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The critics point to the fact that Belmont Shore has won three of the last four national club championships. Old Puget Sound Beach has also won a title (2010), and been a major contender, as have the Denver Barbarians, Chicago Lions (champions in 2007), Old Blue out of New York, and OMBAC.
If you judge the best clubs by the last ten years, and measure only top four finishes, the top team is the Denver Barbarians, with seven, followed by Belmont Shore, with five. No other team has more than three (five teams have that many).
So why did USA Rugby pick New York (whose Old Blue club has three of those top-four finishes) and San Francisco (whose SFGG club has two)?
According to USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville, Premiership Rugby in the UK,
which is running the event, wanted to invited two city-based teams. They
didn’t want to invite a club per se.
“We also wanted to make sure the teams were competitive, so the Eagles full-time players will be divided into two and play with some of the top recruits in those cities we have been looking at,” said Melville.
The tournament organizers did not want academy players to academies involved. They wanted recognizable cities, and recognizable players.
“Our club teams would not be strong enough on their own, so it’s a hybrid solution in year one,” said Melville.
Still, it could easily be argued that Denver and Los Angeles could be the cities instead of San Francisco and New York.
What Melville didn’t say but seems apparent in this scenario is that there are several organizations miffed at not being part of the Olympic Development Program. Certainly the Denver Barbarians are nonplussed at the fact that Glendale (no club 7s record to speak of) gets the Olympic Development moniker, while the Barbarians do not. While there are ODP programs in Seattle, San Diego, Long Beach, and Columbus, Ohio there is not one in San Francisco.
So perhaps sending a San Francisco team to the Club World Championships is in part a bone to an overlooked region.
The same could be said of New York, except that Sean Horan and Steve Lewis have now started the Northeast Olympic Development Academy. Having jumped in a little late, New York, also, gets that bone.
It’s clear Melville made an executive decision (that would be the “E” in his job title), and did so based on what the Tournament wanted.
But Melville said things will change in Year Two of the World Championship. Could it be teams will compete to get there?
Former USA 7s team captain Jone Naqica will coach the San Francisco team,
certainly with help, and with plenty of talent not only from SFGG and the
USA team, but from area colleges – CRC almost-MVP Danny Barrett will be an
“We’re excited,” Naqica told RUGBYMag.com.
Northeast ODA Director Sean Horan made no apology for his team’s inclusion.
“Obviously this is a tremendous honor for the Academy in representing USA Rugby and New York in this inaugural event at the home of rugby. This is precisely the type of opportunity for which the Academy was formed, to present young players in the Northeast with a chance to compete against top-class opposition and showcase their talents in their bid to make the USA national team.”