by Tom Billups, C.S.C.S.
The Rugby World Cup (RWC) is the culmination of years of hard work for players and coaches on the twenty participating teams. Congratulations are in order to each team that earned its way to New Zealand. Dozens of coaches and players have been quoted on how special the quadrennial tournament is. In this piece we will highlight some of the things that make this the high point of a rugby man’s careers.
The qualification process for the participating teams varies from automatic qualification; based on 2007 RWC tournament finishes, to regional qualification match victories used to decide which teams would advance to the finals in New Zealand. Once tournament qualification was secured, each participating national team held exhaustive selection trials looking for the best thirty players available for the tournament. Having gone through this process as both a player and head coach, I have experienced the stress associated with having to make the final selection decisions and also experienced the elation of being a player selected. For a player to be selected to a RWC squad means he has passed through the most difficult scrutiny world rugby can provide. Selection acknowledges not only that the athlete is one of the best players of the country he will represent, but also that he is one the top 600 players in the world. This figure is even more dramatic when taken into a global participation context. Worldwide, it is estimated that over five million people play rugby.
Each nation experiences the heartbreak of talented players not being available through injury (England’s Danny Care, Welsh captain Matthew Rees). Miss this tournament and 2015 seems a million miles away. By the same token, these instances provide another player the chance to experience participating in the third-largest sporting event in the world. Thus is life for a high-performance rugby player. At no other time in an athlete’s test career will he experience the extreme highs and low as those associated with the World Cup.
After final RWC squad selections, personal recognition begins to build for each player. The media frenzy surrounding players competing on this big stage is greater than any other test or annual tournament. In some cases professional careers can be launched, while in other cases, legacies cemented. For example, the USA’s Mike Hercus launched a successful professional and international career during the 2003 tournament while, at the same time, England’s Jonny Wilkinson was cementing his legacy as one of the greatest flyhalves to have ever played. Wilkinson’s dramatic drop goal in extra time of the 2003 Final will live on forever in tournament history.
Exploding social media platforms, online streaming technology and expanded worldwide television coverage (2007 RWC viewing audience-four billion) will create a not-yet-experienced level of exposure of coaches and players for rugby fans. The eyes of the rugby world will carefully examine individual players’ performances and come to know their personal stories. At the same time coaches’ team selections, tactics and substitutions will feed animated conversations around the world.
These are several reasons why the Rugby World Cup is such a special competition to be a part of. Like millions of others, I can’t wait for the competition to begin.
I would like to say “best of success” to the United States National Team and the seven California Golden Bears selected within the thirty-man roster: Mike MacDonald (soon to be the new test appearance record holder), Eric Fry, Chris Biller, Brian McClenahan, Louis Stanfill, Colin Hawley and Blaine Scully, a 2011 Cal graduate. Additionally, best wishes to backs coach Matt Sherman, who was a member of the 2003 Rugby World Cup squad. What a privilege it is to have worked with all these fine rugby men.
Tom Billups began his rugby career in 1984 and has spent time as a player in New Zealand (Bay of Plenty), the U.S. (The Old Blues), England (London Harlequins), and Wales (Pontypridd) for domestic teams as well as representing the U.S.A. at international tournaments with the Eagles. After hanging up his boots, Billups got into coaching leading the Eagles and now with University of California – Berkeley. Read the entire bio of Tom Billups as well as Billups first column My Rugby Path and then check out what Billups is saying about the game of rugby in The Billups Column on Rugby Rugby.
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The Barbarians are one of the top invitational rugby sides with a long history and classic rugby jersey.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Lions get ready for their matches with this green training jersey. It's what the players wear. Get in the Gear!
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The Lions are ready to get their Australia tour underway. They arrive in Perth on Monday.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.