By International Rugby Players

With the Rugby World Cup 7s kicking off in San Francisco this weekend, USA Rugby Players’ Association Chairman Blaine Scully outlines his hopes for Rugby in America. 

“As the United States Rugby Players Association, We pay respect to those who have come before us; Pledge to represent our country, our families and ourselves to the best of our ability; Establish our willingness to meaningfully contribute to the progress of our sport — And promise to leave the Eagle Jersey in a better place.”

The purpose of the USRPA is to create the highest quality experience for high performance rugby players in the United States. Our aim is to protect and promote player welfare in addition to growing the game. As the professional association for all USA Rugby National Team players, we collectively represent the athletes of all four teams (Men/Women & Fifteens/Sevens). We are actively working with and supporting the players of our new professional competition, Major League Rugby, as well as building out the alumni component of our organization.

As key stakeholders in the business of rugby in the United States, a strong sense of partnership and shared purpose is vital to promoting excellence in all areas: performance, player welfare and development.

Fundamentally, we believe rugby’s success in America will be built from a combination of factors. Success requires clarity of purpose and sustained effort, but in a complex and competitive environment, cooperation, collaboration and unified effort will result in progress.

As such, we are keen to establish consistent dialogue with USA Rugby as well as other rugby stakeholders on issues related to player welfare.  The Players touch almost every piece of the puzzle. So if we are ever to achieve the growth we desperately desire, it is important that athletes share equal ownership in the development of the game. With the player as a valued stakeholder and at the table as an equal partner, we can ensure our voice is heard and contributing to the betterment of the game.

Founded in September 2016, we operate similar to any other start-up. We’re limited in resources, yet we’re making continued progress thanks to the commitment of an inclusive group of talented representatives, both women and men. We all share the same objective of leaving the jersey in a better place.

Fundamental to our responsibility as an organization is providing relevant resources and functions specific to the needs of all athletes. As we continue to grow and develop, services such as on and off the field support, player development programs, access to sponsors and partners, career transition support, networking events, medical and financial advice, advice on player agents, insurance will all become part of what we do as an association. Our ability to enhance, complement and promote the athlete’s experience during his/her playing career not only allows for a healthy balance during a professional career but a smoother transition to life after rugby.

As a member of International Rugby Players, the USRPA is now able to benchmark our organization with some of the best professional rugby nations in the world. We are able to share resources as well as move closer to global alignment on issues concerning player welfare. As a nation of growth, it is vitally important that issues concerning the players is at the forefront of all growth discussions. When you look around the world, the healthiest rugby playing countries and unions are supported by an engaged playing base – in the form of a vibrant Players Association.

In addition to our shared leadership model, we have been incredibly fortunate with our partners, including the NFLPA/REP Worldwide, Trokt, BrandForward and Amazon. All of our partners have provided invaluable support and experience in assisting our growth as an Association. A special mention must also go to the San Francisco Giants, who have sponsored our first ever USRPA Eagles Reunion and Open House event to complement the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament this weekend.

Rugby in the United States is in the midst of a defining period where we have experienced some momentum and have exciting growth potential. National Team performances in 2017-2018 are indicative of this, notably our recent defeat of Scotland, who are ranked 6th in the world. This, coupled with the launch of Major League Rugby, the success of the USA men’s 7s team, winning the Americas Rugby Championship twice, the USA women’s sevens team finishing near the top in recent years and the Women’s 15s fourth place finish at WRWC2017 puts us in a very good place.

Now, our challenge will be channeling that growth into an aligned direction and positive action. There are a lot of good people working very hard to make rugby in America be the very best it can be. Through supporting and growing our players, we believe we can grow the game of rugby here in the United States.

Blaine Scully 

International Rugby Players

/ Contributor

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