US Superleague breaks new ground
Brian Lowe
April 5, 2000

­Innovative Plan to Bolster US Rugby

Los Angeles, CA ­ (April 5, 2000) ­ Super League has reached an in-principle agreement with six Universities in New Zealand on a ground breaking exchange program to improve the quality of American rugby players.

The scheme involves sending between 10 and 15 Collegiate players to New Zealand during the North American summer. While there, the young players would study at University to earn credits and would attend rugby academies to enhance their playing skills. They would then return to the United States to complete their studies at College before making the trip back to New Zealand for a final training stint.

At the completion of this education process the players would come home to join Super League teams. In exchange, players from New Zealand would come to the US during their off-season to hook up with Super League clubs, particularly those that could benefit from the injection of overseas players.

According to Super League Chairman, Bob Watkins, the scheme addresses the need for better quality US players.

"From an American point of view, our dependence on foreign players has been an issue of concern for some time. We need imported players to help raise the overall standard of American rugby, but at the same time we want to improve the standard of home grown players.

"Super League wants better quality players and we believe that this is the most sensible way of achieving that ultimate goal."

The idea has already proved successful on a trial basis with two emerging players, Ryan Rebell and Eric Reed, having blazed a trail for others to follow. Reed has been selected in the USA national squad while Rebell has made his way into OMBAC's starting fifteen in the Southern California

Watkins says American rugby has been crying out for a formal player development program and because of that it is hoped that USA Rugby will consider becoming involved.

"We plan to take it to USARFU to see if they want to come on board with us because after all it's for the good of the game in the United States."

Another benefit of the exchange program is that it would assist participating New Zealand clubs to retain their players. Super League sponsorship would cover the expenses of those players coming to the States during their off-season, enabling their home teams to retain them under contract. At the same time the players would provide value to American clubs.

The scheme is due to be ratified in May when Chancellors from New Zealand Universities meet with Super League officials in San Diego.

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