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USA Rugby has made an exception to its eligibility rules to accommodate the club game and allow players mobility between college and club sides in season. The previously held rules didn’t allow a college player to play both college and club, and then college again, in the same season. Now, a player deemed in USA Rugby’s High Performance Pathway can do just that.
The Pacific Rugby Premiership was the first to challenge the status quo on a broad scale last year with its guest player policy. Since it was a competition not run by USA Rugby, the PRP was able to allow players from non-PRP clubs and colleges to play in the Premiership matches without losing eligibility for their original teams. Notable examples of the guest player rule being utilized were Old Blue’s Adam Siddall, who suited up for Belmont Shore, and Colorado State’s Ben Pinkelman, who played for the Denver Barbarians.
USA Rugby was forced to make an exception this fall with the American Rugby Premiership, which was run within the governing body’s purview. Life University wanted to be able to use its undergrad players in ARP action without jeopardizing their collegiate eligibility. While the decision to allow it didn’t come easy, USA Rugby came to the sensible conclusion.
“This exemption allowing college-grade players the ability to enhance their rugby skills by playing in senior club matches will not only benefit the individual’s development, but will boost the student-athlete’s collegiate club when he or she returns to the university’s team,” said USA Rugby Collegiate Director Rich Cortez.
“Some college clubs don’t have sufficient funding to build a schedule capable of providing an adequate number of matches to ensure athletic growth. This wrinkle in our Eligibility Regulations should help mediate that.”
The second part of the new exception allows for those whose college seasons have come to an end to transfer freely to a men’s club for the remainder of the competitive cycle. This comes in especially handy for the thousands of players whose colleges play fall rugby exclusively. They can now play men’s club ball in the spring and return to their college sides the following autumn.
“Both of these changes are a big win for colleges and senior clubs alike. Allowing college players a chance to continue their season is a common-sense update, and American rugby absolutely needs its top players to have a chance to test themselves in premier competitions like the American Rugby Premiership and Women’s Premier League without losing their collegiate eligibility,” said USA Rugby Club Department Manager Erik Geib.
“We’ve also put in caps to protect both sides. With the three-player roster limit per match, we’re protecting club competitions from essentially playing full college teams – especially in some rural areas where a top college side might exist. Additionally, college coaches have to explicitly name the dates their elite players play club in season, which stops club teams from pulling players away during high-profile college matches.”