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USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville and USA Men’s National 15s Head Coach Mike Tolkin will be meeting with the IRB this coming week to discuss some issues.
Among the big topics of conversation will be what USA Rugby’s High Performance grant will be. It’s unlikely that USA Rugby qill be able to squeeze too much out of the International Rugby Board, especially given that the organization’s biggest money-producer, the Rugby World Cup, didn’t bring in as much cash as the previous two tournaments.
Still, Melville will be making the pitch that the United States is (news flash) enormous. Giving the same grant to a country where all the players live within driving distance, and to a country where any HP assembly or camp involved 20-30 expensive airplane tickets seems iniquitous, so the USA delegation will posit.
The Eagles, which will have World Cup Qualifying in 2013, will need a lot of time together, and financing that with IRB money and with sponsorship money is one of USA Rugby’s priorities.
Melville and Tolkin will also discuss the test match windows. Currently there are three periods during the year when national teams can order players to be released for international duty. Two of those the USA uses – June and November. But the third, in February and March, during the Six Nations, is not used because it is smack in the middle of the club season, and there are no teams to play.
USA Rugby will be asking to have that window moved for them and other Tier II nations to July. It is quite possible professional clubs will balk at that, given that their players on pro teams have a hard enough time as it is getting released during the summer.
The key is not only to play games, but rankings tests.
“If the IRB puts a lot of stock in their rankings,” Melville said last week, “then we need to be able to play rankings tests.”
If there are any changes in the USA schedule and funding, it will probably come after the World Cup qualification. The USA should expect to qualify for London 2015, and once they do, they will need support in getting ready.
The IRB has come under pressure to help Tier 2 nations be more competitive at the World Cup. Already the IRB has agreed to adjust the 2015 World Cup schedule so as not to slam the lesser countries with four-day turnarounds (a state of affairs that really hurt Tonga). But there will also be pressure to support those teams in their buildup, as well.
What do we think about all of this? The IRB has a lot of countries looking for funding. USA Rugby might be able to eke another $100,000 or so out of Dublin, but don’t expect a big increase.
However, the IRB is in a position to help the USA with non-money-related issues – scheduling, setting up games at home and away, and making it easier for their best players to come together.
That’s not USA Rugby asking for a handout, that’s just asking for the way things are run to not hurt them.