Coaching Updates – January 2023

USA Rugby Announces Interim Coaches for Men’s & Women’s XVs: Men’s XVs Coach and GM High Performance, Scott Lawrence, Has a Plan

USA Rugby announced on January 5th the appointment of two interim coaches while their high performance review continues. Neither the men’s or women’s XVs team met expectations so the contracts of the head coaches were not renewed and a high performance review initiated.

The interim men’s XVs coach is Scott Lawrence and he was interviewd by Goff Rugby in an article published January 6th. The article can be read here on the Goff Rugby Report. The USA Rugby media release is appended below.

Both the Canadian and American men’s XVs teams failed to make the World Cup, a devastating blow for both countries but they’ve handled it in different ways. In the US they sacked the coach and reshuffled the High Performance department. In Canada, they sacked the CEO but kept the coach and high performance director intact. It’s interesting to follow the process on both sides of the border and see how it plays out going into the 2027 world cup cycle.

In the Goff Report interview with the new interim head coach, Scott Lawrence, there’s a lot to like about his plan and a few things we’ve been pushing for years to implement north of the border. Here are some of the major points.

– Importance of collecting data and making data based decisions
“I will be hiring a data person. There’s data accumulated throughout all of USA Rugby, but not a lot has been done with it.”

– Make the plan suited to your country, don’t try to duplicate a high performance plan from a country that doesn’t fit your logistics
American rugby is a network, an entrepreneurial network, explained Lawrence.“We like pathways because they’re easy to comprehend, but they’re very Anglo-Saxon, small-country oriented. And a pathway that requires pay-to-play will always be limited in scale by how much money you pour into it. I want to look at it this way: how can I work with American coaches…”

– Leave no stone unturned in the search for talent, don’t just pick the low hanging fruit from the existing pathways
“The pathway teams … you need them,” Lawrence said. “But it’s not the be-all end-all.” “USA Rugby’s HP development cannot afford to turn its back on a player because he was overlooked by the U18s or U20s, or didn’t go to a major rugby university. They still have to keep an eye on that player and find a way to keep the player in the development circle.”

– Create a national identity, involve former national team players in mentoring and selection
“I want to reestablish our Eagles Story and our identity”. “I know when it was special. I was there. I want to bring that back. I want to bring in former Eagles to mentor the team and guide us and provide leadership.” He also wants former Eagles on a selection advisory council. It’s about involving the past and tying that in to the future—something from which everyone will benefit.

– Create a strong bond with the rugby community
Lawrence has to pick a coaching staff and support staff in HP. He needs to sit down with the players and and share the plan with all of those people. But as an American rugby player, coach, and fan, he knows there’s more to do. “I want the Rugby Community to feel connected to their Eagles,” he said.

In Canada it feels like we’re in a holding pattern, the new CEO hasn’t been visible, the head coach is likely seeing out his contract, and there hasn’t been much conversation around the High Performance review Rugby Canada did in March 2022 and how the 12 recommendations that came out of the report are being implemented.

from USA Rugby

USA Rugby today announced that USA Assistant Coaches, Scott Lawrence and Richard Ashfield have accepted the roles of interim Head Coach for the Men’s and Women’s Eagles respectively. Lawrence has also been appointed interim General Manager of Men’s 15s High Performance, with Dan Payne stepping aside.

Just before the new year, the USA Rugby Board of Directors initiated a full review of USA Rugby High Performance programs. Following the review, applications and recruitment for full-time head coaches of both programs will begin. Lawrence and Ashfield will be included in the process, while remaining in the interim roles through the first competitions of 2023. Those competitions are expected to be in March for the Women’s Eagles and late summer for the Men’s Eagles. USA Women’s Eagles Head Coach Rob Cain’s expiring contract was not immediately renewed at the end of 2022. Cain has since announced that he has elected to move on from USA Rugby and will not re-apply for the head coaching position.

USA Rugby CEO, Ross Young said on the interim appointments, “We understand and fully appreciate the turning point USA Rugby is currently navigating, whereby appointing two well-experienced individuals like Scott and Richard is a crucial next step in this rebuilding phase. As the High Performance review process continues, both Scott and Richard will help build responsibility structures and expectations for the USA head coaching roles going forward. Both will be included during candidate evaluations for the full-time positions.”

USA Men’s Eagle #364, Scott Lawrence is highly familiar with all levels of the Men’s Eagles program, first coaching the USA Men’s U20s squad to a World Trophy victory in 2012. Shifting to the collegiate game with Life University, Lawrence led the powerhouse program as Head Coach and Director of Rugby for over 15 years, later moving up into the coaching ranks with Major League Rugby. With Rugby ATL, Lawrence served as both Head Coach and General Manager, bringing his experience for leadership and program development to the Men’s senior national team and beyond. With the Men’s Eagles entering an extended Rugby World Cup window, Lawrence will similarly take on interim General Management duties, helping to organize a go-forward structure for senior national team development. Dan Payne, having stepped down from his role as GM of High Performance, will remain involved with the Men’s and Women’s Eagles programs on special projects under Lawrence.

“The American spirit is alive and well in our rugby community and the way forward to the next two Rugby World Cups lies within that community. Although this role is interim, the actions we take will be focused on the first 8 months of a 5-year World Cup cycle and we’ll stay firmly fixed on creating an unbroken chain from past to present, to the next great Eagles who will move us toward 2027 and beyond. I’m looking forward to working closely with Kyle Sumison, Brendan Keane, and Dan Payne among others to bring our pathways into alignment over the identity of our Men’s XVs national teams, while developing a methodology to deliver it.”

Richard Ashfield assumes the interim role after multiple years as Assistant Coach with the Women’s Eagles, first joining the program in 2013. Well established in the Collegiate and Senior Club game, Ashfield helped Stanford and Beantown RFC of the Women’s Premier League to multiple playoff appearances over the last decade. A player development expert, Ashfield takes the reins from former Head Coach Rob Cain with Women’s Eagles camps and test matches expected this March. With strong relationships amongst the player and coaching ranks during his tenure, Ashfield will lean in fast as the 2023 season immediately gets underway. More information on upcoming competitions will be communicated when confirmed.

Ashfield said on his appointment, “First of all, I would like to thank Stanford Rugby for their continued support in allowing me to step into this role. I’m excited to support the program through this transition and kick off preparations for Rugby World Cup 2025. My focus will be to support the great pool of seasoned players we have in the mix, while also bringing in some of the very talented young players coming up through the pathway programs. We’ll pull these players together in the coming weeks and months to start building a strong foundation for the path to 2025.”

With Rugby World Cup 2025 in the near term, World Rugby will meet with USA Rugby at the beginning half of the year to work on the next phase of “Project Accelerate.” Project Accelerate is a targeted initiative by World Rugby to fast-track the development and performance programs of the women’s game in high potential unions. With the women’s international competition structure laid out through The Pacific Four Series and WXV, along with an expanded HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series slated to being next year, USA Rugby will work with World Rugby to develop specific growth metrics and support for the Women’s fifteens and sevens programs, from grassroots to senior national team, with the goal of future success at the Olympics and Rugby World Cup.

Posted in Editorials.

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