3 game series against each other.

Also, in 1997, the University of West Florida Rugby Club was founded in 1997 by Jay Chandler, Brendan Powers, and others including Coach Frank Martin.  UWFRFC won its first game vs. the (visiting, spring break club) University of Michigan and went 7-2 that season (losing twice to Tulane).  For its first game, UWF team was heavily subsidized by Pensacola and Okaloosa. Thanks to Jay “Chiller” Chandler (Okaloosa RFC 1990-1997, UWFRFC 1997/98, St Pete Pelicans 2000-2007, and founder of Pinellas Athletic Club U-19 Rugby in 2008) for UWF info and other contributions.

Auburn’s Women Rugby team was established in 1999. Katie Thompson, who grew up watching rugby in England, came up with the idea of a rugby team for the Auburn ladies. The team’s first practice was February 8, 1999. About 8 girls attended the first practice.

The spring of 2001 high school rugby in New Orleans would blossom. The Jesuit Blue Jays (coached by Robert Markel),  Brother Martin Crusaders (coached by Gary Giepert), and Archbishop Shaw (coached by Tim Falcon)
would start. In 2004 Brother Martin won the Southern Regionals in Columbus, Georgia, and went 1-2 at the High School Nationals in Ft. Worth, Texas. In 2007 Jesuit would compete in the high school national championships in Utah, and in 2008 both Jesuit and Rummel would capture USA South Regional titles in different divisions and go on to compete for national titles in the high school championships held in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately both sides would finish 8th in their respective divisions. (See article on 2008 National High School Tournament in archive of Issue 1 for more information.)

In 2005 Rummel (coached by Trip McCormick) and DeLaSalle (coached by Sam Farnet) would form. DeLaSalle would fold by 2006 as a result of 2 non-rugby related occurrences  – Katrina and the unfortunate death of a player during practice due to a heart condition.  (Thanks to Gary Giepert and Robert Markel for information on youth and high school rugby.)

The Baton Rouge Women’s Rugby Club (The Barbies) formed in December, 2005. In March of 2009 they officially joined the Deep South Union as a Women’s Senior Div. II side.

In May of 2006 fifth and sixth graders at the International School of Louisiana, displaced by Katrina into trailers close to the airport runways in Kenner, played the first elementary school full contact match. The co-ed team broke into the red and blue sides and played a 7s match against themselves. The school continued the sport as a touch after-school activity when the school moved back into New Orleans in the fall of 2006.

In 2008 Niceville High School played its first match under the guidance of Ed Frisbee. (See article by Jared Macarin in archive of Issue 1 for more information on Niceville’s first match.)

Also, Marion Military started a brand new program in 2008.   They played their first games in the spring and a few games in the fall.  Spring 2009 was their first competitive season.

Also, ULL Women and Centenary were attempting to start women’s teams in 2008, but were both stuck at 8-12 players and had not yet fully formed.  Jennie Alwell placed contact info for these teams on the official Deep South Rugby Union website (www.deepsouthrugbyunion.com) to try to drum up support.

In the fall of 2009 the University of Alabama and Auburn Women’s Rugby Club officially joined the Deep South Union. They joined as a Div. II Women’s Collegiate sides and were the only 2 collegiate women’s rugby sides in Alabama. On October 23, 2009,  the 2 sides were scheduled to play their first match against each other in Tuscaloosa. This would be the first match between 2 Alabama collegiate women’s rugby teams  played anywhere. It had to be canceled. They did play against one another at the Battleship tournament in November , 2009, with Auburn winning 29 to 10.  They both played their first home games the weekend of Feb. 20th, 2010.  Auburn beat MTSU 34 to 0, and Alabama lost to Lee. They will meet for their first matrix game against one another March 6, 2010, in Auburn. (Thanks to Michelle Yarbrough  for this info.)

In  the fall of 2009 the Tallahassee Men’s Rugby Club began to play matches in the Deep South Union.

In the fall of 2010, University of South Alabama joined the Deep South Union with both men and women’s sides.

2010-2011 Season: NORFC won the national Div. 2 Championship.

2011-2012 Season: 3 high school teams played their first games and competed in the Louisiana/ Deep South Union youth championship: South Mississippi (U-19 youth club based on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, started initially through the energies of Lori Sutherland, mother of a child who had played in Utah), Lake Area (a New Orleans public charter high school, started through student intiatives and coached by Chance Doyle and Adam Ducoing), and Audubon (a New Orleans based U-19 youth club initiated and coached by Sam Farnet).

2012 New Orleans RFC won the National Div. 3 championship.

2012-2013 Season – Rummell high school rugby side dissolved. Remaining players joined the Audubon club side. St. Paul’ High School in Covington plays matches.

2014-15 Season – The following high school teams formed and played matches in spring season 2015 : Barbarians, West Jefferson, Houma, and Warren Easton. Bayou Hurricanes played their first season. Their first home game was in Raceland on Feb. 7th. They defeated Brother Martin Crusaders 24-22.

We have tried to make contact with a few men’s and women’s teams (Auburn, La Tech, Marion Military, USM, ULL, Centenary) for info, but have had no reply. If you know the story of
these teams or info on the history of any Deep South rugby side, please send it to deepsouthrugby@hotmail.com.

 

Nov. 1982-Jan 1983 Gulf Coast East Division Select Side Play

In August of 1982 Harry Laws, as manager of the team, began searching for matches for a select side representing the eastern division of the Gulf Coast Rugby Union. The photograph with this article is of letters from Kevin Kitto and Greg Cross setting a match with a Florida u-23 side for Nov. 21st, 1982, in Orlando.

On a piece of paper ripped out of a spiral bound notebook, Laws recorded the following result, “We won. Many to one try + conversion – was their first match.”

Below is the Gulf Coast Eastern Division Select Side

1. Bolton 2. Logan 3. Brink 4. McCormick 5. Jaeger 6. Graham 7.Sikon 8. Joffrion

9. Casey 10. Laws 11. Proctor 12. Stark 13. Owens 14. Montgomery 15. Owens

Reserve: McKay

As mentioned in an earlier post, these efforts to organize select side play were being made as email and cell phone technology are yet to emerge. The FCC officially approves commercial cell phone use in 1982 and by the end of the 1980’s most of the United States is covered by cell phone service. Commercial email providers appeared in the 1990’s with AOL, Prodigy, and Compuserve starting in 1995.

On the piece of ripped out spiral notebook paper is information about 4 matches. The first is the above mentioned match vs Florida U-23 on Nov. 21, 1982.

The second is Dec. 12, 1982 vs Gerogia U-23 . Laws adds a note, “I wasn’t there. This is the team chosen.”

1. Bolton 2. Jones 3. Brink 4. Jaeger 5. Leyeay (sp?) 6. Graham 7.Roberts 8. Joffrion

9. Seville 10. Andrews 11. Proctor 12. Owens 13. McKay 14. Montgomery 15. McKern (sp?)

Lost 9 to 7

The following dates are recorded prior to the third match:

Jan. 16 Spring Trials

Jan. 23 Training

Jan. 29, 1983 Battle of New Orleans 1st game lost to Florida B 7-3

1. Bolton 2. Logan 3. Brendan 4. McCormick 5. Jaeger 6. Norton 7.Graham 8.Spann

9. Faust 10 Laws 11.Hifty (sp?) 12. Andrews 13. Gowing (sp?) 14. Montgomery 15. McKern

Reserve list: Parton, Bennan, Spark

There is a note, “Roberts Replaced Carryin fr INJ” at bottom of team list.

The following information is what is recorded about the 4th match on the paper and appears to be information about the Gulf Coast East Division’s second match during the Battle of New Orleans select side tournament.  “2nd game Beat Ozark”

The only players listed were: 9. Andrews 10.Laws

 

August 19, 1982 Paul Topper’s Select Side List

Article 3: Pulling the Select Side Players Together

The following handwritten letter from Paul Topper to Harry Laws was written on August 19th, 1982. Harry Laws was attempting to pull together a team for select side play against Florida or Georgia in the fall of 1982.

” Dear Harry,
The following players have been involved in a select-side trial. Those with an asterisk have actually played a select-side game.
Unfortunately several of the better players have left the area (Springhill College) and these have been omitted.”
Regards,
Paul Topper”

List (# Editor note: Some of the handwriting makes it hard to correctly determine the spelling of names.)

Okaloosa
Yvava prop
*Stay F/B (#name is crossed out)
Stark c
J. Van Winkle prop
Tippins w/f
*Laws ?
Noe 8

Jackson
*Smith prop
*Genthon F/B
Thomas w/f

Gulfport
Joffrion 8
*Casey S/H
Cameron prop
Waldrop w 3/4

Mobile
*Andrews F/B
*Norton prop/2nd row
** Montgomery W 3/4
Logan utility forward
Trice W 3/4
Tucker prop
P.J. 2nd row – Not know proper name
Roberts 8
White c
*Bolton prop/2nd row
*Lounen (sp?) w/f
Faust s/off
Belcher 2nd row
Holland S/H

Springhill
*Roberts 2nd row
*Wright Hooker
Brendan Gowing (sp?) Back
Wally Grundlach (sp?) 8

Pensacola
*Patroni s/off
** White w/f
*Cleveland c
*Owens w 3/4
Brink prop
*Gendron S/H
*Sporen (sp?) w/f – captain to date

= played in a select side match
** = Eastern Rugby Union trialist

Harry Laws – Rugby Resume a/o June, 2015

Harry Laws and Rugby Documents 1982-85
June 28, 2015 by admin (Edit)
In June of 2015 I received an envelope of rugby related documents from the years 1982-85 from Harry Laws. During this time period Harry served several positions of responsibility with the Gulf Coast Rugby Football Union and with several clubs and organizations within the Union.
Below is Harry Laws rugby resume.
*************************************************************
Rugby Resume: Harry F. Laws II, MD a/o June, 2015
Age: 67 Family: 7 grown [and living away] children
Education: BS in Chemistry, US Air Force Academy; MD, U Texas Medical School, San Antonio
Professional: Medical IT consultant and Locums Pediatricia, Col (ret), US Air Force
Rugby Activity (current and active involvement/ responsibilities are in bold) Player (flanker, scrumhalf, flyhalf)
US Air Force Academy 68-69
Hawaii Harlequins 69-71
San Antonio RFC 71-76 (elected to Hall of Fame, 2001)
Rapid City RFC 76-78
Frankfurt Americans (Germany) 78-81
All Europe Select side (SH) 80 and 81
Ft. Walton Beach RFC 81-84
AF Select Side (FH) 81
Deep South Select side (FH) 83
Clark AB RFC (Philippines) 85-87
Yokota RFC (Japan) 87-89
Administrator
Started the San Antonio RFC (70), AFA Alumni RFC (72), Rapid City RFC (76), White River RFC (1999), Orchard Park HS RFC (2002), East Aurora HS women (2003), Northside women (2007), Hamilton County U-19 (2008); Carmel 7th grade women, assisted in starting Westfield HS RFC and East Aurora HS women
AFA Rugby Alumni Newsletter/E-Letter Editor 1972-1989, 2000- present
AFA Alumni Association Board Chairman 2000 – 2012; currently secretary
Founder and First Chairman, Combined Services (CS) Committee, USA Rugby, 1980-1985
CS Newsletter Editor 1980-1994
CS Treasurer 1980-2002
Air Force Director, CS Committee, 1985-1994
AF Treasurer, 1985-1992
Southern Counties Director, Texas RFU, 1972
European US Forces Union President 1981
Team Captain (AFA Alumni, San Antonio, Rapid City, Frankfurt, Ft Walton Beach)
Match Secretary (AFA Alumni, San Antonio, Rapid City, Frankfurt, Ft Walton Beach)
Club president (AFA Alumni, Rapid City, Frankfurt)
Carmel Dad’s Club Rugby Commissioner. 1997 – 2004, 2006- 2011Chairman, Indiana High School Rugby Committee, 2000 – 2004
Secretary, Indiana Rugby Football Union, 2003
Commissioner, Orchard Park Youth Rugby 2004-2006
Board member, Indiana Youth Rugby Foundation and Rugby Indiana 2008-present
Secretary, Hamilton County Rugby Association, 2008-2011
Member, USARugby Rugby Committee, 2010- present
Referee
Colorado Society 84-85
Philippines 85-87
Japan (Kanto Plains Society) 87-90
Las Vegas (S Cal and Arizona Societies) 90-92
Washington DC (Potomac Society) 92-94
Indiana referee Society member and Chairman, 94 – 2004

Western New York Rugby Referee Society 2004-2006
Indiana Referee Society member 2006- present
Chairman of the Midwest Referees Society, 94-99
USA Rugby Referee Training sub committee, responsible for certification training in the USA
Chairman 1998 -2002
Member 2002 – present
USARRA appointee to the USA Rugby Youth Committee and Youth Laws Committee 2006-2008
Midwest Referee Performance Reviewer 2005 – present
International Rugby Board Trainer, License #84, valid until 2016
International Rugby Board Medical Educator, valid until 2016
Coach Assistant Coach, AF Academy 84-85
Head Coach, Carmel High School men’s, women’s, Carmel U-15 and U-11, 1997 – 2004
U-15 (2012 and 2014) and U-13 (2013), 2014 and 2015 U-15 Girls
Coach, Orchard Park High School Rugby Club, 2004- 2006
Coaching certifications
Certified Level 200 Coach, USA Rugby 2014
Certified Level 1 Rugby Coach, USA Rugby, July 1998, Level II July 2001, 200 Level February 2014
Certified National Federation Interscholastic Coaches Education Program, November, 1998
*************************************************************

Ireland to play All Blacks in Chicago next year

Ireland to play All Blacks in Chicago next year

The Irish Times has reported that Ireland will play the All Blacks in the US for the first time. Ireland last took on New Zealand in November 2013.

By Gerry Thornley
The Irish rugby team is to break new ground by playing New Zealand in Chicago next November, with a return fixture against the back-to-back World Cup champions to be held in the Aviva Stadium later in that same autumnal window.
The Irish Times has learned that Ireland will meet the All Blacks in Soldier Field, Chicago, on Saturday, November 5th, before hosting a Tier 2 country a week later at the Aviva Stadium. They will then play New Zealand again on November 19th as a prelude to rounding off a busy November window and year with a game against the World Cup finalists Australia on the 26th.
Soldier Field, which is home to the Chicago Bears American football teams, hosted its first international rugby union test match when the All Blacks beat the United States 74-6 in November 2014. The match was a 61,500 sell-out, and although only 23,112 attended Australia’s 47-10 win over the USA Eagles in a World Cup warm-up match last September, it will be a surprise if the combined popularity of both Ireland and the All Blacks did not ensure a sell-out for their meeting next November.
Sam Burgess has left Bath with immediate effect, returning to Australia. Photograph: David Davies/PA‘A total mess’: Clive Woodward hits out at ‘arrogant’ English RFU
New Zealand celebrating in Twickenham after winning the World Cup. For all of Dan Carter’s magnificence, Ma’a Nonu was the key figure in delivering tries.Photograph: AFP Photo /Franck Fife Gordon D’Arcy: World Cup was won with offloads and line breaks
Gerry Thornley’s country-by-country report card
The World Cup highlighted the willingness of Irish supporters to travel long and far to support their country and the IRFU will thus be tapping into the Irish diaspora for a first ever meeting with the All Blacks in America.
These high profile tests are also in keeping with Joe Schmidt’s desire to face the world’s leading teams more regularly, and in addition to the Six Nations, adds to a three-test tour of South Africa next June in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. Six clashes with teams from the Rugby Championship in one calendar year is unprecedented and emulates the six games Argentina, Ireland’s World Cup quarter-final conquerors, will have against the same opponents in 2016.
Ireland have never beaten New Zealand in 28 attempts, dating back to 1905, and never came closer than in the countries’ most recent test at the Aviva Stadium in November 2013, when the All Blacks won 24-22 thanks to a try in over time by Ryan Crotty and a twice taken conversion by Aaron Cruden. They are now set to have two cracks off the World champions next year.
Ireland’s November 2016 schedule
Saturday 5th: Ireland v New Zealand, Soldier Field, Chicago.
Saturday 12th: Ireland v Tier 2 team, Aviva Stadium.
Saturday 19th: Ireland v New Zealand, Aviva Stadium.
Saturday 26th: Ireland v Australia, Aviva Stadium.

USA Fan’s 2015 World Cup Review

Thirty thousand feet over the Atlantic Ocean and six hours from the USA the 2015 Rugby World Cup receded to the East as Norwegian Air out of Gatwick chased the setting sun. When I started writing the stories about this world cup, I struggled to find a theme to unite all the separate stories in a way that the whole would become something greater than the parts. That goal eluded me. After forty four days wandering England and Wales, watching eighteen matches live, and being immersed in the greatest rugby tournament in the world, I am left with many scattered memories. In the end it was just sport, but a level of sport that defines and shapes the lives of many of the greatest rugby players and fans around the world.

The Daily Telegraph had its sports journalists answer seven questions about the tournament. Here are my answers to the questions from a USA fan’s point of view.

What was your favorite match?
Sadly my favorite was Japan vs South Africa. I say sadly because this was on the second day of the tournament. For the remaining 42 days of the tournament there was the persistent belief that I had already seen what would be the match of the tournament.
An inebriated Springbok fan, sloshing beer around the area every time South Africa did something good, kept pestering about why I wasn’t cheering the Springboks’ successes. I asked him, “What do you think will make a better story, Japan winning or South Africa?”
He insisted, “It will NEVER happen.”
I loved his sober silence after Japan’s final match winning try.
If Japan, who the USA had beaten a little over two months earlier, could do this to South Africa there was a real hope that the Eagles might make the quarterfinals. This hope vanished the following day on a sobering warm Brighton afternoon when a lack luster Samoan side handed the USA their first defeat of the tournament (25-16).

Who was the player of the tournament?
Blaine Scully repeatedly launched himself into the air to cover high kicks and was tenacious on defense. He played in three matches including the record setting 64-0 loss to South Africa and his tackle success rate in that match was 100%. His collision with Bryan Habana on a high kick is a play for the World Cup highlight reel.

What was your personal highlight?
Todd Clever took my tournament to another level when he agreed to give me the story of how he came to be cut from the USA team. After the USA’s loss to Japan I contacted him, and he agreed to meet in Newcastle after the quarterfinals. In the bar at the Royal Station Hotel with a hen party chattering away behind us, Todd, with eyes watering and voice at times quivering, revealed how his world cup dream evaporated over 5 days in July.

His strength of character in not saying anything about the circumstances of his release from the USA squad until the USA had exited the tournament was exemplary of the depth he valued his teammates’ performance in this tournament. The hurt he struggled to hold back while reliving how the destruction of the dream he had given up so much will forever define how I judge courage in the face of a hopeless situation.

.

What was your lowlight?
The lowlight spiral began with the devastation of the USA in the second half of their 64-0 record setting loss to South Africa. No matter how much Coach Tolkin wanted people to believe the side he put forward was one he had confidence in, the fact that many of his selection had had no previous World Cup playing time made it obvious that his intent was to rest what he considered his best team so hopefully the Eagles would have a better chance against Japan in 4 days. The spiral would hit bottom in Gloucester 4 days later when USA fans would bring shame as they booed and screamed at the Japanese kicker during the Eagles 28-18 loss to the Brave Blossoms of Japan..

Was this the best ever World Cup? Why?
In 1987 and 1991 I was oblivious. In 1995 I was living in Venezuela and on vacation on the island of Margarita where I was able to watch the Final on television in the bar of a luxury hotel. In1999 I was living in London and saw six matches live including two of the greatest semi-finals of all time: Australia’s overtime win over South Africa on a Stephen Larkham drop goal and France’s incredible second half come from behind upset of New Zealand. I was buried in work in 2003. In 2007 I rented a cottage in France for three weeks and saw 6 matches live (including France’s quarterfinal win over New Zealand in Cardiff) and most of the other matches on tv at the local French bistro/pub. There were times in France when the ball would sit in the back of rucks after multiple phases of play that went nowhere when I thought I would have to become a rugby league fan or just become a complete 7s convert.

I have only been to two complete (in the host country from Opening Ceremony through the Final) Rugby World Cups, 2011 & 2015. To be fair I can only really compare these last two. For natural scenery and complete embracing of the tournament by the population New Zealand was not surpassed. The game is evolving and the level of play improving. The rugby was better in England. England, with some help from Wales, handled the crowds very well. The weather was fantastic. Of the 18 matches I saw live there was only slight rain at three. When the northern hemisphere teams all exited the tournament and the last two weeks became replay of the annual southern hemisphere Rugby Championship the 2015 World Cup lost a lot of appeal for a lot of people. There are so many factors that go into a World Cup experience. I will probably keep going back and forth on the answer to this question for awhile.

How could the tournament have been improved?
In an article http://www.deepsouthrugby.net/rugby-world-cup/10-6-15-dramatic-finish-to-forgotten-match/ I suggested a play-off system for the 12 teams that don’t make the quarterfinals. The whole tournament seems to go into slow motion and the Final ends up feeling like it is happening in isolation from the rest of the tournament as you go from 20 matches in 3 weeks to 4 matches in a week to 2 matches in a week to one and a half (the Bronze Final doesn’t really count as a full match) in a week.

Sum up the Rugby World Cup in 5 words. ( I only needed 4)
Ultimately Rugby Championship Replay

I am yet to identify how or if I was shaped or defined during my 2015 Rugby World Cup experience. Soon after arriving in England I bought F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and the Damned. Some days I would be so awed by his writing prowess that I would try to stretch my craft as a writer to emulate the beauty of his prose and find a deep symbolism in the experience. Some days it was a balance between personal life and a desire to post something that resulted in a word processing dash through 500 words trying to capture some of the sensations surrounding one of 48 rugby matches in the greatest of all rugby tournaments. In the end it was just sport played out on a global stage in front of millions of spectators to claim the title of the greatest team in the world.

10-31-15 The Greatest Team’s Final Haka

It was the day of the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final and rugby’s biggest rivalry would be played out on its biggest stage. The All Blacks seemed to have the early lead in crowd support and costuming effort. It was Halloween in London and some early Trick-or-Treaters could have been mistaken for All Blacks’ fans. I made that mistake early in the morning coming out of a Tube station. They were a group of Halloween ravers going home after a good night and looked perplexed when I tried to get a “Go All Blacks!” from their bleary faces.

Outside Twickenham two hours before kick-off touts cruised the edges of the crowd looking for spare tickets to buy while other touts slyly offered tickets for 500 pounds. Groups of World Cup volunteers got last minute instructions. A brass band launched into “We Are Champions” and volunteers shook pompoms almost in time to the music. Emotion seeped from the sidewalk and floated in on the sunshine.

In the Fanzone the big screen showed a countdown of the ten best tries of the tournament. Number one was the Japanese game winning try against South Africa. The crowd cheered once more for the Brave Blossoms. Andy Goode, ex-English player, welcomed Aussies and Kiwis to the home of English rugby. There was the slight insinuation that this was the greatest World Cup in history because the English played the greatest of hosts by bowing out so these great rivals could finally meet in a World Cup Final. Like an English person who nibbles away at a shared desert politely leaving the last bite for someone else, this Final was graciously left by the English for their colonial offspring.

An hour before the match, security scoured the seats. Fans lined the VIP entrance to try to glimpse royals and VIPs and to cheer on their team’s arrival. Beverages and good cheer were everywhere.

Minutes before kick-off fireworks announced the teams’ entrance. The national anthems rang out from every cranny of the stadium. The crowd’s enthusiasm surged through the eighty minutes as teams attacked or defended well. The retiring All Blacks (especially McCaw, Carter, and Nonu) brought a level of play equal to the occasion. Nonu’s try in the 2nd minute of the second half was a statement of the All Black’s desire which the Wallabies would not be able to surpass. After being down 16-3 at half the Aussies would pull back to within four with only ten minutes to play. A Dan Carter drop goal in the 70th minute sent Wallabies into desperation mode and two ensuing mistakes led to another three points from Carter and with only a minute to play a culminating try by reserve winger Beauden Barrett. The Wallabies were left hopelessly behind 34-17 with seconds remaining.  After 44 days and 48 matches the All Blacks were the only unbeaten team. For the first time in World Cup history a nation had retained the Webb Ellis Trophy.

After pitch side interviews, medal and trophy presentations, and more fireworks, the All Blacks circled the stands applauding their fans. When they came around to the tunnel to leave the pitch, they hesitated. Then slowly they formed their ranks. For the last time this All Black team which will be considered by many as the greatest team of all time performed a haka for a World Cup crowd.

By Tom Crosby

10-30-15 Springboks Get to 3rd Base with their Sister

The train ride through the daily dash of millions of London commuters to a drizzly Twickenham station was oddly calming. The silent swishing of newspapers was speckled with foreign chatter and strange accents that ebbed and flowed over the train’s clatter. I was on my way to Twickenham to pick up my ticket for 2015 Rugby World Cup Final. Tonight would be South Africa vs Argentina in the Bronze Final, but the only match that really mattered was the following day’s first ever meeting in a World Cup Final of New Zealand & Australia.

The free paper available at the rail station briefly touched on the Bronze Final, but even this passing brush in the 2 pages devoted to the World Cup was related to how Argentina and South Africa did in their losing semi-final efforts. The struggle for third place seemed an afterthought to the tournament. Journalists played with the notion that being third in the world ranking would be important for a team’s pride, but this was more about filling space than a deep conviction.

At the desk where they hand out tickets I had a brief fright. They had no ticket for me. I was on the print-out, but there was nothing in the box of tickets with my name. I worried that perhaps it was something I had written. I squealed that I would retract anything. After a few anxious moments involving calling over a supervisor, the ticket appeared hidden under the fold of another envelope.

The Australian captain’s run was scheduled to start soon. The press was ushered through the drizzle into the stadium with a ‘Hurry up! It won’t be long.’ The night before I had researched the pitch at Twickenham. It is grass with 20 million fibers injected into it. My friend, Gary, whom I’m staying with suggested that it is a bit like a comb-over. The Twickenham volunteer considered it more like getting 20 million artificial hair plugs. When we were led to the side of the pitch, the smell of freshly mowed wet grass embraced me. Water stood an inch deep on the cement walkways around the first row of seats, but the field was a foot higher and only slightly moistened by the mizzle.

After at least 20 minutes of standing around and eavesdropping on workers who were getting information on how many royals would be attending, a few Australian players wandered on the pitch. Then it was alive with Wallabies stretching, running passing drills, and moving through 15 unopposed scenarios. The Aussies brought a boom box and blasted some rock-n-roll for a few minutes. Cameras were clicking, sport video teams were doing their thing, and then it was time to go. As I left Twickenham at about noon, the sun was occasionally peeking out, but it preferred to snuggle deep behind a wall of clouds creating a gray glow over the city as I cruised from Twickenham in the west to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium in the east. The crowds of commuters had been absorbed into the places they worked.

I was going to try to run a theme of sex through the Bronze Final story. My two semi-final stories had something about kissing in the title. The South African coach, Meyer, spoke of the Bronze Final being like “kissing your sister” – nothing too exciting. For the Argentine loss to Australia there was a connection to “una besa de mala suerte” – a kiss of bad luck. The analogy I was thinking about was to compare a World Cup to courting the most beautiful of women. Twenty teams were invited to dance with her, but at the end of the 44 day dance only one team would take her home to hold her completely and forever. The Bronze Final was like getting to third base and knowing you would get no further. You get all dressed up and are expected to bring your best moves while all along knowing that she is already thinking about tomorrow when New Zealand or Australia will bring her to a glorious climax. My wife, and most outstanding proof reader, shook her head and suggested I find another analogy. I’ll try to keep it tasteful, the title excluded.

The Bronze Final turned out to almost live up to its reputation for being anti-climactic. The Argentines replaced ten players from the side that lost to Australia in the semi-final. Before the end of the night they would empty the bench giving every tour member a World Cup cap. They even called a prop in Buenos Aires the day before and flew him over for a brief twirl. The Pumas didn’t care about getting to third base. They had all they wanted from Rugby World Cup 2015. They were already planning how their tango with 2019 would end with them taking her back to Argentina.

The Springboks controlled the night. South African winger JP Pietersen scored a try in the 6th minute and 3rd place was never in doubt. The excitement of the evening circled around where players would end in the record books and when South African legends like Shalk Burger and Victor Matfield would leave the last test match of their lives. Bryan Habana came into the match tied with Jonah Lomu for most all time World Cup tries (15). South African fly-half Handre Pollard started the match trailing Agentine fly-half Nicolas Sanchez for most points scored in the 2015 World Cup. At the end of the first half the Springboks led 16-0, and Pollard had pulled one point ahead in most points scored. Sanchez would put through a drop goal within the first 2 minutes of the second half. Their see-saw battle over the evening would become a more thrilling spectacle than Argentina’s repeated failures to find a way through the Springbok defense. Argentina would pull a try out of a jumbled mass of bodies on the try line as time ran out. Sanchez would kick the conversion to end with 97 total points to Pollard’s 93, and Habana would go home still tied with Lomu. The Springboks got to third base with their sister (24-13) while the Argentines winked at the beauty that was waiting in Japan in 4 years.

10-29-15 Why the Rugby World Cup Ref System Has to Change

I’ve seen enough movies to know that rich and powerful people can have insidious ways to accomplish their wishes. Let’s take the hypothetical plot where a ref of a World Cup match receives a manila envelope filled with pictures of family members and a reasonable threat that one of them will die unless, let’s pick a hypothetical nation, Scotland loses the match.

Some kind of crime organization involved in gambling has had a load of money put on Scotland to win at long odds. The crime syndicate impresses on the ref that Scotland’s opposition on the day, let’s call them Australia, can win by a slight margin, but they can not lose or someone dies. They even throw in some bonus money if Australia wins by less than 5 points … but Australia can not lose, or someone dies.

Scotland keeps the match close. With only minutes remaining Scotland is ahead by 2 points. The ref sees an opportunity to call a kickable penalty on Scotland. It is a potentially questionable call, but for the sake of his wife, mother, daughter, father, or son he blows his whistle. Australia kicks the penalty and wins by one. He runs from the pitch to call and make sure everyone is safe and to insist that he wants no “bonus money”. The dreams of a nation are unfairly shattered, but what is a dream when compared with a real life?

For the sake of the ref’s family the system of refereeing at a World Cup match must change.

Or maybe there’s a plot a little less sinister. The ref receives an envelope filled with pictures of him in a compromising situation. The crime syndicate applies the pressure. Scotland must lose or else the ref’s significant other will receive the pictures. The ref blows the whistle to insure Scotland loses. He rushes off the pitch to secure the promise that the pictures will be destroyed.

The henchman for the crime syndicate chuckles, “But we might need your help again.”

For the sake of the ref whose career and marriage might be ruined by one evening of indiscretion, the system must be changed.

Any Hollywood movie producer looking for rights to these plots, please contact me at deepsouthrugby@hotmail.com.

By Tom Crosby

Photo by Janet Young

Mike Tolkin: Mediocre Coach with Integrity or Spiteful Dolt

Mike Tolkin coached the USA side to its arguably worst World Cup performance ever. They went winless and had the largest losing point differential in the tournament. The team scored 5 tries total in their four matches.

That Tolkin is a mediocre coach in the world of international rugby is hard to dispute. With no experience beyond high school and USA club side coaching before a relatively brief stint as defensive coach for Eddie O’Sullivan and the USA 2011 World Cup side, he was always a risky choice to lead the national team. It was perhaps a worthwhile experiment to try a USA bred coach. The shifting focus in the USA to 7s also required some managing of assets. Looking for an experienced world class coach would cost money, money that would probably be much better used hiring somebody like Mike Friday for the 7s team. Would a European professional club or another international team hire Mike Tolkin? Would a Japanese corporate team hire him? I suspect not.

In July of 2015 Tolkin released long time stand-out USA player Todd Clever from the Pacific Nations Cup. Todd was never given an opportunity to reclaim a spot on the USA World Cup squad. Todd was dropped under questionable circumstances from the team on the eve of an international test match in his home town with hundreds of family and friends scheduled to attend. Tolkin has yet to address these circumstances.

His response given to “Rugby Today” (Oct. 22, 2015) about the story Todd gave to “DeepSouthRugby.net” after the USA’s exit from the World Cup was:
“There are several sides to each story, and Todd Clever has provided his version of events. The facts are at best distorted. When the indisputable facts are incorrect after months of devising them, such as whom our opponents were and where the team was playing on certain dates or ‘morning jog’ vs mandatory vigorous work-out, one must question the accuracy of the entire tale.”

The indisputable fact that Tolkin seems to be eluding to is that the USA played Romania in Bucharest in 2014 not Georgia in Tbilisi, who they played in 2013. Is Tolkin arguing the whole of Todd’s story should be questioned because after 63 test matches and a year since the Fall tour Todd had two matches in European countries a year apart confused? This is where one begins to think Tolkin might be a bit of a dolt.

The issue of if Todd missed a mandatory training session on the morning of the Samoa match is not disputed by Todd. Did Todd know this would terminate his participation on the team? Had Tolkin said this is a two strikes your out system? Had he at anytime showed the slightest empathy for a player who had given so much to USA Rugby and who he had cut from a squad in front of his hometown crowd just two days before the match? This is where you begin to suspect he might be vengeful.

When Todd told me the story of his release from the USA squad, he divulged the conflict that evolved over Tolkin’s requiring squad members to list tour players from best to worst before the Fiji match. After typing the story I went to USA Rugby website to get information about scores from the matches. At the time the national side test matches were not up to date.* I didn’t see the Fiji match listed. I thought maybe he was talking about the year before when the USA played Russia after Georgia. Todd confirmed that the player rating incident was before the Fiji match. For me the fact that he got Georgia wrong only supports that this was not a ‘devised’ story.

In Tolkin’s responses to “Rugby Today” article he said:

“In 30 years of coaching, I have always acted with integrity and without ego, and I have absolutely no problem putting my reputation in front of anyone. Naturally, along the way there may have been disagreements in policy or tactics, but not my integrity, which would be backed by many respected individuals. No selection process is ever perfect – period.”

Does the statement about “putting my reputation in front of anyone” wreak of ego to anyone else?

The twice repeated reference to his integrity reminds me of when I worked in Africa. The more a Ghanaian cab driver insisted he was honest the more certain I became he was going to cheat me. If Tolkin has integrity, he will answer the following questions for a start:

1.Did Todd ask you about going to the ESPY’s?

2.When did you set the early Thursday morning training session that led to Todd being cut from the Samoa match squad?

3.Did you give Todd any information about how he should handle media after he was cut from Samoa match?

4.Was Todd informed that if he missed the “mandatory vigorous training session” (a.k.a.  morning jog) he would be cut from the squad?

5. Did you ever discuss with Todd after being cut from PNC squad what he could do to get back on World Cup squad?

Who and what is Mike Tolkin? Time for him to answer not with ambiguities and innuendos, but with honesty about events and his hand in them if he wants to be believed to be a man of integrity.

* I received an email from Chad Wise with USA Rugby advising me that the website is kept  up to date, and I have no reason to not believe him. When I looked after my conversation with Todd, the first page was either not loading, or I was not accessing the right page of information. Whichever was the case, the point is Todd was not devising a story but telling me what he remembered.

By Tom Crosby

Higgins Ashes to be Spread on Favorite Pitches

Expanded Old Boy Division Expected at Nov. 7-8 Battleship Tourney

Organizers are expecting a larger contingent of Old Boy teams at the Nov. 7-8 Battleship Invitational Tourney at Battleship Park in Mobile. Many are attending as a final farewell to Montgomery, ORB and Gypsy rugby player Gene Higgins. Gene died earlier this year and requested that his ashes be spread across many of the rugby pitches that he played upon. Many Old Boys who played with and against Gene will be in Mobile for the tourney.
Paul Ivey has posted on Facebook details surrounding “Gene’s Machine” at the tournament. The goal is to make this a memorial and worthwhile event “which includes benefits to Jennifer as well as memories for ourselves.” Ivey is producing jerseys for the tourney (cost is $45 per shirt). Paul is also producing t-shirts and hats to help Jennifer with her expenses. Contact Paul at 334-799-1061 for more info.

10-25-15 A Kiss of Bad Luck, Australia vs Argentina

A bright blue sky gave way to a few high hazy clouds, planes cruised into Heathrow, and nearby forty-six rugby players woke up and went to breakfast on a day they would remember for the rest of their lives. It would be a day that would decide if they would play in the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final or the seldom remembered Bronze Final battle for 3rd place. Winning would pit them against the current world champions, the New Zealand All Blacks, who were chasing the never before achieved feat of winning two consecutive world cups.

After my breakfast I strolled to the “Asda 24”. Asda is a subsidiary of Walmart. As the 2007 World Cup wound down, I found good deals ($8 for an official 2007 World Cup polo) at Asda. You would think an Asda 24 would be open 24 hours. This was not the case. A crowd of people were gathered at the door waiting for a 10 am opening. There was nothing to indicate when this huge Super-Walmart-type building would open. At 10:15 somebody checked something on her smart phone and said, “It opens at 11.” I didn’t really need any more world cup gear.

The bus at the Asda took me to Richmond rail station. I caught the train to Twickenham where I emerged to find a blue and yellow cosmos of scarf sellers and ticket touts. While strolling to the stadium I fell in with a group of young Argentines with flags and blue ponchos and mucho enthusiasm. An Argentine film crew latched on to them, also. I eavesdropped on the interview. The group of five lads had left Buenos Aires after Argentina beat Ireland last Sunday in a Quarterfinal. They traveled to Sao Paulo and then to Paris. Some interesting stuff happened in Paris, but my Spanish was not good enough to follow the joking and laughing about that night. From Paris it was an easy trip to London where it was no problem to find tickets. When the interviewer asked, “When are you going home?”, the fellow doing most of the talking proudly announced, “I don’t know. Sometime next week. Probably Friday.”

His mates screamed in despair, “Sunday”.
One pal shook his head, “La besa de mala suerte.” (The kiss of bad luck.)

The Bronze Final is on Friday. The Final is on Saturday.

The young Argentine lad’s prediction of going home Friday turned out to be prescient.

At half Argentina trailed by ten points, 19-9. The Wallabies had 3 tries to the Pumas 3 penalty kicks. The Australian defense would again prove impenetrable. Australian winger Adam Ashley-Cooper would add another try, his third of the day, and Foley would convert and kick a penalty in the second half. The Pumas put through two more penalty kicks, but as an almost full moon rose over an increasingly chilly Twickenham, the kiss of bad luck played out. Argentina struggled to find the last pass to put a man free, often just not seeing an overload. As time ran out, they were again pressing to score a try, but it was not to be. The final score was 29-15.

Argentina has a spot in the Bronze Final against South Africa. Just a short time ago on August 9th, the two sides met in Durban, South Africa. Argentina was triumphant 37-25. In the 21 times they had met since their first match in 1993, this was the first Argentine victory.

On Halloween afternoon Australia will face New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup Final. The Tasmanian neighbors have met 154 times before, and this will be the third time they have played each other in the last 3 months. On August 8th, Australia defeated the All Blacks 27-19 in Sydney, only to lose 41-13 the following week in Auckland. The two sides have met twice before in World Cup Semi-Final matches. In 2003 at the World Cup hosted by Australia, the Wallabies won 22-10. In 2011 in New Zealand, the All Blacks won 20-6. In 2015 they meet for the first time in a World Cup Final and on the neutral home ground of their former colonial ruler England.

10-24-15 Springboks to Kiss Their Sisters

On a drizzly afternoon on the outskirts of London the All Blacks and Springboks brought their rivalry that stretches back to 1921 to Twickenham. In the first 2015 Rugby World Cup Semi-Final New Zealand came in the recognized favorite, but the question of who would go through to the Final was hanging in mist that glittered in the stadium’s lights until almost a minute past full time. Before the match the mind games were flying. The South African coach, Heineke Meyer, complemented the All Blacks on being a great team. The All Black coach, Steve Hansen, retorted that Heineke’s kind words did not deceive anyone about the Springboks’ intentions to rip their heads off.

Twickenham’s Fanzone was packed two hours before kick-off. Heineken flowed. Rhythm and blues boomed from the band on stage. The singer urged the crowd, which was content talking rugby and waiting for the arrival of the team buses, to twist as she launched into Chubby Checkers, “Let’s Twist Again.”

An hour before kick-off fans began entering the stadium. The pre-match announcer got a louder yell of support for the All Blacks. The media support guy brought me the team sheet, and we chatted about the Quarterfinals at Twickenham last week. He told me the media applauded Scotland when they came to the post match conference after their controversial one point loss to Australia. That never happens. At the first media conference I went to in Wellington four years ago I clapped when the Welsh coach, Warren Gatland, and the captain, Sam Warburton, finished their press conference after losing 17-16 to South Africa. The journalist next to me leaned over and said, “We don’t do that.”

When it was ten minutes to kick-off, the big screen displayed highlights from this, “The Best World Cup Ever!” A dance troupe with sparklers and flags from every participating country swayed in the try zones and fireworks exploded around the pitch as the teams jogged out the tunnel. The anthems stirred every heart in the stadium, and then the All Blacks started what seemed a slow motion haka. It was as dramatic as any I have ever seen. The South African fans sliced into the Maori battle challenge by singing, “Ole’, Ole’, Ole’, Ole” as the haka gathered momentum.

At half the Springboks seemed on their way to an upset. They led 12-7. The All Blacks were tossing away their claim to being the greatest team ever with repeated penalties for offside and loose play offenses as they sought every advantage. Six minutes into the second half Dan Carter narrowed the gap to two points with a drop goal. Five minutes later New Zealand legendary center Ma’a Nonu set up replacement winger Beauden Barrett for a try in the corner. The try floodgates did not open like they did the week before against France, but what they had was enough. The Springboks kicked 2 more penalties, and the All Blacks kicked one. With less than a minute to play the Springboks had a scrum 10 meters from their own goal line. As time ran out, they desperately tried to crack the Kiwi defense. There were 90 meters of firmly held All Black territory to cross, and the rain was coming down harder. A knock-on was inevitable. New Zealand won 20-18 and went through to play in the Final against the winner of the Australia/Argentina Semi-Final.

South Africa would have one more match in this World Cup when they would face the loser of the Australia/Argentina match for 3rd place in the Bronze Final. The Springbok coach didn’t help sell any tickets to the Bronze Final when at the press conference he said 3rd place didn’t mean that much. He went on to add, “It is like kissing your sister.”

10-23-15 New Zealand vs Argentina Final – 3 in a Row

It’s Friday noon, and one day before the 2015 Rugby World Cup semi-final between New Zealand and South Africa. I’m on the pitch in Twickenham waiting for Argentina to show-up for their captain’s run. Press tickets to both semi-finals are in my pocket. They are for level 6. As I look around the stadium, I only see three levels, so maybe somebody is putting me on.

A certain amount of magic has gone out of this World Cup with the exit of all northern hemisphere teams. The nations left play each other every year in the Rugby Championship. For the next four years I suppose that will be billed as the 2019 World Cup Warm-up.

For possibly the third consecutive World Cup, the Final could be two teams that were in the same pool. In 2007 South Africa destroyed England 36-0 in their pool stage clash. The English pulled their socks-up and came through Australia (12-10) and France (14-9) in the knock-out rounds to reach the Final and meet the Springboks again. South Africa found the rematch harder going but won 15-6.

In 2011 the extremely erratic French lost to the All Blacks 37-17 in their pool match. They, also, lost to Tonga 19-15, but qualified for the knock-out round through bonus points. They squeezed by England in the quarterfinal 19-12 and barely escaped being embarrassed by 14 inspired Welsh players. They kicked 3 penalties to win the semi-final 9-8. A much different French team showed up for the Final. They outplayed the Kiwis for large parts of the match, but ended up one point short (8-7) at the end of 80 minutes.

This year Argentina is poised to sprint back onto the pitch against the All Blacks in the Final. With only Australia in their way now Las Pumas are eager to make their first World Cup Final and get another crack at New Zealand who handed Argentina there only pool loss (26-16) a few weeks ago. Of course getting through Australia is a lot easier said than done as Argentina found in the Rugby Championship a couple of months ago when Australia spanked them 34-9.

The magic is coming back!!
And Bob Dylan’s at the Royal Albert Hall.