Hercus calls for big money not big names
PA Sport
September 27, 2007

United States captain Mike Hercus has dismissed suggestions a David Beckham-style figure would help propel rugby union into the big time across the Atlantic.

The sport is low down the food chain in the US, and only when the Eagles play in the World Cup does it really receive much attention.

Steps are being made to develop its brand and grass-roots status, and former England captain Nigel Melville is making great strides in his post as chief executive and head of operations at USA Rugby.

Hercus told PA Sport he believes a cash injection is what is required to continue the development, not the recruitment of a household name as US soccer has attempted to do with the signing of England star Beckham.

``Rugby's very low down - you've got basketball, baseball, American football, and then the likes of lacrosse and soccer,'' said Hercus, who made his name during a spell at Sale Sharks a few years ago.

``Ideally we would like to see some increase in numbers, kind of like the way lacrosse and soccer have taken off in the last five to eight years.

``But I don't think it needs an individual profile to do this. Rugby is too much of a team sport for one player and while American sports do like individuals, what this sport needs is a big cash injection at grass-roots level.

``With Nigel Melville on board, he has got a clear vision, the organisation, and everything is moving in the right direction. It used to be very fragmented.

``All it needs is the goal behind it. You just need kids to start playing it, and then they get the instincts. Then you will see the benefits of it five years later.''

Even though Los Angeles Galaxy have gone out on a limb to secure the high-profile and costly recruitment of Beckham, many doubt whether soccer will ever take off in the US.

Rugby is likely to be stuck in the same rut, with the likes of basketball, American football and baseball ingrained in the American psyche.

It will not stop Hercus, who has been a wonderful role model for US rugby down the years, doing his utmost to promote the sport, although he does foresee problems.

``We need it on TV at home, but like a lot of sports it is only on pay-per-view,'' he added.

``We need sponsorship-goers, then television because that attracts sponsors.

``It's therefore a Catch 22 situation. How do you have a sponsor without a brilliant product, and how do you get a brilliant product without a sponsor?

``All I can do is play the best I can and try to get the sponsors. Sometimes it feels like a losing battle, but you can't give up.

``As far as I am concerned, there is too much of me invested in it to just walk away.''

Failing to grab a win at this World Cup will not help matters. Yesterday's 25-21 defeat to Samoa made it three defeats on the trot for the Eagles and with just Sunday's clash with South Africa remaining, they are likely to pick up the unwanted wooden spoon.

At 22-3 down at half-time, after Samoan tries by Lome Fa'atau, Alesana Tuilagi and Kane Thompson, the US fought back after the break and managed scores through Takudzwa Ngwenya and Louis Stanfill.

Hercus finished with an 11-point haul, but they ran out of time to complete the comeback.

For the third game in a row, the Eagles were not disgraced - they slipped to narrow defeats to England and Tonga earlier in the tournament - leaving coach Peter Thorburn to say: ``I really believe the US public who are on the fringes of it all will now believe there is a chance of professionalism.

``There has been no win but our performances speak for themselves.''

Samoa ended a disappointing campaign on a high, allowing departing coach Michael Jones at least some satisfaction after seven years' involvement in rugby in the country.

After his last game in charge, the New Zealand legend said: ``I need to get on with my own life now, but part of it will be a commitment to Samoan rugby.

``I will always have a desire to champion the cause of Samoan and pacific island rugby.

``I would love, in my generation, to see one of the Pacific Islanders reach the semi-final.

``That would be living proof that the global game has arrived and that the gap is diminishing.''

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.

  • Football

  • Cricket

  • Rugby

    • Days
    • Hrs
    • Mins
    • Secs

    F1 - Mexican GP

  • OtherLive >>

    Darts - Premier League
    Golf - Houston Open
    Snooker - China Open
    Tennis - Miami Open