Best Supporter Pictures win free tickets to USA v Chile Rugby Match

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Article by Stephen Sheehan, FRU PR and Content Manager

USA Rugby returns to Florida for the first time since 2009 when the Eagles take on Chile at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 20. The match will be the third of the Americas Rugby Championship, which also features Argentina, Canada, Brazil and Uruguay.

The newly formed competition provides five additional rankings test matches per year—a potential boon for a U.S. team that just hired a new head coach in former All Blacks skipper John Mitchell.

Mitchell takes over for Mike Tolkin, who certainly played a pivotal role in helping increase the popularity of rugby in the United States. However, few candidates brought as much credibility as Mitchell, who made six appearances with the All Blacks while also suiting up for 134 matches for Waikato.

The Fort Lauderdale test match will be a rare opportunity for South Florida fans to take in some elite-level rugby. While the annual Ruggerfest tournament also takes place that weekend, there’s no comparison to seeing international stars in full-fledged action.

The last time the Eagles traveled to the Sunshine State, then-captain Todd Clever scored two tries, with Louis Stanfill and Kevin Swiryn also scoring. While the squad has changed significantly since then, there will be no shortage of star power, as notable names like Titi Lamositele, Luke Hume, and Clever—who recently re-joined the team—are expected to suit up against Chile.

USA and Chile will kick off at 6 p.m. inside Lockhart Stadium, which is currently the home of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the North American Soccer League. With a capacity of more than 20,000, the Eagles should have no shortage of support later this month.

The Florida Rugby Union put out some cash to encourage a huge turnout for the event, offering a cash prize of $500 and an autographed Eagles jersey to the club with the most ticket sales, which was won by Fort Lauderdale. The Wellington Wizards are also taking home an autographed jersey for their club, which is part of the FYRU.

The FRU is now offering 2 sets of reserved tickets to the top USA supporters picture and the top Chile supporters picture that are posted to the Union facebook page. A picture in your team’s home jersey will work, or get creative. The picture with the top facebook votes by Sunday the 14th at midnight will each take home a pair of tickets (one for a USA pic, one for a Chile pic). Pictures need to be posted to the GU facebook page as a comment on the thread for this post. https://www.facebook.com/FloridaRugby and tagged #USAvCHI #ARC2016 #floridarugbygu #ftlauderdale in order to win. Interested in double dipping? Post to your instagram and we’ll count the likes there, too, as long as your profile isn’t private.

Florida 7s Development Camps

By Stephen Sheehan, FRU PR and Content Manager

When it comes to rugby in the United States, there isn’t a bigger event than the Las Vegas Invitational. North America’s largest rugby tournament takes place right alongside the USA Sevens invitational rugby tournament that features domestic stars like Carlin Isles and Perry Baker as well as international legends like New Zealand’s D.J. Forbes, England’s Tom Mitchell and South Africa’s Cecil Afrika.

While many established stars will be on display, Vegas is also a place where aspiring ruggers can catch the eye of national team scouts and coaches. It’s for that reason that Ronnie Suarez, Steve Braunstein, Evan Haigh and the rest of the coaches, volunteers and staff from the Florida Rugby Union have collaborated to put together the best men’s and women’s squads to represent The Sunshine State in March.

After a competitive showing at last year’s event where they took home wins over Arizona Olympic Development Academy and Utah ODA, the coaches went back to the drawing board to formulate a plan that addressed the team’s weaknesses, which mostly surrounded the art form of passing. So far, the results are positive.

“After our LVI review of last year, we looked as what we needed to do and we decided to really push the fundamentals individually to each club team through the players involved in the program,” said Suarez. “The proof was in the past summer 7’s, as not only was it the best it had been in a long time but also the teams primarily consisted of two or three players involved in the FRU 7’s RDA. Those players coming back had not only improved individually but had also brought in other teammates who had developed their skills as well.”

Unlike last year where getting consistent numbers at the squad’s training sessions in Sebastian were a struggle, the turnout has been terrific for both the men’s and women’s sides this year. At a recent training session earlier this month, 41 men and 30 women battled muddy pitches and competed hard for coveted spots on their respective teams.

“The men’s pool has grown, which is making selections difficult,” said Braunstein, the FRU 7’s director. “It’s a nice problem to have one side but trying to make sure we make the right picks is stressful. The women’s pool is surprisingly large for this first year and the same challenge is being presented.”

The overall player pool includes representatives from 15 club teams as well as two Rugby League teams. On the men’s side, seven players have already been selected, including Damian Clemente (Miami RFC), Jonathan Halter (Gainesville), Jeffrey ‘Alaska’ Herron (Tampa Krewe) and Mateo Velazquez (Florida Internation University). Suarez has also been impressed by Jude Kermundu (Naples), Matt Coore (Indian River) and Hank May (Gainesville), who have made great strides over the past year.

On the women’s side, Haigh, Sandi Felke and Mark Bongo have been tasked with putting together the FRU’s first LVI women’s squad—a task that’s much easier said than done. Luckily, the numbers have continually improved at the Sebastian training sessions and there is a ton of optimism surrounding the program.

Though the Sunshine State doesn’t receive as much national recognition as it may deserve, the number of Florida natives who came up through the FRU 7’s program may change that. The brightest star is obviously national team speedster Perry Baker, but he’s not the only name worth mentioning. Kris Thomas has taken off as a member of the women’s national 7’s team, Peter Malcolm (Taravella High School/Wheeling Jesuit University) is making waves on the USA Falcons squad and Ashaunte Stroman (FIU) is playing both 15’s and 7’s for the USA Collegiate All-American squad.

Dana Meschisi (Florida State University), Victoria Folayan (Poinciana High School), Jessica Wooden (University of Florida) and Kim Semiglia (Weston) are all in the national mix at camps and training squads.

For both the men’s and women’s FRU 7’s teams, Vegas represents the chance to not only further individual interests but the state’s as a whole. As Florida rugby gains more attention on a national scale, the opportunities for scholarships, pro contracts and recruiting will only increase. With only one more training session in February, the competition for a roster spot is as tight as ever as the race to Vegas inches closer.

Summer 7s Tournament Application

At the summer AGM, a committee was formed to generate a uniform tournament application and guidelines for tournament hosts. Thank you to those that helped, particularly Jeff Herron from Tampa Krewe. The summer 7s will be our first time rolling out the new application and guideline process. For those interested in hosting a summer 7s tournament, February 5 will be the first deadline for applications hosting tournaments. On Feb 12, a second application cycle will open for dates and venues that have not yet been selected and will close February 19. After that applications will be considered on a rolling basis.  Information regarding the summer 7s season and application can be found here:

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Don’t forget that your team can win $500 for top sales to the USA v Chile Match in Fort Lauderdale February 20.

Group Ticket Competition

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The Florida Rugby Union is excited to announce the USA Eagles vs. Chile Group Ticket Competition. The Club who purchases the most tickets from Thursday January 21st until midnight February 3rd will win $500 and a signed USA Eagles Jersey.  

The competition is open to both group and individual ticket sales. When purchasing the tickets please indicate which club you are affiliated with. Only tickets purchased with the club affiliation selected will be used as a part of this competition.

  • Winners from this competition will be announced on Thursday February 4th at 4pm.
  • Click Here to buy your tickets now

Group Tickets

If you are interested in purchasing 20 or more tickets; USA Rugby is running a group discount for these tickets. Simply enter  “rugbygroup” in the promotional code box to bring up the option of purchasing group tickets. All discounted ticket prices are listed below.

Ticket Prices

Ticket Type Buying 1 to 19 Tickets Buying 20+ Tickets
Center Field Reserved $45 $43
Sideline General Admission $30 $27
Tryline General Admission $20 $15

BUY NOW 
About the Test Match

The inaugural Americas Rugby Championship (ARC) is coming to Ft Lauderdale on Saturday February 20th. The ARC features six of North and South America’s top-ranked International Rugby Union teams. The United States’ Men’s National Team, known as the Eagles, will play their first Test Match in Florida since 2008.

The Eagles will be playing Chile at 6pm at Lockhart Stadium, this match will be the last home game in the US for the Eagles before they head to South America to play their return matches. The FRU is really excited about this match and we would love to see more international teams playing right here in our home state for the future to come.  We would like for the Eagles to return to Florida soon, so let’s show USA Rugby what an amazing, supportive rugby community we have.

Make a Weekend out of it

Join USA Rugby Trust and Florida Youth Rugby Union for a game of golf while supporting the greatest sport in America! All proceeds from this event will directly support programs for both organizations.  

Location: Palm Aire Country Club

Pompano Beach, Florida

Date: Friday, February 19th

Time: 8am Shotgun start

Sign up Now – https://cms.mybernard.com/USARugby/usa-chile-charity-golf-tournament.aspx

 

Directions for Buying Tickets

  1. Go to – https://tickets.completeticketsolutions.com/RUGBY/Online/default.asp
  2. Select “Buy”
  3. Select Your Ticket quantities. If you want 20 or more enter “rugbygroup” in the promotional code box
  4. Select Continue
  5. Check if your tickets are correct then select continue
  6. Create an account or login with an existing account
  7. Select your Delivery information
  8. Complete your Billing Information — Please make sure you select your club affiliation in bottom left corner.

Women’s HPP 15s Camp

A Florida High Performance Player camp is being hosted this Sunday  January 17th at Eckerd College. This camp is open to any College/Senior Women players serious about taking their game to the next level.  The camp will be run by Jason Schiessle and is to chose/prepare a team to play Life University in Orlando on February 14th.

Location: Eckerd College – 4200 54th Ave S, St Petersburg, FL 33711 – Kappa Field follow the entrance road to the right and drive all the way to the back if the campus

Time – 9:30am-3pm

If interested please fill out player information on this Google Doc   https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1mwa9wsUQMc-Uk3EAO-2sh7VNkIBXlK8Yw8YIA1fwJXo/edit#gid=0&vpid=A1

Ronnie Suarez: A Bright Coaching Star in the Sunshine State

By Stephen Sheehan, FRU PR and Content Manager

A great coach can turn an ordinary team into something special. And in the case of Ronnie Suarez, that’s exactly what he’s doing across the state of Florida.

Whether he is on the sidelines as the head coach of the Florida International University men’s rugby club or cultivating talent as the head coach of the Florida Rugby Union High Performance Sevens team, Suarez’s dedication and passion for the game has led to impressive results.

The well-traveled former Marine grew up around the game, as his aunt played for the Old Blue women’s team in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. Suarez’s playing career included stops with North County Gurkhas and OMBAC, with his first official action coming in 1995 in Fremantle, Australia as a member of the Palmyra RFC. After moving to Miami in 1998, Suarez began playing for Miami RFC until he decided to make the natural transition from player to coach.

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Ronnie Suarez in coach mode
A self-described technical thinker who hails from a family full of successful sports coaches, Suarez credits both his mother and his military experience as major influences on his approach to coaching the often-misunderstood game of rugby.

“The discipline and hard work ethic is definitely my mom’s doing,” he said. “She was a tough, single mother who raised her kids to be the same way. The Marine corps gave me my never say die, never less than 100 percent respect and honor attitude.”

Of course, coaching soccer or baseball is one thing, but coaching rugby is an entirely different animal. Luckily, Suarez has been able to pick the brains of some of the top coaches around the globe to help shape his philosophies.

“I went to New Zealand and spent 10 days with City RFC in Whangarei watching their coaches and how they taught the players more than they coached. It really changed my thought process on how to coach the game,” Suarez explained. “There are a lot of coaches that I look up to and have helped shape me as well like Pierre Villepreux and Mike Luke.”

Suarez also credits Boca RFC coach Frank Tito as a major influence and says he could not have done a lot without his mentor’s guidance.

As a man who wears many hats, Suarez is intimately familiar with the challenges of coaching for both FIU and the FRU High Performance Sevens team. Interestingly, the challenges differ quite a bit between the two programs.

“In my current setup as head coach of the FRU Sevens, my major challenge is getting coaches behind the program and encouraging their players to try it out,” Suarez said. “With FIU, changing the perception of rugby to administrators who have no idea about the sport is pretty hard. Our own president and athletic department didn’t know FIU Rugby existed.”

Despite the widespread challenges of culture, administration, attitudes toward the sport and financial support, Suarez continues to charge ahead and establish himself as one of the most successful and influential members of the Florida rugby community. He recently led FIU to an undefeated season that culminated in a thrilling victory at the SIRC Championship that may finally put FIU Rugby on the national radar.

“Ronnie is a competitive and laser-focused coach that has been able to assemble a great team by knowing his players’ strengths and weaknesses,” said FIU senior standout Jose Laphitzondo. “Under him, the team had the mission to make it to nationals. The team understood that under a common objective every tackle, sprint and burpee had a purpose so the team pushed each other towards that goal.”

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Ronnie Suarez with the FIU Men’s team
However, it’s Suarez’s work with the FRU HP Sevens program that has a potentially more profound effect. With rugby sevens gaining popularity based on the success of the U.S. Eagles, there’s a great opportunity for the game to catch on and attract more attention from television networks and crossover athletes.

For Suarez, the FRU HP Sevens program is the perfect gateway for the state’s top rugby athletes to get a chance to represent their country on an international stage. One of Suarez’s goals is to get the Florida HP Sevens program recognized as an Olympic Development Academy, which would give every player in the state the opportunity to get a chance to be chosen for the USA Eagles Olympic Pathway.

“Growing our program now and getting it recognized is something we are in the process of doing, but participation numbers are what really make and break us, so getting those numbers up is key.”

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Ronnie Suarez advising Jacksonville Women’s player
Additionally, Suarez’s long list of goals includes gaining varsity status for both the men’s and women’s rugby teams at FIU as well as getting in the elite coaches group for sevens in the U.S.

As someone who never settles for less than perfection, Suarez certainly isn’t someone you want to bet against. No matter if he’s running an extra conditioning session with his FIU team or preparing to take on Mexico with the FRU HP Sevens squad, Suarez is a man whose intense preparation and selfless dedication will help grow the game of rugby not only in Florida but across the United States.

“If the clubs, officers and players of Florida ask themselves ‘How to help grow the game?’ and follow through with it, we will see Florida rugby rise to where it should have been a long time ago. But it starts with that question: How may we help grow the game?”

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Ronnie Suarez with 2015 FRU HP Sevens Squad

Match Day Procedures & Reporting

Pre-Match Steps
  • Step 1 – Print out current USA Rugby Online Roster – Click Here to find your online roster – http://usarugby.org/rosters
  • Step 2 – Highlight your match day 23 Man team and put “FR” indicate your front row eligible players.
  • Step 3 – All participating players in the match must complete a match day Photo ID Check. Your match day referee will check every player’s photo ID’s verses the name on the USA Rugby Roster. Players without an ID present can show a copy (paper and electronic) of their Photo ID. If club is found guilty of playing an un-registered player, the game could be ruled as a forfeit.
In-Match Steps
Post Match Steps
Please note, we longer require clubs to keep photo rosters nor do we require you submit a copy of your paper roster via email. We have moved to a completely online system. Please also note we highly  recommend that you keep you paper rosters on file as well.
Orange Cup Rules 
  • Please see this document for complete rules for the Orange Cup
  • The keys are: All players must be registered with USAR. They do not have to be registered for that club therefor college and guest players can play in the Orange Cup without transferring their CIPP. — No more 5 starting 1st team players can play in the Orange Cup. The match can and should still be played the result is just an automatic win to the compliant team.

Florida Men’s Division 2 – Week 1 Preview

The 2015/16 Florida Men’s Club Season begins this weekend with four USA Rugby Division 2 matches. After a hugely successful Florida Cup Pre-Season tournament, all 8 Men’s Division Two teams are ready begin matrix season this weekend.

Florida Cup Champions Naples head to Boca Raton which on paper appears to be the Match of the Round. Naples were dominant throughout the Florida Cup and put on counter attacking show in Sarasota during the finals. Boca Raton are team that can launch attacks from all over the park. Visiting teams must be at their absolute best to beat Boca at Don Estridge, this should be a great match.

Ft Lauderdale host Miami RFC in rematch of the 2014 State Championship. Both Ft Lauderdale and Miami have gone through some changes since then. Ft Lauderdale has pipeline of talent and always expect to challenge for the title. Miami RFC lead by player Coach Leon Wilson are will be ready and raring to go for the regular season.

2015 State Champions the Orlando Griffins host the Miami Tridents in the Nations Tourist Capital. Orlando are looking prove that 2015 was not flash in pan and that they are ready to play league play after a tough Florida Cup. Miami Tridents, took Naples to wire in the Florida Cup Semi-Final and have built highly skilled team ready to challenge for 2016 State Title. There is no better way to see if they have what takes when they play the reigning State Champions.

Lastly, Tampa are travelling Jacksonville for what looks be to an evenly matched game. Tampa are always ready for the regular season to begin. They make the trip north to Jacksonville on the back of solid Florida Cup form within the tough Gulf Coast Division. Jacksonville in 2015 were a powerhouse team they always face the toughest travel schedule and 2015/16 they will look to set Florida alight with a dominant start at home.

 

Why Rugby?

Steve Braunstein

There are many reasons, of course, but I would like to touch on one in particular today and it will hopefully summarize the camaraderie of rugby throughout the world that drives the passion for the sport we love.

In 2003 England had a very good squad headed to the Cup, with the kicking of Jonny Wilkinson sure to propel them to the final.  As we all know, that did happen and that is where the story begins.

A gentleman from jolly old England was in a bit of a conundrum.  His girlfriend’s family was having a family reunion of historic proportions over in the colonies – more specifically the Ritz Carlton in Naples, FL – during the World Cup Finals!  What’s a gent to do?

Well, in the world of 2003 that gent jumps on the world wide web and finds a person affiliated with the local rugby club, our own Naples Hammerheads.  Mission accomplished when he locates our one and only Raelyn Barlow, who at that time was either President or VP of the men’s rugby club.  It’s been some years and a few blows to the head, so you have to forgive my fuzziness on those details.

After contacting the lovely Ms. Raelyn he inquired where he might be able to watch said final if England was fortunate enough to appear.  She told him that the English Pub in Naples would be his best option since they were the only place in SWFL showing rugby at that time.  (We’ve come a long way baby!)

England did make the final and happily, the Naples Pub is only a few miles away from the Ritz Carlton.  Only one issue.  The match is at 4:00 AM and the English Pub will not be open at that time.  This is where I enter the story.  In a panic he calls Raelyn and asks if there is any other way to watch the game?  She then tells him “Well, my friend Steve is having people over and I don’t think he would mind if you watch there.”  He said “Great.  What is the address I’ll grab a cab”.

Folks, in 2003 not only was there no Uber but there were also no cabs running at 3:30 AM in Naples FL.  In fine rugby form Raelyn said “No worries! I’ll come pick you and your girlfriend up”.  Which she promptly did at 3:30 AM and deposited him at my house, on my couch, next to an awesome Australian lad Blair Kirby who was also quite excited that his team was playing that morning.  I do have to say that Blair was not quite as happy as the rest of us of having this gent around for the match.

So for the next 2 hours he and his girlfriend drank beers with us and cheered the fabulous rugby played in the 2003 Rugby World Cup.  He did not know a soul there and I did not talk to him before or since he walked out with a humongous smile on his face at 6:30 that morning.  But, he was able to share a wonderful moment across the pond with people who loved rugby as much as he did, even though they might not have been around it as long.  Raelyn, of course, then charioted them back to their hotel in fine rugby fashion.

So many things about that 24 hours that I will personally remember forever ( I didn’t even go into the special Comcast box I got that day, which caused a panic attack of historic proportions by refusing to work.  Thank goodness another rugger by the name of Keith Warde drove 20 miles at 12 midnight to save the day!) But I do like to think that during the World Cup, or when someone asks him to tell one of his rugby stories, that this night, where it was all about the rugby – where the who, where and when didn’t matter – comes to his mind as it does mine.

Til next time folks.  Keep on rucking,
Steve Braunstein