Melville successor has hard act to follow at USA Rugby

Nigel Melville leaves his post as Chief Executive Officer of USA Rugby this week and his successor has a hard act follow.

Former England scrum-half Melville, 55, departs after nine and a half years at the helm to take up the role of Director of Professional Rugby for the Rugby Football Union (RFU).

Melville, who admits when he arrived in 2007 he simply “had to get the ball in the hands of as many kids as possible” will leave a huge void and exits the organization in a position of strength. He is though sure the game will “get bigger and bigger”, but that brief will now be in the hands of his successor and there have been in excess of 150 candidates for the post.

USA Rugby this week announced the appointment of Jim Snyder as Acting Chief Executive Officer. Snyder will retain his current responsibilities as Chief Financial Officer, while USA Rugby also announced their search for a new CEO continues and is in the “final stages.”

READ MORE: ‘Building the Game’ with Rugby Utah and GoPlay

“We have had an extremely strong candidate pool for the position of CEO,” USA Rugby Chairman of the Board Bob Latham told USARugby.org. “The remaining candidates all possess an impressive level of experience and talents. I have no doubt that the future of USA Rugby will be in good hands.”

While several applicants are believed to have strong resumes; the new man will have a difficult act to follow with Melville boasting a record which includes boosting registered rugby players from 50,000 in 2007 to over 115,000 at the current time.

“When I first came here it wasn’t really doing anything and it wasn’t really going anywhere,” said Melville, who was responsible for organizing an international rugby union match between the USA Eagles and the New Zealand All Blacks at Soldier Field, the home of the Chicago Bears, which was a 62,000 sell-out.

It was a proud moment for the Yorkshireman, who can only see the game in the US grow: “The bottom line is that it’s growing… it won’t go backwards now, it’ll get bigger and bigger,” added Melville.

Described as having one of the best passes in the game and captaining England on three separate occasions Melville’s leadership qualities came to the fore at USA Rugby.

Within three years of his appointment his urgency “to get the ball in the hands of kids” saw nearly two million American kids participate in ‘Rookie Rugby’. And from that moment Melville says he could “see the pathway develop – it brings growth in schools, in colleges and eventually in clubs”.

 

  • Rugby is the fastest growing sport in North America.
  • Youth Rugby has increased 25% over the last three years.
  • Rugby is the fastest growing collegiate sport for both men and women.
  • Rugby is the 3rd largest sporting event in the world behind only soccer and the Olympics

 

The potential for future growth at collegiate level is huge and one which the role’s new incumbent will surely be looking to develop. While Melville’s mantra of trying “to create a game that embraces tradition and brings to the table all that is great about American sport” will probably still be hanging on the wall at his Colorado headquarters.

“If you can get the right athletes with the right coaches, you can really make progress,” added Melville, who can also boast a key role in winning the bid to host the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco – a “truly historic moment”.

USA Rugby’s loss will by the RFU’s gain, but Melville leaves the state of the game in a far rosier place than when he arrived almost a decade ago and there are certainly no hard feelings on USA Rugby’s part.

“He has propelled USA Rugby forward on every level. He leaves with our everlasting gratitude, our blessings, and our expectations that he will remain a friend of USA Rugby in his new position,” added Latham.

READ ABOUT: GoPlay Building the Game with Utah Rugby

EPL outfit Southampton heading to Baltimore

EPL outfit Southampton will be heading to Baltimore for a week-long training camp in July.

As part of Saints’ new global partnership with Under Armour, which launches on July 1, the south-coast club will head across The Pond as part of their pre-season programme.

While some members of the first-team squad will be given additional time off following the conclusion of Euro 2016 the rest of the team will fly out to America on July 11 as they kick off their build up to the 2016/17 Premier League.

The training camp will serve to build on the foundations already laid in the region, with Southampton Academy coaches delivering coaching clinics to local teams as the club develops its Grass Roots Club Partnership programme to support the progression of football in North America.

Under Armour, who will provide game-changing technologies and product innovations for Saints over the course of the next seven years, will also welcome the club’s players and staff to their headquarters during the trip.

Towards the end of the trip Saints will also play their first pre-season game, as they take part in a behind-closed-doors friendly on Friday July 15.

Saints’ pre-season preparations will continue upon their return to the Staplewood Campus, before heading out to Holland on Friday July 22 for three friendlies against Dutch opposition.

Has West Ham boss Slaven Bilic ended possession bragging?

Statistics are becoming more prevalent, but West Ham boss Slaven Bilic has attempted to dispel the myth of possession being a credible way to summarise competitive soccer.

In his playing days Croatian centre-back Bilic was uncompromising and tough and his soccer punditry has taken on those similar characteristics. Bilic, in his role as ITV Sport pundit at Euro 2016, brilliantly summed up England’s goalless draw with Slovakia on Monday night.

England might have qualified for the round of 16 but Bilic was in no mood to praise their territorial advantage after Roy Hodgson’s men plundered 61 per cent possession against their ultra-defensive European rivals.

“I’m positive because the next game the better the opponent is it’s going to be a more two-sided game,’ said Bilic when he was asked about England’s credentials.

“Let’s not praise them for possession because England played against a team that didn’t want to play. Of course you’re going to have more possession.”

It was a simple statement from the 47-year-old, who guided West Ham into seventh place finish in the Premier League last season, but one which certainly should resonate with coaches and fans who document possession as an accurate gauge.

Slovakia’s sole intention from the start was to maintain their defensive shape, not to commit bodies into England’s half and to ultimately allow England to have the ball.

Possession stats might be fine to measure the game when two equally-minded teams are competing, but if one team is hell-bent on defending for their lives, as Slovakia were in St Etienne, then possession as a barometer is worthless as the opposition’s aim was to give up the ball and retreat.

A similar analogy would be an Olympic sprinter claiming a moral victory over a rival after a dead heat in a 100m race due to having “more left in the tank” at the end of the race –  it’s simply an irrelevant stat and one which at least of one of the competitors did not care about.

Possession is certainly not nine-tenths of the law in soccer and in fact it’s a stat that can often be ignored or at least it may be time to introduce an another statistical category: a ‘did they want possession’ in a bid to validate possession numbers.

Monday’s Euro 2016 game in France saw England certainly looking to dominate the ball from the outset and the Three Lions’ coach Hodgson said as much after the game.

“When did England last come to a tournament and have three such dominant games in a row? We have taken the game to the opposition, we have controlled the play,” said the 68-year-old.

But despite England coach Hodgson claiming a moral victory via possession, they could not break a resolute and well-drilled and often back six.

The only way to compare a defensively-minded team to an attacking side is by chances created and ultimately goals scored and the most important of those categories remained level at 0-0 at full-time on Monday.

Slovakia and their boss Jan Kozak will not have given the possession count a second look, but they will have had a wry smile at the 0-0 scoreline.

Matt Briggs

The Barbarian Invasion

It’s the start of soccer mania. The greatest game in the world is everywhere this summer. There is the Copa America in the USA, the European Championships in France, and not to mention soccer at the Olympics in Brazil. This is definitely a summer for los fanáticos.

Carried live on TV in the USA, there is not a day that goes by when some important game is not catching the eye of the devotees. But there is a dark side to soccer as demonstrated recently in the beautiful port city of southern France, Marseille. The ugly side of ultra-nationalist thugs fighting against an opposing teams’ army of thugs or tearing apart local restaurants and bars and fighting with the police. It should not be this way but soccer quite often has a dark side. This summer it has again reared its ugly head.

When we choose to travel, we travel to open our minds, embrace different cultures, take a chance on speaking a language that we are unfamiliar with, and get close to the sights and sounds of a place that is unfamiliar. In brief, learn and enrich yourself with the tools of the trade – tolerance, openness, and kindness. With this, and a guide book or willingness to get lost, one can take a chance with a phrase or two, and get to meet people from different places with different languages, different religions, and different perspectives. When I see the dark side of soccer, I see such a misconnect between the beautiful game and what this ultra-minority of racist hooligans take from the sport.

Here’s the deal – it’s not their sport, it’s our sport. Prejudice in any form is a terrible waste of life. I will sit back, watch the games, marvel at the moves, enjoy the backdrop of beautiful cities, and know that there is nothing wrong with supporting your nation. But that has nothing to do with being an ultra-nationalist. No wonder they banned alcohol in the cities where the hooligans are heading. What right do these guys have to paint the Russian or English fan on their drunken bodies? Shout out against all forms of racism and fanaticism. You never know, it could be happening at a place near you! See you out there somewhere.

Peter Jones

Building the Game with Rugby Utah and GoPlay

BUILDING THE GAME

Rugby is the third most watched sport in the world and the fastest growing team sport in the United States, the biggest sports market on the planet. But, compared to other more established sports, rugby is a still a comparatively small part of the fabric of American team sports.

One of the reasons for this is up until recently, The US has lacked the resources to support the pathway from youth to pro and be competitive on all fronts. That’s why the Rugby community needs to unite like never before around the mission of “Building the Game” and commit to combine our resources to grow rugby on all levels to create the pathway for American Rugby to become world-class.

Leveraging our 35 years of experience, relationships, and resources, GoPlay offers the world’s best international training programs that combine the thrill of playing at the highest level with rugby cultural exchange programs for all levels. And best of all, cultural exchange play-away programs are not limited to players, we seek to enhance the USA’s Rugby IQ with competition and training to include coaches, and referees in association with some of the world’s most revered teams, leagues and academies.

For the first time a rugby player can live their dream of training to become an Olympian or play Professional rugby in the USA.

SO WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? LET’S RUCK AND ROLL!

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TRAVEL. LEARN. COMPETE. DISCOVER.

GoPlay and Rugby Utah, one of the nation’s most progressive rugby training, media and sports lifestyle companies have forged a worldwide partnership along with some of the sport’s most celebrated training academies, coaching associations, referees societies and tournament promoters around the globe to create a unique program to increase individual as well team skill sets.

These one-of-a-kind programs allow a full scale of variety and capabilities. So whether you’ve picked up a rugby ball for the first time or if you are training for the Olympics, Premiership or Pro Rugby we have a program tailored to your needs and your passion for the sport.

We offer you and your team members the once in a lifetime opportunity to travel the world, learn the finer points of the game from some of the world’s most respected players and coaches and experience firsthand a new dimension of the sport you love. And all this while taking part in a unique cultural exchange program designed to help learn about the world around you and get school credit for doing it.

That is why we believe that coaches, administrators, and families who give their Ruggers this opportunity are the most important people around. GoPlay Sports Tours creates rugby cultural exchange programs tailored to the needs of club, college and high school teams, and players of all skill levels to rugby centers of gravity and world-class venues around the world.

Whether you are looking for high-performance full emersion training, a cultural adventure or something in-between, we have the perfect trip for you. We at GoPlay believe that travel changes lives. It’s not just a slogan. Each of us has been inspired to a great understanding – of ourselves, of the world, of other people and cultures- through travel.

INTERESTED IN LEARNING HOW TO ENGAGE A TRAVEL PROGRAM?

We would love to chat with you about the five basic steps to help you offer a overseas rugby cultural exchange program to your individual athletes or your entire team. It is easier and more affordable than you’d think – and best of all, Coaches travel for free when they bring their team! (specific coaching and referee training does not qualify as a team).

THE RUGBY UTAH / GOPLAY PROGRAMMING

Our Goal is to have America’s rugby Referees, Coaches, Players at the helm for the highest levels of play by 2020 … and along with that build the best fans with the knowledge of the rugby ethos and differentiator that distinguishes rugby as the best lifestyle on the planet.

PLAYER / TEAM EXPERIENCE

We offer full or partial emersion to rugby training and competition in the world’s most rugby centric and emerging countries: New Zealand, England, Ireland, Wales, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, France, Italy, Russia, Japan, China.

Train in 7s, 15s or both. Train and live like a local, play match-es, tournaments against or with local clubs. We even have University programs where you can earn a dual degree from the UK and USA and play some rugby along the way allowing you to return to the States and then give back to your local community.

REFEREE PATHWAY

The cornerstone to improving all elements of play and to assure proper safety of the game. The annual training and refresher courses are designed to provide full emersion with the end goal of generating a train the trainer program for all referees. These courses will be conducted by the world’s leading referees and the experience will generate resources and friendships that will change the landscape of your rugby community.

COACHING – TRAIN THE TRAINER PROGRAMMING

You’ll train alongside the sport’s leading coaches, administrators, physico and players – similar to the Referee program annual training and refresher courses are offered and home and away programming / play for you and your teams will be initiated for growth and sharing of best practices from all organizations.

FANS AND SUPPORTERS

Engage rugby at the highest levels, see behind the scenes at world famous rugby venues, and experience local traditions. Meet players coaches, and other ruggers from around the world…maybe even put on the boots and have a run in a friendly or touch match.

INBOUND TO THE USA

In additional to our play-away rugby cultural exchange programs, we offer an excited opportunity for non-US to come to American and help build the rugby culture here and get paid doing it.

We will facilitate portal-to-portal travel for short or long-term multi city events at Rugby-friendly universities, junior colleges and high schools that are willing to provide educational and cultural experiences for out for non US school athletes. You can even qualify to earn a degree from an American university through Rugby – talk about a dream come true!

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