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Rugby Today has confirmed that USA Rugby struck a deal with the Aviva Premiership which will see the availability of several Eagles for three November rankings tests traded for their availability in the Nov. 1st match with the All Blacks. The New Zealand game falls outside the designated November test window, during which clubs have to make their players available for international call-ups, per the International Rugby Board’s Regulation 9.

Several top-line Eagles play professionally in the Premiership, including Cam Dolan (Northampton), Eric Fry (Newcastle), Hayden Smith (Saracens), Chris Wyles (Saracens), Samu Manoa (Northampton) and Blaine Scully (Leicester). In order to make them available for the All Blacks contest, which is expected to sell out and be a commercial win, but most likely an on-field loss, USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville negotiated an agreement that will see them unavailable for the Nov. 8 match with Romania, Nov. 15 meeting with Tonga and Nov. 22 Fiji game.

The deal was made without the consultation or consent of Eagles head coach Mike Tolkin, his coaching staff or the players in question. It was also made without the OK from the IRB, which is said to be upset with the deal, as it goes against the spirit of Regulation 9 – in place to protect players’ ability to play for their countries in designated competitions and times of the year, as well as the profitablity of international rugby.

Rugby Today contacted Nigel Melville for this story, but he declined to comment. It’s possible the IRB could intervene and force the availability of the USA’s Premiership players for the November tests, but some close to the situation aren’t optimistic it will.

With the All Black game expected to draw a crowd that could triple the current record for a domestic test match, a coveted time slot on network television, and a great opportunity for media exposure, it’s easy to speculate why USA Rugby was desperate to put its best foot forward for the game.

However, the loss of a quarter of the Eagles’ potential starting lineup for three full rankings tests is a stiff price to pay. With only a finite amount of games and less than 12 months to prepare for the World Cup, the Eagles need as much assembly time as they can get with their full team.    

Comments

Wow...not much to say...
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This smells of desperation. Part of the deal with the NZRU must have been to have the USA's best players on the field and this is a scramble on Melville's part to cover his bases. However, watching the USA Selects, which is essentially a domestic Eagles squad, get picked apart by Argentina A team, it looks like we need all the help we can get...
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Playing Devil's Advocate here, what happens if we get crushed by New Zealand and then lose consecutive matches to Romania, Tonga and Fiji? Since this decision was allegedly made by Nigel and Nigel alone, can any of the coaching staff be held responsible? Nigel's remit is to develop the game here in the US - and that includes growing interest at the high school and younger level. I'm not sure how -- hypothetically -- setting the squad up to win 2 games at the senior level in 2014 instills much excitement for the game. I feel for the guys on the roster and wish them a lot of success; It just doesn't seem to me that the long-term and short-term plans coming out of Boulder are in sync.
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One would think that this would have been squared away long ago. I don't see a huge issue with putting the best squad out for the AB match and then having a tour that bloods a lot of new players - in and of itself in the lead up to a WC year it is a good idea to see if there are any gems out there that can get pulled into the Sr. squad. If I recall correctly there are a lot of games for the Eagles next year leading up to the WC so the most Sr. players missing this tour is not in and of itself a bad thing but the apparent lack of communication is a huge problem. As it stands even with out best players on the tour it is not likely the Eagles would beat Tonga or Fiji; Romania being the one game the US could reasonably expect to win. Would losing that too while giving new players valuable test level experience be a bad thing? I say no. But again - it all has to be communicated and discussed.
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Good Work Pat. I would not expect much from Nigel, by way of a press release, his DNA only allows for passive aggressive and non confrontation. Be a big time investigative journalist and bring the hammer.
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this is hardly a shock. dysfunction is the normal way of doing biz at usar.
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Just for the record... Blaine Scully plays for Leicester Tigers not Northampton Saints!!
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I have no problem at all with Melville making this deal with the Premiership clubs. This is the most important game in US rugby history and all stops needed to be pulled out in order for us to front the best team. Let’s face reality – this team is going nowhere in RWC2015 and will more than likely come away winless unless they can get by Japan. Far more significant to me is that Todd Clever is likely to captain the Eagles against the AB’s (and in RWC2015) when he cannot even get off the pine for his crappy club team in Japan while his Eagles teammates that this deal has been negotiated for are doing the hard graft in Europe. This has to change and if Tolkin has any stones he will award the captaincy to a player that matters ASAP.
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I think Clever has earned the right to captain the Eagles against Japan. The only Aviva players seeing regular time are Wyles, Scully and Manoa. The other three are seeing A level matches - if that. Hopefully. With all that said the issue is not playing our best players - we should - it's in front of a huge crowd and the fall tour can be used to blood players. It's the manner which it is being handled. Shouldn't this have been item number one on the to do list after the match was announced. And is Melville overstepping his responsibilities by doing this by fiat? That is the issue ... not that the Eagles are going to field the strongest players possible. Don't the players have the right to know earlier rather than later ... doesn't the coach get to have some input or at least be informed?
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Good, Good deal of Melville! Better be not ridiculous in Chicago. Who (unfortunately) cares about games vs Tonga or Romania. But in Chicago, most important game of our sport in the US, better have Samu Manoa, Chris Wyles, Blaine Scully and maybe Takudzwa Ngwenya...
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It's not the fact that Melville is choosing to have the best team available at the All Blacks game at the expense of the tour that matters - it's the process that brought this about that matters. Melville shouldn't be dealing with this like he was the dictator and what he says goes. I am sure the IRB is not amused. And given that we are three weeks out and this is all just coming to light one has to ask .... what the hell took so long? The issues regarding player release existed the day the match was announced. It has been commentated on and written about. Months ago. Should have been settled months ago. Maybe it was but that does not excuse the apparent lack of communication. I'm happy to know the best players are going to be in Chicago too - they should be. That doesn't mean the way it came about was right ...
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you're right but USA Rugby is not yet a big company. Sure it could have been anticipated. But with all this guys + Scott Lavalla, Eagles shouldn't be trounced...80-0.
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Rankings tests vs. Romania, Tonga and Fiji mean diddly-squat in the grand scheme of things, as does preparation for RWC2015. What matters is that the USAvABs test match is the biggest rugby event to ever take place in the US and Nigel Melville should be commended for pulling this off AND for arranging to field the Eagles best professional players to play in it. This game is going to be a massive step forward for USA rugby regardless of team performance or score. Why? Because 60,000 bums on seats will open a lot of eyes at IRB HQ that’s why. Look for RWC2023 to be played in the good ole US of A and you can attribute that directly to this test match in Chicago. So gripe all you want about consultations with coaches and loss of assembly time for a meaningless appearance at a World Cup that we will be blown of the water in and get your eyes on the big picture. That’s what CEO’s are paid to do.
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Well, I've thought about this, and I understand both sides (Premiership and USA). I am happy to have to have the Eagles make a few sacrifices for this match. My question is if 3 matches is a bit much. While the match is outside the "regular window", it's almost a technicality. England players are assembling the week of the 26th of Oct for their Nov 8 match. I'm not sure when they arrive, but they played this last weekend. So for what turns out to be less than an extra week away (one match for the clubs) compared to English call-ups, they lose 3 matches? I think maybe one match less off the end would have been better - we could have used that to blood some new players, and should have still been palatable to the Premiership (and other leagues)...And I don't know how many of them would have wanted to be publicly called out for being asses about it had it come to that either - players want a club that will help them with their overall careers, nto just their club play...
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