You are here
The inaugural Elite City 7s was completed on the weekend, with Serevi-powered Seattle beating also Serevi-powered San Diego in the final to win its way into the World Club 7s in August. The tournament was the first of its kind, and the jury’s still out on what to think of it.
One bone of contention has been the usage of Olympic Training Center contracted players. Seattle and San Diego fielded contracted players, Seattle just the one in Andrew Durutalo and San Diego many more, but several coaches were under the impression an agreement to not use OTC players was in effect.
“In one of the first calls, we basically asked, was Richie Walker just going to get OTC guys, or was he going to have to go out and do what the rest of us were doing and find a team?,” said Philadelphia coach Chris Ryan. “We were told those guys were going to be in rest periods, and would not be on the team. There’s five or six guys that were on that call that would tell you the same thing.”
USA Rugby’s club director and one of the main organizers of the event, Jim Snyder, admitted there had been some miscommunication, but maintains coaches were never explicitly told to not use contracted players.
“We understand the issue that created for some of the other teams, and the questions around competitive distribution that it created,” said Snyder.
“But with the country being the size that it is and with the travel costs associated with those guys, we ultimately had to come around and say there’s a pool of guys that are in one region, and they can be eligible to play in that region. If a team has the ability and the resources to structure their team to be enticing enough to lure some of those guys away and have them play for their City, then that competition they’re welcome to.”
Geographical regions were drawn around each of the teams, and at least half of each roster had to be filled with people within the home region.
“At the end of the day it was about getting the best 144 players at a single tournament, so that those guys that aren’t in residency could prove that they should be,” Snyder said.
It was also about naming the second American team to get a free trip to play in the World Club 7s at famous Twickenham.
“We went in with the carrot being the trip to London, and none of us wanted to waste all our time and energy if somebody was going to get 1-12 on his roster being better players than we had, and with no work. It just didn’t seem right,” said Ryan.
“The goal was changed midway through, and I don’t think all of us were told the goal was changed midway through, to become more of a developmental thing and a way to play some of the best rugby we possibly could. I think we all would have agreed to that in the beginning if there wasn’t a trip to London at the end of it.”
“The best way that I can put it when we were crafting this thing is that it was half high performance selection tool, slash playing environment for the guys that are of that caliber to start to bring back a representative 7s that was meaningful, and the other half was made-for-TV movie,” said Snyder.
“We came up with new team brands and new team logos, and they’re going to London on this big stage to be televised, so it was about 50/50, but it was designed for both of those purposes. We thought we could kill both of those birds with one stone, and I think largely we did.”
The tournament was just in its first year and has a ways to go – some teams struggled to get all the players they wanted as they were skeptical of the worth of playing in the event, the web stream was inconsistent, and obviously the player eligibility guidelines need to be worked out and transparent. Ultimately, though, 12 teams got the chance to play for a pretty cool prize in front of the National Team coach.