02.10.2015 – Alex Goff

logoWhile Santa Barbara City College and Long Beach State rolled with big victories this weekend, the most intriguing development in the Gold Coast Conference is the growth of Southern California.

USC has long been a quiet rugby program, with longtime coach Dave Lytle working hard with what is usually a physically small team. While USC rugby used to be a big deal – the Trojans were once the team playing UBC on a regular basis – in recent times rugby hasn’t quite taken off the way it has at UCLA, Arizona, or Cal.

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USC’s Andrew Daoud attacking the ruck fringe

But USC has started off well this year with a 36-12 defeat of UC San Diego, and while that result doesn’t guarantee much, it’s an indication that the Trojans might be getting better.

“We’re excited about building a strong rugby culture on campus, with more and stronger players,” said Coach Anthony Yeo. “Winning the opening match of the Goal Coast Rugby Conference was good for the team; they’d worked hard in the pre-season. At the same time, the game showed us key areas we can continue to improve.”

The players have been working hard on their fitness, reasoning that fitness is something they can always control.

“By focusing on fitness and expecting every player to finish the match and be in the correct rugby shape, we put the team in the best position to win,” said Yeo. “But remember, this is one match. We have excellent competition in the Gold Coast Rugby Conference, and we know we are about to be tested against some strong teams. Then we’ll know more about the Trojan spirit.”

Joseph Krassenstein scored two tries for USC and also kicked that rarity in American rugby, a drop goal, for a total of 13 points. Haico Kaashoek scored a try and kicked four conversions for 13 of his own, while Justin Shepard scored two tries in the effort against UCSD. Kaashoek was player of the game, but prop Nick Banks was a force on defense.

Coach Dave Lytle

Coach Dave Lytle

This is a special season for USC Rugby as Coach Dave Lytle is retiring. His legendary Trojan Man Cave will continue to be USC Rugby Headquarters as he mentors the new coaches. Lytle has been part of USC rugby for over 30 years.

“We’re proud to carry on his commitment to the team,” said Yeo. “[And] we’re excited about our prospects. We want to teach the team quality rugby and give them an excellent collegiate rugby experience.”

The Southern California teams take a week off because of the USA 7s, but then get back on the job. USC will face San Diego, another team that beat UCSD, and that will be a good measuring stick for the Trojans.

Meanwhile, CSULB and SBCC lead the conference with 2-0 records, and face off against each other Feb. 21 in a game that could well decide who wins the conference.

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USC Rugby captain Joey Krassenstein

USC Rugby started their regular season with an away match in San Diego against UCSD on Saturday. From the moment the USC Rugby Cardinal and Gold Touring Coach pulled up to Warren Field and 46 eager players hopped off, it was clear that this season’s USC Rugby team is focused and committed to its goals.

In the opening 20 minutes both teams played physical rugby and both teams tackled well to stop the attackers. Then rookie left winger, speedster Justin Shepard, created space in the center of the field and darted 40 meters to open the scoring. Justin continues to play with authority at this level.

USCD defense managed to hold back USC until captain Joey Krassenstein slotted a drop goal from just outside the 22 meter line, pushing the score to 10 and delivering on a promise to retiring Head Coach Dave Lytle to kick a drop goal in his honor. (The other coaches, though they understood the gesture, were not pleased to see such freewheeling play so early in the match). Joey more than made up for scaring the coaches when he scored USC Rugby’s second try just before half time.

Forward Nick Banks

Forward Nick Banks

USC Rugby’s set-plays from the line-out and free kick/penalty mark, through improving, still showed signs of greenhorns who had not seen opposition recently. But USC Rugby still gained territory against every UCSD mistake with captain Joey Krassenstein using his world-class kicking boot. Any mistake by UCSD pushed them backwards over 40 meters on average.

At the 55 minute mark, the USC Rugby back-line figured out the combination of UCSD’s defense and starting running in more tries. USC Rugby vice-captain Haico Kaashoek – try. Justin Shepard – another try. Joey Krassenstein – another try. Along with a some long range conversions by Haico Kaashoek, and the score board ticked up and up.

Final score: USC Trojans 36, UCSD 12. Way to go, team!

USC Rugby vice-captain Haico Kaashoek

USC Rugby vice-captain Haico Kaashoek

Congratulations to Haico Kaashoek, named USC Man of the Match for his work in the back-line, tackling, and kicking conversions. Special shout out to forward leader Nick Banks for his hard work in the front-row (making solid tackles in the 75th minute, that’s Banks Strong).

USC Rugby is still learning the defensive structure that can hold out teams for 80 minutes, but they have heart, dedication, and a combination of Krassenstein and Kaashoek that will create and excite USC Rugby fans this season.

USC Rugby (Haico Kaashoek 1 try, 4 con; Justin Shepard 2 tries; Joseph Krassenstein 2 tries, 1 drop-goal)
UCSD Rugby (2 tries, 1 con)

Score

Check out USC rugby's 2015 season poster! You can also find it on the bulletin board at the Lyon Center. #FightOn #USCrugby #EveryDayIsAJudgementDay — with Joseph Krassenstein, Pierre Badin and Taiu Kunimoto.

Check out USC rugby’s 2015 season poster! You can also find it on the bulletin board at the Lyon Center. #FightOn #USCrugby #EveryDayIsAJudgementDay — with Joseph Krassenstein, Pierre Badin and Taiu Kunimoto.

Feb 5, 2015 by Joey Krassenstein

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In what was probably one of the greatest Super Bowl games ever played, the New England Patriots held their lead with a strong defensive play in the final minute of the game. Even though the Seattle Seahawks, led by Quarterback Russell Wilson, made their way from deep in their own half all the way to yards in front of the Patriots end-zone, a poor offensive pass call led to the Patriots intercepting the football and ending Seattle’s chances at winning Super Bowl XLIX.

Many New England Patriots fans across the United States had already lost faith that their team could stop the Seahawks from scoring a decisive blow in the final minute. Another type of Patriots fan thousands of miles away, with a different knowledge of football and certainly a different language broadcast commentary, might also have buried their faces in their hands and looked at the television through their fingers.

When Patriots’ safety Malcolm Butler predicted the play and intercepted Wilson’s pass, that fan might also have jumped up, cheered, and updated their status on social media. This fan was across the Pacific Ocean and watched the game at 7:30 Monday morning. That fan lives in China, where the New England Patriots are the most popular team in the country…by far.

An American NFL fan might wonder why it isn’t the Denver Broncos, the Dallas Cowboys, the Green Bay Packers, or another one of the NFL’s more popular teams? Each of these is somewhat popular in China, but only one team really exports a package full of America that instantly attracts Chinese fans.

In a June 2014 survey conducted on Weibo, the NFL asked the 40,500 Chinese fans following their Chinese social media account what their favorite NFL team was. Almost 30% said the New England Patriots. Next were the San Francisco 49’ers (16.5%), Denver Broncos (12.7%), and Green Bay Packers (10.6%).

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While American football is still a relatively new sport to China, so far the attempts to break into the market have been successful. The National Football League’s China Office reports that there has been a 462% fan base growth in the last four years, reaching close to 20 million people. By 2020, NFL China projects those numbers to double.

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So, why the Patriots?

Well, isn’t it obvious? It’s in the name. Translated to Chinese, the team name is 爱国者(Ai Guo Zhe) meaning “one who loves their country” or more literally, patriot. When Chinese fans first fall in love with the sport of American football, they often don’t have the same geographical or parent-to-child connectedness to a team that an American fan might have. They see American football as a product of the NFL, and the Patriots as a representation of America’s protectors from the 13 original New England colonies draped in red, white, and blue uniforms.

In addition to the symbolism, there’s the buzz around the team’s now four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady. According to Tony Chen, an avid Chinese Patriots fan, “Tom Brady is the epitome of the American professional athlete dad. He is handsome, has been in four Super Bowls in the past 10 years, is married to a Victoria’s Secret model, and his career story is that of an underdog getting on top. Chinese NFL fans love his story.”

For a new fan of American football in China, knowing that the most popular NFL team in the nation is now also the best team in the league would certainly win their hearts. Take the case of the Manchester United Football Club and their ever-growing fan base in China. They attracted many Chinese fans because of their winning history, the diversity of their players, and also because of their talented team captain, Wayne Rooney. The Patriots are beginning to do the same thing.

While American football is still a relatively new sport to China, so far the attempts to break into the market have been successful. The National Football League’s China Office reports that there has been a 462% fan base growth in the last four years, reaching close to 20 million people. By 2020, NFL China projects those numbers to double.

Between the continued efforts by the NFL in spreading American football to China, the Chinese Arena Football League (CAFL) attempting to establish a domestic professional indoor league, the American Football Union (AFU) setting up the sport at several universities, the China Sea Dragons Program promoting youth football development, and the American Football League of China (AFLC) establishing a nationwide amateur football league…the sport has proven itself translatable and entertaining enough to capture a large demographic of Chinese sport fans.

There are already “NFL Home Field” American Football Expos in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou through the fall season, also in addition to the “NFL on Tour” that recently travelled to 13 tier-one and two cities in a decked-out truck. NFL legends such as Jerry Rice and Joe Montana have both visited China promoting the sport and the NFL hopes to send more ambassadors. The sport might grow even faster in China if the launch of the “China Bowl,” a proposed professional football game played in China between two NFL teams, were approved.

On the Chinese side, more Mainland Chinese or Chinese-American football professionals like Ed Wang (who played with the Buffalo Bills and the Philadelphia Eagles) would help. Further development and funding for the AFLC, Sea Dragons and other grassroots programs and more attention given to the sport by the Chinese Government’s State General Administration of Sports would also go a long way.

Just as some 40-plus years ago the game of ping pong was an instrument in breaking down barriers between the United States and China, American football could very well play a similar role in improving relations between these two giants today.

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IMG_6638This weekend marks the opening of the USC Rugby Team’s regular season. Bravo to all our squad, who worked hard during pre-season on all facets of their game: fitness, skills, and game knowledge. They’re ready to play some rugby!

With a strong USC Rugby Alumni group and student body to support them, USC Rugby is shaping up for a year of huge positive growth. Come out and enjoy a great game of entertaining rugby at one of our 4 home matches (Feb 21, 2015 v USD in Palos Verdes, Mar 07, 2015 v UCI at McAlister Field, Mar 28, 2015 v CSULB at McAlister Field, and Mar 29, 2015 v USC Rugby Alumni at McAlister Field).

“The team is excited to start the season with a bang. There is a lot of built-up energy and enthusiasm to play rugby, and the boys are itching for the whistle to start the match,” says USC Rugby Assistant Coach Anthony Yeo. “We look forward to the testing our game plan against UCSD, and building on the positive direction of our training camp.”

USC Rugby takes on UCSD in La Jolla on Saturday, February 7 at 1:00pm.

Fight on!

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We’re preparing for this coming season. Classroom session reviews the 2015 USA Rugby Game Management Guidelines, In-Touch Laws, and details about upcoming Select side opportunities at Serevi Rugby Camps. Let’s get USC Rugby players to higher levels!

usa-rugby-logoUSA Rugby has made an exception to its eligibility rules to accommodate the club game and allow players mobility between college and club sides in season. The previously held rules didn’t allow a college player to play both college and club, and then college again, in the same season. Now, a player deemed in USA Rugby’s High Performance Pathway can do just that.

The Pacific Rugby Premiership was the first to challenge the status quo on a broad scale last year with its guest player policy. Since it was a competition not run by USA Rugby, the PRP was able to allow players from non-PRP clubs and colleges to play in the Premiership matches without losing eligibility for their original teams. Notable examples of the guest player rule being utilized were Old Blue’s Adam Siddall, who suited up for Belmont Shore, and Colorado State’s Ben Pinkelman, who played for the Denver Barbarians.

Adam Siddall playing for Old Blue

Adam Siddall playing for Old Blue

USA Rugby was forced to make an exception this fall with the American Rugby Premiership, which was run within the governing body’s purview. Life University wanted to be able to use its undergrad players in ARP action without jeopardizing their collegiate eligibility. While the decision to allow it didn’t come easy, USA Rugby came to the sensible conclusion.

“This exemption allowing college-grade players the ability to enhance their rugby skills by playing in senior club matches will not only benefit the individual’s development, but will boost the student-athlete’s collegiate club when he or she returns to the university’s team,” said USA Rugby Collegiate Director Rich Cortez.

“Some college clubs don’t have sufficient funding to build a schedule capable of providing an adequate number of matches to ensure athletic growth. This wrinkle in our Eligibility Regulations should help mediate that.”

The second part of the new exception allows for those whose college seasons have come to an end to transfer freely to a men’s club for the remainder of the competitive cycle. This comes in especially handy for the thousands of players whose colleges play fall rugby exclusively. They can now play men’s club ball in the spring and return to their college sides the following autumn.

“Both of these changes are a big win for colleges and senior clubs alike. Allowing college players a chance to continue their season is a common-sense update, and American rugby absolutely needs its top players to have a chance to test themselves in premier competitions like the American Rugby Premiership and Women’s Premier League without losing their collegiate eligibility,” said USA Rugby Club Department Manager Erik Geib.

“We’ve also put in caps to protect both sides. With the three-player roster limit per match, we’re protecting club competitions from essentially playing full college teams – especially in some rural areas where a top college side might exist. Additionally, college coaches have to explicitly name the dates their elite players play club in season, which stops club teams from pulling players away during high-profile college matches.”

USA Rugby’s High Performance Pathway

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usa-rugby-logoThe guidelines enable players and referees to have a clearer approach to the game and to be more consistent in Law application throughout the country, while also reflecting directives from World Rugby. The guidelines are to be distributed and applied nationally to all referees, referee performance reviewers, referee coaches, players/teams, coaches, and administrators for 2015.

Additionally, the first Sevens Game Management Guidelines have been introduced. They have been reviewed by World Rugby and given the green light.

Download Documents

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World Rugby Law Book

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Several USC Rugby players will be attending the inaugural National Rugby Football League combine at the Los Angeles Coliseum. USC Rugby captain Joey Krassenstein and standout USC Rugby center Rob Semu will be representing USC Rugby on Wednesday 1/14. Good luck guys!

About the NRFL

NRFL_Logo_Shadow_smallThe NRFL combine is the first career step into RuXV™ professional rugby. Furthermore, we know that the broad diverse nature of these elite professional level athletes is America’s main strength. The NRFL knows that it is these elite athletes from the NFL, NCAA football, NBA, NCAA Basketball, NHL, Junior A, and elite collegiate hockey that will be the foundation for the world dominance of premiership RuXV.™ Most of these athletes have probably never even held a rugby ball.