Wednesday, January 17, 2018

5 Questions For MLR: How Will They Work With National Teams

Today we're continuing a five part series asking some key questions about Major League Rugby. This isn't meant as a criticism or praise but more of a straightforward examination of some of the key things that will be vital to the success of MLR.

The use of national teams in the title of this article is intentional. Not only because there are a number of Canadians on the roster and there are plans for teams in Canada but because it has come clear that the significant attention needs to be paid to age-grade sides and not just the Eagles. Without question professional rugby has been good for the Eagles. Just look at what one season of PRO Rugby did for the team. Not only did it help identify players like Langilangi Haupeakui but it helped get high level game time for players and got them used to a professional environment. For all the stuff that happened off the pitch there should be little doubt that the coaches helped implement a new way of thinking around training that paid off.

Major League Rugby may not match PRO Rugby in terms of the number of matches (PRO Rugby was 12 while MLR has eight regular season matches although some teams have a robust friendly schedule) or in depth of roster (five teams with some proven international stars against seven teams with more local rosters) but it eventually win. The slow and steady pace is something that is going to work for MLR and the depth of quality will get there and the season will expand. Because of all of that we have no doubt that the Eagles and Canada will benefit from MLR.

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For us, the bigger question is how is MLR going to help the Eagles age-grade structure. Lessons about professionalism and about making decisions in intense environments is better learned at age 16 or 18 than age 23.  That is what is often missing from Tier II countries, especially the U.S. and Canada. Programs like St. Mary's, Cal, UBC, and others have been turning out good young players in a high-level environment but they are really only playing a handful of high-level games a year. If some of those players can be supplemented by playing summer rugby with MLR sides it will be extremely beneficial.

It's not MLR's job to develop young players but it would be smart business. If teams can have youth sides and then bring those players into their first teams then not only will those players be familiar with how a team like the Glendale Raptors play but they will also offer a competitive advantage to the first team. The better the youth program the better the future is going to be.

It's our hope that these youth programs, which are already planned, will work closely with Alex Magleby and the High Performance program. It would be awesome if players targeted at the youth level at either the Junior All-American or the College All-American level would be able to be given training experience with an MLR team during the summer. Even if they aren't going to feature in the first team they can see what it is like to be a professional.

It's also our hope that MLR teams will be proactive in scheduling some friendlies with the College and Junior All-Americans. It's painfully obvious at this point that there isn't the funds for U.S.A. Rugby to make this happen on their own. We hope that MLR teams will step up to the plate with the funding to make it happen. It will help ensure the long-term growth of their product.

Again, it's not up to MLR to develop youth rugby but it would be smart. The Eagles are going to benefit but for MLR to pay off in the long-term it has to be a top to bottom approach. 

1 comment:

  1. One of my concerns is, come June, when the affiliated USA Eagle players of the MLR have to depart for the month long international tour series, how this will affect team rosters and playoff considerations?