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An analysis of the past two College Rugby Championships (CRC) and also this year’s Varsity Cup, indicates three victories by the University of California, Berkeley, coached by the team of Jack Clark and Tom Billups, both United States Rugby Foundation Hall of Fame inductees.
To find a good starting place as to where this winning coaching partnership began, is to return to September, 2001, when Billups (Head Coach) and Clark (Manager) traveled to Ireland with the Collegiate All Americans in their two game tour against historical Trinity University, and University College Dublin.
The nine-day visit had been arranged by Tony Smeeth, Director of Rugby at Trinity, also with close ties to the USA where he started the US Under-19 program. The team consisted of thirty players, with the largest contingent of ten players coming from U. California. Ohio State and Brigham Young each garnered two spots, while sixteen other schools filled in the total, including Northern Iowa’s Paul Emerick.
The All Americans won both games, beating Trinity 21-5, and UCD 16-11 in a close contest.
Smeeth penned a “A Job Well Done” article for Rugby Magazine’s October 2001 issue. He praised the training, the coaching, and the quality of the young players ending with, “The US has made a great start…which will serve as a bridge between the Under-19 and full Eagle level.”
It is undecided whether the USA U-19, and later the former U-21 levels adequately funneled new players into the Eagle program.
But what remains undeniable is the successful pairing of Billups and Clark whose many U. California college championships, continuing in fifteens, and later, new titles in the CRC sevens, were just ahead of them.