On Friday June 8, 2012, after Lost Afternoon IV was adjourned for the afternoon, I made my way to the top floor of the Crowne Plaza at River Oaks in Houston, Texas for the various after-parties that were promised. The first suite I visited was hosted by the Bay Area Rugby Club (BARC) and featured a handbill detailing a proposal by BARC officer, David Yeoman. The plan was to develop an elite, representative team for Houston, drawing players from all of the teams in the area. This team, the Houston Energy, went on to play two matches on December 8, 2012 against the well-drilled A & B sides of the Austin Blacks. The Blacks won both matches handily.
The TRU took interest in this ‘proof of concept’ and decided that it dovetailed with the competition development ideas swirling around in the head of its Director of Competitions, Ron Watson.
Watson had previously brought Bob Dwyer’s coaching clinics to Texas to improve the rugby coaching efforts in the Lone Star State. As reported by Ted Hardy here, Watson planned to continue his development plans this month by bringing former All Black captain, Murray Mexted, to Texas with his International Rugby Academy to host a series of player skills and coaching clinics led by Mexted, Dave Rennie (head coach of the Waikato Chiefs, 2012 & 2013 Super15 Champions), and Jamie Joseph. Watson also planned to culminate these training sessions with a series of representative side matches dubbed the Texas Cup.
These clinics begin Friday as Dallas-Ft. Worth coaches & players assemble for a weekend with IRANZ in the Metroplex for the North camp. The Central camp will be held in the evenings of the following weekdays in Austin. Finally, the South camp will assemble in the Houston area on August 30-September 1. Over a span of ten days, more than 40 coaches and 175 players from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana will hone their craft under the instruction of the IRANZ coaches.
Watson and the TRU are not content to think that ten days of intense training is enough to improve the quality of club rugby in Texas. On September 7th, each region – North, South, and Central – will conduct try-outs for its respective representative side. After team selections are announced that weekend, practices will begin the following week and continue for two more weeks. On September 28th, a six-week season begins in which each representative side plays each other twice, home and away. These six, undoubtably tough, matches will constitute the Texas Cup Representative Series of the TRU.
But wait, there is more…
The TRU Men’s Division 1 season begins on the heals of this series, featuring the recently well-trained and experienced players of an expanded D1 field in a 16 game season.
USA Rugby has repeatedly said that US clubs do not play enough high-level matches to develop players past the club level. The TRU is responding to that clarion by promoting last season’s TRU Division 2 Champion, the Griffins Rugby Club out of Allen, TX, to Division 1 and welcoming last season’s surprise performer in USA Rugby’s Division 1 Club Championship Round, the New Orleans RFC. Adding these two teams to a Division 1 competition that already features Ft Worth, the Dallas Harlequins, the Dallas Reds, The Woodlands RFC, Houston Athletic Rugby Club (HARC), the Austin Huns, and the Austin Blacks culminates in a nine team, home and away Division 1 season that should prove very dynamic and exciting.