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From the Editor's Desk - July 2016

PRO Rugby Overview from UK Perspective; Interview with Seattle Coach Justin Fitzpatrick; Rugby Player from Ottawa Dies in US Tournament


posted July 30 2016

PRO Rugby Overview from The Guardian

On Sunday afternoon in Obetz, just outside Columbus, the Ohio Aviators will play the Denver Stampede. The winners – with a bonus point, in Ohio’s case – will be the first PRO Rugby champions.

The five-team league has no championship game. Best over 12 rounds wins. It just happens that come the final weekend of the league’s first season, these two teams have not sorted out who that is.

“Couldn’t have planned it any better,” said Steve Lewis, the fledgling organisation’s director of rugby, over breakfast on the Upper West Side. “Were it plannable, of course. It’s an interesting symmetry: our first game was Ohio at Denver [in the snow in April] and that was a tight finish, the only game we’ve had that went into extra time, which was one of our innovations. So this is ideal: final game of the year, all the marbles. It sets it up nicely.”

Lewis is an ebullient Scot whose ebullience has not been entirely rubbed off by nine months jetting to and fro in sole service of America’s first pro league. Like league owner Doug Schoninger, he works out of New York City. The five teams are in the middle and west – Ohio, Denver, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco.

Lewis has reason to smile, warily as much as wearily. Crowds have been satisfactory if small; press coverage positive if slightly bemused; politics, in a rugby landscape that manages to be scattered and congested at once, manageable if predictably intense. Denver, for example, moved home mid-season, from the Glendale Raptors’ rugby-built Infinity Park to Ciber Field, a college soccer stadium. Words were exchanged. The franchise survived and so did the league.

Season one of Schoninger’s epic, then, is almost in the can. A review will follow in September, followed by planning for season two. Expansion is on the cards: Canada, maybe. The east coast, possibly.

“You want to pair people up from a rivalry perspective and a travel perspective,” Lewis said. “So Chicago for Columbus, Boston for New York. That in my opinion would be ideal, but we may not find the venues.”

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Seattle Coach Justin Fitzpatrick on American Journey from Pundit Arena

Justin Fitzpatrick’s time in rugby has seen him travel all over the world. Taking in rugby across Europe with London Irish, Ulster and Castres during his playing days, as well as touring the globe as he amassed his 26 Ireland caps, Fitzpatrick recently took the decision to cross the Atlantic to take up the Director of Rugby position with US club Seattle Saracens.

“I was looking for a change to be honest with you, both professionally and personally. The opportunity came through one of my old team mates Kevin Flynn who I had played at London Irish with. He had emigrated out to the States and is now the President of Seattle Saracens. The club were in the market for a coach and they have been and continue to be building something very exciting over here, it just fitted. I haven’t looked back; it’s been a great experience for me.”

Since Fitzpatrick took on the position in July 2013, he has guided the club into the top tier of domestic rugby in the region: the Canadian Direct Insurance Premier League. Given Seattle’s geographical proximity to Canada, it made sense for the club to play against Canada’s top teams.

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Rugby player from Ottawa dies in U.S. tournament from CBC

A Canadian rugby player has collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack at a tournament in the Adirondack Mountains.

Officials tell the Adirondack Daily Enterprise that Gerhart Viet, originally from Ottawa but now living in Florida, collapsed late Friday morning during a match at the 43rd annual Can-Am Rugby Tournament in Saranac Lake.

Viet, who was in his 50s, was a member of a team from Ottawa. Teammate Pat Byrne said Viet had just walked off the field complaining that his teammates weren't playing hard enough and then dropped to the ground.

The Bytown Blues rugby club released a statement on Friday lamenting the loss of Viet, who they called "a true rugby hero."

"Tragically our club lost a legend earlier today. Life member Gerry Viet passed away suddenly this morning after a match in Saranac Lake. Many of our members were there with Gerry and are making arrangements. More detailed information will be provided at a later date," the club posted on their website.

"Gerry 'Animal' Viet will be greatly missed. He was a true rugby hero and a good, good man," they said.

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