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(Correction: original rendition of this story inaccurately stated the job had been offered to someone prior to Gold. It has been corrected.)
USA Rugby announced the hiring of Gary Gold as the new Eagles head coach Monday. Gold is currently serving as the director of rugby for the Worcester Warriors, which sit winless and in last place in the Aviva Premiership table.
"We are very fortunate to have recruited an individual with Gary's experience, commitment and values." said Dan Payne, USA Rugby CEO. "Myself and our hiring panel were more than just impressed with his rugby history. We saw a sincerity and skill set in Gary that fits perfectly with how we want this position to contribute toward the growth of rugby in America. Developing players, coaches and contributing toward grassroots growth were all areas that enthused Gary when we described the expectations of this role. We're very happy with the result."
Gold replaces John Mitchell, who resided in South Africa, never moved to the United States, and spent limited time physically in America. He indicated in USA Rugby’s press release on the hire that he plans to relocate to the USA.
"I'm very thankful for the opportunity to move to Colorado and contribute toward growing and developing the game of rugby in America. There's a lot of hard work to be done with some tremendous potential. Hard work, combined with the upside potential is what excites me about this position," Gold said.
"It has been made clearly obvious to me from numerous individuals within the organization that this position isn't just about continuing the development of the Men's National Team, although that is obviously a key focal point.
"Equally important is the attention toward the development of coaches, being an ambassador for growth of the game in America and contributing toward the strong grassroots initiatives the union is putting forth. Everyone must understand that all of these aspects lead us toward the continued development and achievements of the Men's National team."
The statement made by Worcester said Gold would be staying with the club through its 2017/2018 season, per contractual obligations. But USA Rugby’s announcement didn’t indicate he’d be encumbered in any way in joining the Eagles, who have a two-test tour ahead of them next month and the Americas Rugby Championship early next year before the end of Worcester’s current Premiership season. So it’s unclear exactly when Gold will be able to turn his focus to the Eagles.
Rugby Today has learned that Gold was not the only candidate with whom taking the job, which has been vacant since June, was discussed. It’s possible someone else will be tasked with coaching the team in the interim.
"This is an exciting time for rugby in America," said Dave Hodges, the USMNT manager who was a part of the search committee that ultimately hired Gold. "It was important that we took our time in the process of hiring the Men's National Team Head Coach and arrive at the best possible candidate. We believe that in Gary Gold, we have a coach who brings the highest level of international and professional coaching experience to the Men's senior program."
Gold’s international coaching experience has been with his native South Africa. He served as an assistant for the Springboks during their 2009 series against the British & Irish Lions, which South Africa won, 2-1, and the 2011 World Cup, in which they went 4-0 in pool play before being bounced by Australia, 11-9, in the quarterfinals.
Gold was hired by Worcester in January, when the club was fighting to avoid relegation – he’d helped Newcastle avoid the same doom in 2012. He steered the Warriors to an 11th-place finish last season, as they escaped being dropped by a single slot in the standings. This year, they are 0-5 and alone at the bottom of the table.
Prior to heading Worcester, he served as the head coach and director of rugby for the Natal Sharks of Super Rugby. The year prior to Gold’s takeover, the Sharks finished atop the South African Conference in 2014, bowing out in the Super Rugby semifinals. In 2015, his first year at the helm, they finished 11th overall and missed the postseason. In his second and final year, the Sharks finished eighth overall before getting blown out, 41-0, in the quarterfinals. After the season he stepped down, saying he wanted to spend more time with family.
Gold’s next job would be Worcester, but he spent time with Bath prior to coaching the Sharks, and that stint ended unceremoniously. He led Bath first as head coach, but was then moved to director of rugby when Mike Ford (the same Mike Ford originally tabbed to lead the apparently now-defunct effort to put a Major League Rugby team in Dallas) was brought in to do the coaching. Gold and the club reportedly had irreconcilable differences that led to his ouster, despite the team being in third-place at the time.