USA Rugby has announced a three year deal with Rhino Rugby America, which will see the equipment manufacturer appointed as an Official Sponsor and Official Supplier of scrummaging equipment to USA Rugby with immediate effect.

This exciting partnership will afford the USA Eagles the ability to use premier Rhino scrummaging and rucking equipment at select training sites throughout the country.

Rhino Rugby is also offering USA Rugby members and teams a 10% discount through May 2013 on all Rhino Scrum Sleds.

Based in Petersburg, Illinois, Rhino Rugby America supplies a full range of scrummaging machines and contact equipment wholly manufactured in the USA for clubs, schools and university sides throughout the North American market.

The world famous Rhino scrummaging equipment is supplied by the parent company to the British & Irish Lions, England and Wales and many professional sides throughout Europe and the rest of the world. Rhino Rugby America is the group’s first manufacturing operation outside of the UK.

Reg Clark, Rhino Group CEO said: "I have been incredibly impressed by how quickly Norm Jones and Jim Carlberg of Rhino Rugby America have been able to replicate the high quality manufacturing standards we demand in respect of our globally acclaimed product range. Rugby clubs all over the United States now have easy access to that product range, and on a ‘Made in USA’ basis. This Official Sponsor and Supplier deal with USA Rugby is a great accolade and we look forward to working with the union in one of the most exciting growth markets in world rugby.”

Nigel Melville CEO of USA Rugby added: “We are thrilled to leverage such a quality, American-made product range and partner in Rhino Rugby. Rhino has some of the best equipment in the world and is a welcome resource to our USA Rugby National teams and membership base alike. Rhino Rugby scrummaging equipment will be placed in key USA Rugby National Team training locations throughout the country, and will be put to great use by a variety of teams upon availability.”

 

The Llanelli Scarlets have confirmed this week that Wales wing George North will be joining Northampton Saints this summer, 12 months before his contract with the club is due to expire. 

The decision comes after weeks of conflict between the WRU and the Welsh regions, which culminated last week in the national governing body accusing Scarlets of trying to ‘cash in’ on one of their key assets by touting North to a French club without his consent. 

Scarlets’ head coach Simon Easterby praised North’s handling of the situation, stating, "I suppose he'd been singled out a couple of weeks ago, which isn't ideal with all this dispute that is going on, but he's handling it well.” 

Subsequently, the WRU’s invitation to the four regions to meet and discuss the central contracting of players has been unanimously declined. 

The row over North and the right to sell his professional contract has been a regular feature in the sport’s headlines and begs the question; if North was being sold to a Welsh counterpart, would the perception from the WRU have been different? 

A confirmed figure is yet to have been released, however it is expected that Northampton will have paid at least £200,000 to guarantee North’s early release from his contract.

Despite the club’s best efforts to retain the 20 year old powerhouse, chief executive Mark Davies stated, “We have to fully understand and appreciate that George's quite unique value in the rugby marketplace, possibly inside Wales but certainly outside Wales, is considerably greater than the Scarlets as an independent business can reach.”

North’s representative Christian Abt added, "At the same time, it became very apparent that due to a number of factors beyond our control and with no clear directive on the horizon, keeping George in Wales would prove increasingly difficult over time.”

Easterby expressed the difficulty the club faces, commenting, "you've got to play with the cards you're dealt and I don't think we're the only club or region in Wales that is short of finance compared to others in Europe, and in our league even." 

Mike Phillips, James Hook and Gethin Jenkins are all playing their rugby in France, with centre Jamie Roberts and flanker Dan Lydiate expected to join wealthy side Racing Métro this summer and with North following prop Paul James into the Aviva Premiership. 

With such a large number of Wales’ starting team now playing abroad, the issues concerning WRU funding are paramount as offers from further afield suddenly become all the more appealing.

 

BBC Sport and IMG have announced a new agreement which will see live broadcasts from the 2013 and 2017 Rugby League World Cups, plus coverage of the 2014 and 2016 Four Nations tournaments via the BBC’s TV, radio and online channels.

Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, says: “It's very exciting to cap our rugby league portfolio with the top international tournaments, enabling us to offer audiences the pinnacle events of the sport each year. These add to our already comprehensive coverage, which gives the full narrative of the season. This is a great opportunity to bring Rugby League to a wide audience and showcase the best players in the world through the BBC’s multi-platform coverage.

“These events join an impressive BBC Sport international portfolio that includes the 2014 Winter Olympics from Russia, the Football World Cup and Olympics in Rio in 2016 and the World Athletics Championships from 2013 to 2017.”

The Rugby League World Cup 2013 on the BBC will see live coverage of all England’s group games on television and radio. The package also includes one quarter-final, a semi-final and the final at Old Trafford on 30 November. Regular highlights programmes will also be shown via the BBC Sport website and BBC Sport App, supporting extensive coverage on both Radio 5 live and 5 live sports extra.

RLWC2013 tournament director Nigel Wood said: “This is fantastic news for RLWC2013. The BBC is arguably the number one terrestrial sports broadcaster in the world. Their incredible coverage of the London Olympics further enhanced their reputation and so for them to cover the next international sporting event in the UK is a great fit for them and for us.”

 

HSBC has announced it will be the official broadcast partner with Sky Sports for this summer’s British & Irish Lions Tour in Australia.

The agreement will see HSBC receive significant coverage throughout the broadcasts, including branded opening, closing and centre breaks during all matches, highlights and support programming, alongside a permanent HSBC headline on Lions Tour pages.

David Shore, Sky Media’s head of new business, said: “As principal partner of The British & Irish Lions, it makes perfect sense for HSBC to extend its association to our multiplatform coverage.

“The broadcast sponsorship will enable HSBC to reinforce its partnership with viewers at home and on the move and we are delighted to have secured them.”

Giles Morgan, HSBC’s global head of sponsorship & events, added: “The British & Irish Lions Tour to Australia is an extremely important sponsorship for the bank.

“We're delighted to be the first Principal Partner to renew their association for two consecutive tours and this multi-channel partnership with the official broadcaster is a key part of our sponsorship engagement activity with our UK customers." 

This summer’s tour will be the fifth to be broadcast on Sky Sports since 1997 and will comprise ten matches to be screened live on TV, mobile, online and tablet devices. 

 

Last December’s Championship clash between Newcastle Falcons and London Scottish was the debut fixture for Ref-cam. A small chest mounted camera worn by RFU referee Mathew Carley, this exciting new development sparked interest around the world, as fans and coaches alike were eager to see the outcome. 

Many hoped to gain an insight into the elusive ‘dark arts’ of the sport, unspoken techniques used by players in rucks and scrums and away from public view. Feedback from the trial was fairly positive, however the camera’s position on the referee meant the shots were subsequently of the player’s chest or often, after the crouch phase, would miss the scrum entirely. 

Never one to shy away from opinion, Brian Moore stated that “apart from nausea, Sky’s Ref-cam added nothing to the viewing experience”. Others disagreed and believed it offered a different perspective for viewers and, if nothing else, can be used as a training tool for referees.

When Australian Super 15 teams NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds met in February, SANZAR trialled its version of Ref-cam with New Zealand referee Chris Pollock.  The transmission from this version looked a lot more convincing than the northern hemisphere attempt, with the camera mounted on the referee’s earpiece and worn in addition to a transmitter unit fitted in a vest. This gave the viewer a far greater insight with the feed visible from eye level.

Ref-cam has the backing of league administrators SANZAR, with CEO Greg Peters confirming that he is “very supportive of the trial of this new technology” and SANZAR game manager Lyndon Bray describing the technology as having potential, “both for the fans, putting the game right into the living room, so to speak, which I think is really important in today's world in sport, but secondly for us, from an educational point of view and a coaching tool. I think it has got some great possibilities for us.”

As technology progresses so does the viewer’s expectations and in today’s game, where we already have referees wearing microphones and cameras in the changing rooms, it may well be that the next step forward is towards Ref-cam. Other sports have taken a similar route, with the so-called Stump-cam and third umpire in cricket, Hawk-Eye in tennis and the existing video referee in both rugby union and league. 

Whatever the outcome, it is refreshing to see rugby at the forefront of technology, pioneering the usage for other sports to take note on a global scale. If Ref-cam does become a regular feature on our television screens and watching rugby from one’s armchair is more interactive than ever before, it will then raise the question; will this development lead to fewer people attending on match days?

 

 

 

 

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has confirmed pre-tax profits of 6.2 million rand ($675,300) for the year ended December 31, 2012, it today announced at the organisation's annual meeting.

Group revenue rose 15 percent from $65 million to $75 million, due largely to an increase in income from broadcasting rights, sponsorships and home tests, which had been reduced in the 2011 rugby World Cup year.

The rise was offset by group operating expenditure which increased by 20 percent, mostly due to costs associated with the hosting of the test at FNB Stadium and the IRB junior World Cup.

SARU CEO Jurie Roux commented: "The overall position remains reasonably healthy - despite the macroeconomic situation. However, cash reserves ($1.09 million) are significantly lower than those of the previous year."

 

Rugby Ventures is delighted to announce a partnership with the Rugby Football Union, with continued support for Rugby Expo 2013, the two day conference and exhibition for the international rugby community.

As the event returns to Twickenham for a third consecutive year, Rugby Ventures,  the management team behind Rugby Expo, and the RFU have agreed to help build on the success of the event which  has grown significantly since it was first hosted at Twickenham in 2011.   

Senior members of the RFU will speak at the event, working together to deliver workshop content on the grassroots focused second day. The RFU will also provide marketing support across its available channels, as the event looks to increase the number of grassroots clubs that attend the second day of Rugby Expo free of charge.

Rugby Expo will continue to work alongside the RFU in promoting its ever increasing support structures for grassroots clubs and volunteers as well as supporting a meaningful legacy following Rugby World Cup 2015 and communicating how clubs can benefits from these plans.  

On confirming the agreement, RFU CEO Ian Ritchie said, “Having attended Rugby Expo for the first time last year, I am delighted we will be continuing to support this event in 2013. The event provides an excellent platform for both the professional game and grassroots game to come together to meet, network, learn from each other and in doing so supports the growth and development of all levels of the sport.”

Commenting on the involvement of the RFU’s marketing team in Rugby Expo 2013, Nic Fletcher, Head of Marketing for the RFU said, “We’ve met with the team from Rugby Ventures and are looking forward to supporting them in their vision to encourage as many grassroots clubs to attend day two of Rugby Expo as possible as the event provides a great vehicle for information exchange and learning between clubs.  We will leverage our marketing channels to clubs to help Rugby Ventures promote attendance at the event.” 

Jonathan Wilson, event director for Rugby Expo said, “It’s fantastic to be able to confirm this collaboration with the RFU. The feeling across the board when we speak to clubs, leagues, the home unions and previous attendees is that the event is now established as a key date in the sports diary and this agreement and others that follow will showcase how Rugby Expo is now viewed from within the sport. 

“We look forward to working with both the development and marketing teams at the RFU and making the event a successful one for all involved.”

Taking place at Twickenham on Wednesday 13 – Thursday 14 November, Rugby Expo 2013 will include a detailed conference programme comprising main stage plenary sessions, summits and workshops alongside a live exhibition showcasing the latest products and innovations in the sport. Following the success of previous years, the two day event will switch its focus from the professional game on day one to grass roots rugby and development on day two.

To register your interest in attending Rugby Expo, please visit www.rugbyexpo.com. 

If you would like to discuss opportunities regarding further involvement in the event, please contact Jason McMahon, Rugby Expo sales manager on +44 (0)845 0740752 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .   

 

Rugby re-joining the Olympic movement after 90 years is one of the most significant developments for our sport. This is magnificent for all the well recited reasons and it certainly raises the profile of rugby in countries like China, Russia and the USA. We will all be extremely proud when we see rugby sevens take its place in Rio 2016, demonstrating both its global appeal and real potential. 

Make no mistake, rugby sevens will add to the Olympics - we feel honoured but deserving to be part of it. Now, we must be sure that we seize our chance and push further the boundaries of our sport to secure and thrive into new rugby frontiers.

With that said, first we can look forward to the Rugby World Cup (RWC) Sevens 2013 Russia, which is being held at the magnificent Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow from 28-30 June, an event which could be the last ever Rugby World Cup Sevens.

The International Rugby Board did a great job to gain the overwhelming confidence of the IOC for rugby's re-admission into the Olympics, however during the lobbying process the IRB repeatedly stated that the Rugby World Cup Sevens would be culled after 2013, thus ensuring the Olympic Sevens becomes the pinnacle of the sport. 

It now seems that this action may no longer be necessary or required and in the eyes of most rugby fans, it certainly is not the desirable option.

The IRB should be given considerable credit for transforming the competition structure of rugby sevens in a way that is not currently possible in rugby fifteens. We have in place a system that now enable national teams to progress through tiered continental sevens structures to qualify for the HSBC World Series and the RWC Sevens. Magnificent! Such systems facilitate national unions to seek Government and commercial support to embark on the process to reach the top in rugby sevens. Aspirational!

With 24 men's nations and 16 women's nations participating within one weekend, all seeking the ultimate title of RWC Sevens World Champions, dreams can come true. With realistic – but not outrageous - investment in quality management, coaching and players, aspirations can be delivered. However if we lose the structure of 40 teams at a Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament and replace it with a much more limited 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams competition at the Olympics, then we are in danger of killing aspiration. 

The odds for a non-established rugby nation to participate at the very top of rugby sevens will then be reduced substantially. The big questions will inevitably be: 

-Will national Olympic committees fund the development of rugby for non-established rugby nations with the odds so heavily stacked against success? 

-Will this perversely result in shrinkage of nations committing to invest in Rugby Sevens? 

-Will this be a false dawn to grow rugby globally? 

Clearly utopia for rugby sevens is to be part of the Olympics whilst also maintaining the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament.

There are signs that this may be achievable. Brett Gosper, the relatively new and dynamic CEO of the IRB, was recently quoted in a press interview in China giving hope to the retention of the Rugby World Cup Sevens. As deputy managing director of RWC Sevens 2013 Russia, I would be very sad to think that Moscow will close the curtain on the Melrose Cup and the Women's RWC Sevens.

There is no doubt that the Olympics will be the pinnacle for Rugby Sevens; to go to Rio will be the dream of any athlete. However the RWC Sevens is the jewel in the rugby sevens crown and needs to be cherished. It offers a realistic dream to all aspirant rugby nations.

It can and should live happily alongside the Olympics. Let us hope that the IRB can deliver this, where rugby sevens can unquestionably develop new frontiers into the rugby family.

In any event, let us all look forward to enjoying the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013 Russia. Long live the Melrose Cup and the Women's Sevens Rugby World Cup.

 

About the author

Howard Thomas is deputy managing director of the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013, Russia and vice president of the Rugby Union of Russia.

Please note that this article represents the personal views of Howard Thomas and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Rugby Union of Russia and of the Local Organising Committee of Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013.

 

Dave Walder, former England fly half who currently plays for Japanese side Mitsubishi Dynaboars, shares his thoughts and first-hand experience on the growth and popularity of rugby in Japan in the build up to RWC 2019…

It is a surprising statistic that Japan has the 4th highest number of people playing rugby yet is still struggling to break into the world's top ten. Often at the weekend the four main Japanese sports channels air hours of live university and high school rugby, where the stadiums are nearly at capacity, yet when the likes of Sonny Bill-Williams and George Smith are on show, the stands are empty. 

In Japan there is massive loyalty to your university and it is expected that your ties remain strong throughout whatever career you decide to pursue, hence the huge support that university rugby enjoys. If the World Cup in 2019 isn't to be played in front of half empty stadiums, it is the job of the Japanese RFU to find a way of tempting these supporters to show the same loyalty to the sport as to their team.

On the playing front, clubs and their owners are committed to attracting the superstars of the game but are still to learn about the marketing power said players bring with them. Grass roots rugby is everywhere but the standard of coaching and commitment to old fashioned theories such as ‘longer is better’, is putting people off from playing into adulthood. It is no surprise that the teams at the top of the Japanese leagues have a strong Western influence in their coaching staff and this is a model I believe needs to be copied throughout the leagues if Japanese coaches - and mindsets - are to change. 

Eddie Jones, Japanese national rugby union coach, is slowly turning things round on the pitch but if the World Cup in Japan is to be a success, it is vital that the Japanese RFU doesn't get left too far behind and embraces change rather than fearing it. Over the next few years, the Tokyo leg of the IRB Sevens should be a perfect place to try out marketing strategies in order to attract people through the turnstiles, helping to provide a great atmosphere for games both in the lead up to and at the 2019 World Cup. 

 

About the author

David Walder is a rugby union player for Mitsubishi Dynaboars in Japan, having signed for them from London Wasps at the end of the 2010/11 season. David joined London Wasps from Newcastle Falcons in summer 2006.

 

Fri 5th April 13 :

Changing your game

Ex South African international and Sky Sports Living for Sport mentor Thinus Delport discusses the role that rugby has played in his development and how his work with Sky Sports is proof that the sport can have a positive impact on even the unlikeliest of groups… 

Rugby has been an integral part of my life. It has been the biggest contributor to the development of the person I am today.

From a young farm boy playing on the grass patch outside of our farmhouse in the Eastern Cape with my brother and cousins mimicking our Springbok heroes, it has taken me around the world and given me the opportunity to play professional rugby in three continents over the last 14 years.

Rugby has supplied me with countless unforgettable memories, friendships that will last for a lifetime and most importantly, crucial life skills to survive in an unforgiving world outside the four white lines.

I decided to hang up my boots in 2010 after my stint in Japan and suddenly found myself in that awkward, isolated, transitional stage experienced by the majority of retirees.  No more daily changing room banter or texts to meet up after training for coffee!

Fortunately I was able to quickly fill that void by joining my current team; as one of over 70 athlete mentors, I’m part of a group of sportsmen and women that have competed or currently compete at an international level that have been brought together to deliver the Sky Sports Living for Sport (SSLFS) programme. 

Currently celebrating its tenth anniversary, Sky Sports Living for Sport is a free, sport-based initiative aimed at 11 – 16 year olds and run in partnership with the Youth Sports Trust.

The programme focuses on boosting confidence, changing behaviour, increasing attainment, improving life skills and supporting all young people to achieve their sporting best in school and their personal best in life. Since 2003, over 50,000 young people have benefitted from this initiative and by the end of July, 3000 school visits will have been completed by athlete mentors.

It is heart-warming to see so many schools run their projects around rugby and tag rugby as the main focus and I’ve experienced first-hand how the healthy rugby environment can truly bring out the best in young people. 

One of my most memorable school visits was with a group of slightly disengaged girls, who, after taking part in a set of rugby drills outside on the muddy playing field, enjoyed intimidating the Year 7 boys with their own rendition of the Haka!

Another wonderful example is of young Wayne Instrell who was recently awarded the SSLFS Student of the Year award.  Through taking up rugby he was able to turn his life around by overcoming bullying and building enough confidence to re-integrate into mainstream classes.

Playing rugby from a young age will instil many core values like teamwork, respect, discipline, enjoyment and sportsmanship that can change your game.

 

About the author

Thinus Delport is a South African ex rugby union player who played wing and fullback both internationally and at club level, where he started his career with the Lions before joining Gloucester in 2002. Thinus then moved to Worcester Warriors in 2004 and Japanese side Kobelco Steelers in 2008.

For more information on Sky Sports Living for Sport programme visit http://livingforsport.skysports.com/.