New championship for USA
November 17, 1999

USA Rugby approved plans for a Division III national championship at its Annual General Meeting this weekend, another sign of the game's steady expansion.

The men's third division title will be contested as an invitational tournament in 2000, and a standardised knockout format will be introduced in 2001. The addition responds to the growing number of lower division clubs throughout the country.

The three-day meeting also surveyed plans to serve American rugby's increasing membership and changes in the union's staff and Board of Directors. The Board further toured the US Olympic Training Centre, one of several facilities available to the union in the wake of gaining US Olympic Committee membership in 1998.

"Our rugby union is in good shape both financially and administratively," President Anne Barry said at the conclusion the meeting. "The Board is now looking to the future. We want to continue developing more coaches and referees, providing more services to our members, and attracting new players to the game."

Toward those goals, the Board approved plans to increase funding for coaching clinics and strengthen ties with referees. Grant money from the International Rugby Board will supplement the union's budget allocation for coaching in 2000. Outgoing National Technical Director Eddie O'Sullivan reported that more than 300 coaches will be certified in 1999, the popular program's fifth year, while another 200 will gain an introduction to the age-grade level.

A referee's representative, meanwhile, will be added to the National Technical Panel and also the Management Committee. The move is part of a scheme to increase the number and standard of referees in the United States over the next few years.

In other news, rugby has won recognition as a varsity sport from the Department of Defence, which means official support for the union's military championships and the players involved. The sanction also can be seen as a precedent for university and local recreational authorities.

USA Rugby's membership will reach more than 31,000 this year, slightly more than forecast and a testament to the success of outsourcing the registration process. Some had predicted registration would drop off because of the change.

The Board warmly thanked for O'Sullivan for his service as National Technical Director and Assistant Coach of the men's National Team.O'Sullivan recently accepted a post as assistant coach of his native Ireland and will begin shortly.

"Eddie has been a tremendous resource to USA Rugby. He has been instrumental in educating over 500 coaches just this past year alone," Barry said. "His new appointment is a great testimony to the quality of coaches that have coached our men's National Team through the 1999 World Cup."

Jack Clark, general manager and head coach of the men's team, also is stepping down as coach of the Eagles, but will remain as General Manager of National Teams and begin as the Director of Business Development for USA Rugby.

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