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Monday, April 25, 2016

PRP, ARP More Relevant Than Ever

Photo: Connie Hatfield
*Full disclosure, as you'll see below, we have contracts to write for both the ARP and PRP. 

We’ve been lucky enough over the past few seasons to be able to provide recaps and previews for the Pacific Rugby Premiership and American Rugby Premiership. It’s the reason why you haven’t seen recaps and previews on our site every week but you have seen us share articles from the PRP and ARP websites. Covering these competitions has been something that we’re proud to be a part of.

With the arrival of PRO Rugby both the PRP and ARP have undergone changes and will undergo more. They’ve already lost some players to the new competition as should be expected given that they were the highet level of domestic competition up to this point. Additionally, the ARP is shifting to a fall only schedule next year and it’s anticipated that the PRP will follow suit or will do some sort of split schedule with games before and after Christmas but ending before the PRO Rugby season. There are likely to be more changes, if subtle, coming as well.

Take the jump to read more.

To put it simply, without the PRP and the ARP PRO Rugby wouldn’t exist in the form it does today. It’s no coincidence that there are PRO Rugby teams in the Bay Area, San Diego, and Denver. Those have been areas of the strongest performing PRP teams throughout the league’s three year existence. What PRP teams, and ARP teams to a certain extent, have done is first increase the talent pool by drawing in players over the last few years that may have been playing elsewhere. During his tenure former Eagles head coach Mike Tolkin made it clear that if you wanted to have a good shot at the national team you needed high level club matches and that most often meant latching on to an ARP or PRP team. As a result you saw several players make the move. Look at Chris Baumann playing for Old Blue and Santa Monica as the prime example.

Second, both the PRP and ARP showed that there is a strong appetite for high-level rugby in this country. Sure, some PRP and ARP teams play on terrible fields in front of only friends and family but others have extended themselves to play in good facilities with people that pay to watch. Some will argue that the Super League and Elite Cup also did that. That’s true but what has set both competitions apart from their predecessors is that they have turned themselves into a product. They have highlights and websites. That can’t be understated. Both the PRP and the ARP are products that have brought in sponsors, just like PRO Rugby is doing but PRO Rugby is doing it on a bigger scale.

Also, both the PRP and ARP teams taught PRO Rugby lessons on logistics. Again, would PRO Rugby have figured it out? Sure, but being able to bring in local people who know what’s worked and what hasn’t helped shorten the learning curve. They also taught the value of social media. It’s no coincidence that some of the best PRP and APR teams in terms of social media have the best teams.

There are a lot of people that made both competitions happen and we think it’s important to single them out. Erik Geib at U.S.A. Rugby has been key in getting the ARP to the point it’s at today. Anthony Nashawaty from NYAC and the folks at Old Blue have also been key, including PRO Rugby's director of rugby Steve Lewis. There may be no undervalued man more in American rugby than Geno Mazza in the PRP. Bruce Thomas from SFGG, Eoin O’Toole from Olympic Club, and Mark Bullock from Glendale have also spurred on the competition. All derserve credit.

Questions are going to be asked if the PRP and ARP are still relevant given PRO Rugby. We think if you ask any of the folks at PRO Rugby they are going to give you a resounding yes. Remember, the PRO Rugby season is only four months long. Yes, you are going to get national team players playing a full schedule with the Eagles but you have others that are going to need more game time throughout the year. Like is done in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, it only makes sense for many of the players to head back to their clubs in the offseason to get gametime. If they can pick up a handful of matches then they are going to be that much more fit come time to be back with their PRO team.

Both the PRP and ARP also have the potential to vet future players for PRO Rugby. The principle remains that if you want to be noticed--now it’s by PRO Rugby teams more than the Eagles--you can head to either league. Take last Saturday in San Diego for example when Santa Monica played OMBAC before the PRO game. Do you think that the folks from PRO Rugby were watching? You bet they were. Even more, outside of a couple of top college programs there are young players out there that have the talent to compete, they just need the exposure. As Glendale head coach Andre Snyman wrote last week the PRP and the ARP are still great places for that.

Overall, American rugby is richer and healthier with the existence of the ARP and PRP. You could also throw in the Gold Cup and Seattle in the BC Premier League. More high level matches is only going to grow the game at all levels. Even though you are seeing players taken up to PRO Rugby at the same time you are seeing younger players get a chance on a bigger stage. That’s only a good thing. PRO Rugby and the top club and college game are not mutually exclusive and as the next few years unfold we think that it can only go up from here.

3 comments:

  1. So true! We must have our players playing year round. That means they need high level matches. In Australia, the off-season club matches feature Super Rugby players. If you don't think that helps bring the level of play up, you are mistaken. Not only will the PRP and ARP help players get matches, the pros coming back should help raise the standard of play. Our top players should get in about 25-30 matches in a calendar year. 8-10 tests, 12 PRO matches, and then another 8-10 ARP/PRP matches.

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  2. United States is a huge country. Distances are enormous. There's players everywhere, but USA Rugby can only see so far.

    These multi-tier system is essenntial to bring talent to the top.

    The top college and local club players will be selected for in Pacific, American, Midwest and Red River clubs.

    The top players in those clubs will be selected for Pro Rugby teams.

    And the top Pro Rugby players will be selected for the Eagles.

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  3. But if the PRP is to move to a fall schedule, how are teams like Belmont, Santa Monica, and OMBAC going to use the D1 schedule for their preseason??

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