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Our teammate Reno went to the rugby 7s world cup in San Francisco so we decided to ask him a few questions about the event.
1. What was the atmosphere like in San Francisco for the rugby 7’s world cup?
Just unreal. You have a huge stadium full of people that are from all around the world that are there screaming for their national team. Like when Fiji came out, you would have thought the entire left side of the stadium was just all Fijian’s. There’s also nothing quite like sitting with some Kenyans and making fun of people in front of you for being French and that their rugby team sucks. Don’t get me wrong Eagles and Flyers games are great, but I don’t think it gets much better than an international 7’s tournament.
2. What did they do to attract new fans to the game and not just cater to the pre-existing fans?
Honestly if they failed in one aspect, it would be this. Obviously I didn’t see the broadcast so they maybe helped explain the rules and concept of the game for TV? But for anyone there, you just showed up and watched rugby. For example on Friday we were with some people form South Africa and were explaining to them what rugby 7’s is and the rules of the game. They said they just showed up since it was a world cup and wanted to support the “Blitzboks.” They would show some videos of teams or specific players on the Jumbo-tron but nothing insightful or would have helped new spectators.
3. Have we shown as a nation that we are ready to host the 15s world cup as early as 2027?
I debated this question a bit in my head but I think we are ready. I know the GA tickets sold out a month before and the stadium was pretty packed both Saturday and Sunday. The biggest issue it seems is just about publicity and marketing. They had the rugby 7’s world cup right after the FIFA world cup so it didn’t seem to quite get the attention that it deserved on social media and in the news. The international test matches they have had in Chicago have been well marketed and sold a lot of tickets. But than you have that SA vs Wales match they did here that wasn’t talked about at all and they almost had to cancel it over how little it sold. But yes this event showed we can handle it if we are able to win a bid.
4. Who performed a better victory haka, the all blacks or the black ferns?
I might get called out for this at the next Kangaroo Court, but I didn’t end up seeing either one of them. Saturday after having a beer or 12, the last few matches are a bit of a blur. Sunday we left immediately at the final whistle as we wanted to try and beat the rush to Uber back. I’m sure they were both equally amazing.
5. Which players and teams stuck out in terms of performance entertainment?
I mean it’s hard to talk about rugby 7’s and not immediately think of Fiji. It’s just mind blowing how big and fast they are, yet when they play it looks like they are just messing around and not even trying. Perry Baker is even faster in person if that is somehow possible. Dan Norton for England stood out the most to me, it seemed like their only game plan was just give him the ball and let him work. The USA and New Zealand women’s team were really fun to watch just for how well they play as a team. Also it was brutal to see Kenya losing after they went up by 20 something points because they got those two yellow cards. Their fans were just devastated. I didn’t realize how big rugby is for that country and what that team means to them.
6. You went with a group and apparently had theme outfits for each day. Tell us how that was all worked out?
Splendidly. Friday was Hawaiian and Sunday was USA gear. But the big winner was #RandySavageSaturday. I was shocked out how many people loved our outfits. We had a ton of high fives and even some people who wanted pictures with us. People would walk by and just yell some of his famous sayings at us so it helped that my buddy Brian had practiced the voice and some of his catch phrases too so he would just spit stuff right back. There happened to be a few people dressed like Hulk Hogan and we were yelling at them, so I know Randy would have been proud. Also It must have been the hot pink zebra tights but I had my butt grabbed a few times. Highly recommend that everyone dress up for that theme at least once in their life. It should probably be a national holiday. RIP Macho Man
7. What was your favorite moment from the weekend overall?
Just seeing how great of a rugby community the US has. I played rugby in college and played men’s club on the west coast. So it was great just walking around and catching up with guys I used to play against, some guys on my national traveling social team I’m on, and even had some beers with people who recognized me that I had played back in college. I know rugby here is growing more and that we now have a pro league but it’s great to see how strong the community is for a bunch of people who have to pay to play and do it because they love the game.
Schuylkill River Rugby has put together an incredible coaching staff for the 2018-19 season. This staff brings an incredible diversity of experience and features individuals who have succeeded as both players and coaches at every level within club rugby. If you want to get better as a player and reach your highest level this is the coaching staff to get you there!
Head Coach Michael “Beaver” Burch: Coach Burch began his playing career in 1999 with Drexel University where he was named to both EPRU and MARFU All Star teams. His playing career continued with Schuylkill River from 2003-2011 where he was Club Captain for 4 seasons and qualified for Nationals in 7s twice, including a National 2nd place finish in 2011, and for 15s in 2006. Coach Burch was also named to Schuylkill River’s All-Time 10 Year Anniversary Team.
Coach Burch has served as Drexel’s Head Coach in both 15s and 7s from September of 2011 to the present while also serving as a Schuylkill River Assistant 7s Coach from 2012-2016, Associate Head 7s Coach in 2017 and Head 7s Coach in 2018. At Drexel his teams have participated in USA Rugby Collegiate Championships as well as the Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) sponsored by Penn Mutual.
As a coach in Schuylkill River’s 7s program Coach Burch has participated in Nationals 6 times and has won 4 MAC Championships. He also played a key role in establishing Schuylkill’s U-23 Academy program which won the MAC Open Division in 2016 and 2017 and came in second place in 2018.
Backs Coach John Grasso: Coach Grasso started his playing career at Binghamton University in 2003 where he also served as Captain and Player-Coach. While at Binghamton he played for the Northeast 7s All-Star Team and in 2007 he was a USA Eagles Camp participant. He also toured Paraguay in 2007 with the Atlantis 7s Select Side. During his college career he also played 7s in the summer for Long Island where he was the Captain for 2 seasons.
After graduation Coach Grasso joined Long Island full-time from 2007-2009 and finished top 12 in the Nation twice before moving in to the Norfolk Blues where he played until 2012 finishing top 8 in the Nation in 2011 and top 12 in 2012.
Coach Grasso brings an incredible variety of coaching experience to our Club which should enable him to develop the skills of any player in our program. As a 7s coach he has worked with the Norfolk Storm (2012), Norfolk Blues (2013), Baltimore-Chesapeake (2015-16), The Stars Rugby touring side on three tours from 2017-2018, and Beltway Elite from 2017 to the present. Coach Grasso is actually the Founder and Head Coach of Beltway Elite who have won the MAC and qualified for Nationals in both years of their existence. Furthermore, Beltway also won the Elite New York 7s Tournament in 2017.
As a 15s coach he has worked with Ithaca College (2007), William & Mary College (2010), Virginia Women Collegiate All-Stars (2010-2011), Norfolk Blues (2012-2013), Baltimore-Chesapeake (2014-2017), D.C. Furies (2016) and the Capital Selects from 2015 to the present.
Coach Grasso has won championships and coached select/all-star sides at every level and we are beyond excited to have him join our program.
Backs Coach Jamie Williams: Coach Williams grew up playing rugby in England and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our club. Coach Williams’ playing career went from 1988-2015 with stops at Bristol Grammar School, Chew Valley RFC, Nottingham University, Clifton RFC, Baltimore-Chesapeake RFC, and Schuylkill River.
Coach Williams began his coaching career in 2015 and has coached Baltimore-Chesapeake as well as the Beltway Elite 7s program. As another former Schuylkill player rejoining the Club on the coaching staff Coach Williams knows what our Club is all about and is ready to help us get the job done!
Forwards Jack Bukowski: Coach Bukowski started playing in 1980 as a member of the Air Force following the conclusion of his boxing career. Due to the travel associated with his military career he ended up playing for El Paso, Albuquerque, Denver, Holloman AFB, The Air Force Selects, and the Combined Services team. Once he moved back East the majority of his play was with the Wilkes-Barre Breakers as well as some time with Morris.
Coach Bukowski has always taken his personal improvement as a coach very seriously and attended his first coaching seminar in 1989. It was a 5 day course sponsored by Weetabix featuring a group of English coaches and internationals. Coach Bukowski is currently Level 300 USA Rugby Certified and World Rugby 2 certified and has attended coaching seminars with the Reds, Brumbies, Premiership, Mike Cron & Wayne Smith (All Black coaches, scrummaging and attack respectively). He also remains in contact with Nick Leah formerly with the Brumbies and currently Australia’s Coaching Director. Coach Bukowski credits Josh Smith of Mystic River for helping him the most and being his mentor.
Coach Bukowski’s coaching stops have included Wilkes-Barre, Lock Haven, Bloomsburg, Drexel, and the MARC All-Stars. Coach Bukowski had the opportunity to coach one of his sons with Wilkes-Barre and now with Schuylkill River he’ll have an opportunity to coach another. We couldn’t be happier to have the opportunity to learn from such a well-respected coaching mind.
Skills and Fitness Coach Josh Mastromatto: Coach Mastromatto came to the game of rugby after he enjoyed a tremendous football career for Kutztown University where he totaled approximately 5000 all-purpose yards in his career and scored 38 touchdowns. The team went 28-5 over his final 3 seasons after going 3-7 his freshman year and this was in large part due to his performance as a 3 time All-Conference running back and All-American all-purpose player. Coach Mastromatto has been named to Kutztown Football’s All-Decade team and has been inducted into the Kutztown University All-Time Team.
From there Coach Mastromatto embarked on a professional football career and ended up playing arena football for the Erie Explosion. After retiring from football Coach Mastromatto gave rugby a try and got his start with the Philadelphia Fight as a rugby league player before deciding to give rugby union a go by becoming a resident with the Tiger Academy in North Carolina. He played in the famous Serevi Town 7s tournament with both Tiger as well as Atlantis and for 15s he played with Southern Pines who earned a trip to the D3 National Semi-Finals.
He then moved back to Philadelphia and joined Schuylkill River where he was the MVP of Schuylkill’s 7s program in 2017 and earned a trip to Nationals with the Club. As a fun fact, Josh almost ended up on the Philadelphia 76ers dunk team as well.
The fall season is right around the corner and Director of Rugby Pat Boyle has recently provided the Club with the following information. Please know that Schuylkill River Rugby is willing to accept new players, regardless of skill/experience level at any time of year.
Practices will be on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 8-10PM. On Tuesday we will train at Marcus Foster Memorial Stadium (1600 Staub) and on Thursday we will train at Cruz Playground (5th and Jefferson). League matches will begin on Saturday, September 8 and go through Saturday, November 17. We will load the full schedule for both the D1 and D3 sides into the calendar on our website (www.skillrugby.org) homepage once they are finalized.League structure – NOVA moved up to make 8 D1 teams and we spilt the league into 2 divisions. You play the 3 teams in your division twice and the other 4 teams once each for a total of 10 league matches. Our second side will be in D3 and play 8 league matches. Obviously, nothing changes in our approach to winning games and the preparation. Our D3 side’s goal is simple, win the league, and move up to D2 next year. Coaching – Leading us this season will be the following coaching staff: Head Coach – Mike “Beaver” Burch Assistant Coaches – Jon Grasso, Jaime Pierce-Williams, Jack Bukowski, Josh Mastromatto The staff is extremely talented and top to bottom you would be hard pressed to find a better coaching staff in the country. It’s truly an unprecedented staff in club rugby. Many of you know Beaver, but Coach Grasso is the Head Coach of Beltway 7s, Coach Willams has 20 years of rugby experience being a native Englishman before coming to the states, Coach Bukowski is one of the most respected coaches on the east coast, and Coach Mastromatto is an up coming coach already possessing the ability to get players in top physical condition. We will post their full bios soon. Speaking as a veteran rugby player, this staff excites me like never before and can’t wait to get to training.
On Thursday August 9 at 8PM at O’Neal’s Pub (3rd and South) we are going to have a meeting where you can meet all the coaches and they will present the goals, expectations, and philosophies of the team. Roles of each coach will also be explained as well.
We hope that all of our returning players are excited for another season of Schuylkill River Rugby and we hope that there are plenty of new players in the Philadelphia area that want to give Schuylkill River Rugby a try!
Schuylkill River RFC, Philadelphia Women’s RFC, and the North Philadelphia Nomads RFC are proud to announce year two of their summer rugby program at the NE Frankford Boys and Girls Club. Building off of the success of last year’s summer camp the ten week program sees coaches, players, and administrators from all three teams continue to give back to the community and help develop the game on the grassroots level.
The Clubs plan to make this year’s program even bigger and better than last year’s with Kate Hallinan of Philadelphia Women’s RFC stepping into the role of Director of Rugby for the Boys and Girls Club. Hallinan, who has previously been involved in rugby programs at other youth organizations such as Philly Girls in Motion, brings a wealth of experience to the position. “As the kids continued to grow and develop as rugby players during last year’s summer program and beyond it became clear that they were ready to take the next step and see a more nuanced approach to the game” Hallinan stated. She added “it’s my intention to monitor their progress this summer and tailor the sessions to give them the best experience they can have as beginning rugby players while developing their skills.”
Helping out with the program is North Philadelphia Nomads RFC coach James Brunson who is also known to his peers as the overall heart and soul of Philadelphia rugby. Brunson was a founder of the Nomads program who has made a positive impact on countless lives through his dedication to the game and the community. According to Brunson “The partnership with the Boys and Girls Club gives members of the Nomads an opportunity to build bonds with, and mentor, youth and help grow the game in our city.”
Schuylkill River Board Member Ryan McHugh, who is also a coach for Roman Catholic high school and the Wissahickon Braves youth program is another of the volunteers for this program with substantial youth development experience and strong ties to the Philadelphia rugby community. McHugh had this to say, “As my teammates know, this is where I grew up and I’m excited to have the opportunity to give back to my community and help teach these kids the greatest sport on earth. I really can’t express how much I appreciate working with Rafiq, Donald, and Denise from the Club to help provide an opportunity for these kids."
Schuylkill River President Dave Codell, who is also involved with the Narberth Otters and the Wandering Warriors rugby teams, believes this staff might be one of the strongest youth rugby groups in the entire country. “Look around at all of the talent we have involved: Kate Hallinan just Captained and Player-Coached Philly Women to Nationals in 7s and 15s, she’s Philadelphia’s most accomplished rugby player overall at this moment and deserves credit for her status nationally. Brunson founded a club from scratch and their story was so good that they made a movie about it (which Brunson and I both happen to be in so make sure you see Nomads when it comes out!) while McHugh has twenty years of playing experience, is a D1 starter in 15s and a player-coach in 7s while also being involved in a total of 4 youth programs when you factor in Schuylkill River’s U-19 team in addition to his work with Wissahickon, Roman Catholic, and the Boys and Girls Club and that’s just a small sample of who we’ve got coaching the program this year. There’s also Greg Mininger who has overseas playing experience and various select side/all-star coaching experience and several other players from each of the Clubs mentioned. Nobody else is out there rolling out this kind of talent, that is a fact and it’s why this program is so successful and the kids enjoy it so much. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
The Club is anticipating that as many as 130 kids will participate in their summer program and the Club’s hours are expanding from 15 hours per week in the school year to over 40 hours per week in the summer which makes this a great opportunity for the teams to lend a hand where it’s needed and help provide these kids with a summer that they’ll never forget.
The Narberth Otters (http://narberthrugbyclub.teamsnapsites.com) held their annual award ceremony recently to honor an extremely talented group, in particular the senior class which piled up a record of 20-2 over the past two seasons.
The Most Valuable Player this year was Cameron McKendrick. Cam is the total package as a rugby player. He’s a talented front row with a ton of experience and his knowledge of the game basically makes him a coach on the field. This is Cameron’s second year in a row winning the MVP award and it is well deserved. In addition to his work in the set piece and breakdown Cam continued to build pace into his game this year which made him a nightmare for opposing teams in the open field and he regularly set the tone early on in Narberth’s matches by crashing penalty taps through the opposing line.
The Rookie of the Year was Ryan Kreiser. Ryan is one of the more dedicated players that we’ve seen on the youth level. His status as an Eagle Scout and future West Point cadet was apparent in the way that he always brought maximum effort regardless of the conditions including when he participated in multiple practices despite having a broken foot. Ryan wasn’t an obvious rugby talent at the beginning of the year but he spent the entire season doing every single thing the coaching staff asked of him and by the end of the season he was a key component in the set piece and a sure tackler as well as a leader on the field.
Best Forward was awarded to George May. George, the newest member of Nova Nation where Schuylkill has a bit of a history, is an athletic front row who is just as comfortable running around someone as he is running through them. In his second season with the team things really started to click for George and he started adding facets to his game on a weekly basis. We are really looking forward to watching George continue to grow under the tutelage of Schuylkill River hall of famer Steve Green at Villanova.
Best Back was awarded to Jack Torbeck. Jack is a flyhalf with a fullback’s skillset and a prop’s mindset. Jack is a tough player who is more than willing to press his physical advantage and attack right through the heart of the defense. A more than willing tackler, Jack also set the tone for the backline’s defense and provided great leadership.
Comeback Player of the Year was awarded to Nick Merriam. Nick played for the Narberth U13 and U15 teams before deciding to quit rugby prior to 9th grade due to a belief that he was not a good enough player. Nick took two seasons off before returning to the team last year where he made a few contributions but was part of a crowded backline. This season Nick had a position in the first XV from start to finish and he made the most of his opportunity. Nick is particularly good at hacking the ball off the ground and racing into it for the finish having scored 3 tries this way just in the playoffs alone this season.
Great job to all of the Narberth players, coaches, and administrative staff on another successful season. Can’t wait to see what next year brings.