Tuesday, February 12, 2013

TRU To Launch Texas Cup This Fall

by Ted Hardy

Representative options in Texas appear to be expanding quickly in the Lone Star State. The Texas Rugby Union (TRU) continues to evolve into one of the more aggressive unions in the United States. With a multitude of clubs, college sides and booming growth at youth and high school levels, Texas appears poised to become a big player in American rugby.

The TRU has quite a bit on their plate and among their plans include the launch of a representative side competition this coming fall. The Texas Cup plans to bring together teams from three select areas of Texas. One of those areas is Houston and their team, the Houston Energy assembled last fall and were highlighted in a recent article here at This Is American Rugby.

In preparation for the launch of the Texas Cup, the TRU is in discussions to bring former All Black Murray Mexted and his International Rugby Academy to Texas in August.

"Two years ago we brought the Bob Dwyer's coaches workshop to Texas and held three highly successful work shops in Dallas, Austin and Houston," said TRU Competitions Chairman Ron Watson. "These workshops were designed to help our coaches to learn to coach at a higher level from one of the best in the world. This year the Academy with Murray Mexted and coaches will be designed around the player. The Academy's will be held in three to four day sessions of high level coaching in each location."

On the back of the academy, in September coaches and management teams from the three select sides will hold tryouts for players in each geographical region. Keeping the focus on regionalized teams will help each team achieve their goals in regards to player participation, promotion, and fan support.

"To be successful in a program such as this you must have the mass of players in that geographical area that can make practices weekly," added Watson. "If they had to travel to cities three to four hours away the program will not work."

Each select side will choose a roster of approximately 30 players. The three teams will then play a home/away series against each other in November and December. This will give each of the teams four games. To finish the season, the TRU is planning on inviting three high-level clubs from outside of Texas to play against each of the TRU select sides.

The games will be held at one venue with a possible curtain-raiser game between two college All-Star teams. Details on the event are currently being worked out, but the event is already shaping up nicely. The TRU also plans to invite USA Rugby selectors to the season ending event.

"I think it'll be a great showcase of the current talent here in Texas," said David Yeoman of the Houston Energy. "I think that the representative environment will challenge the best players to be better, to stay in shape in the off season, and for young players to seek out more opportunities to learn."

If successful, the Texas Cup could serve as a model for other areas to replicate. If the concept of city-based representative side competition catches on, it could very well reshape the entire club rugby season in a massive and positive way. Almost every major metropolitan area in the United States has multiple rugby clubs within an hour drive of their epicenter. If those teams could put aside their difference and put their collective weight behind one team, there is the potential for a paradigm shift in American club rugby.

From a marketing standpoint alone, current clubs may reach out to sponsors representing 30 or so players and a fan base of maybe 100-200. City-based squads in large metro areas will have the advantage of representing 400-500 players with fan bases in the thousands. A much easier sell to potential sponsors. The benefits of this structure have the potential to go well beyond marketing and sponsors.

"I think the benefits of having a centralized, professional staff will allow clubs to focus on playing rugby while giving players access to the high performance pathways they desire," stated the Houston Energy's Yeoman in regards to whether or not the Texas Cup could become a model for others.

The enticing part of the concept that the TRU is experimenting with?

It doesn't eliminate clubs or put players in a position to have to choose between their club and higher-level play. Players can remain loyal to their clubs without giving up aspirations of improving or playing representative rugby. The club structure remains unchanged and the club season is separated from representative play. Many past failures to combine teams from a region always resulted in one or more clubs losing their identity or being consumed by another club. This process often left a very bad taste in the mouths of the teams on the receiving end of the merger.

There are still many hurdles to cross as the Texas Cup is still many months away from their initial campaign. There will be growing pains and lessons that have yet to be learned. However, they are serving notice, to the rest of America, that Texas is serious about rugby and are ready to take the necessary steps to improve the standard of play at all levels.

3 comments:

  1. Ted-
    Sorry to go off the article topic on this comment, but can we all agree now that Bill Tatham and the Grand Prix 7s is a joke?

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  2. Very disappointing to see the event cancelled. Just saw it a few minutes ago. Announcing the event, promoting it, and then cancelling it is far worse than any of their previous aborted attempts.

    The real crappy part? They still have those rights tied up tight for years to come and I believe they have at least another option to extend the rights. USAR should have built a clause into the contract where the rights would revert to USAR if there wasn't a product on the field in a certain amount of time.

    Not sure where things go from here. Maybe AEG will buy them out? Oddly enough AEG recently reached out to TIAR to talk about helping promote the event.

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  3. For all those that want to comment on this subject, please hold on. Let's not overload this article with completely unrelated comments. We're working on getting info on this and will post an article once we get something. Then you can light up the comment section like a scoreboard.

    Seeing as I have provided a fair amount of coverage on the subject over the years, I will also be putting together an editorial.

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