Photo: Max Haynes (mxfotos.com)
LAFAYETTE, CO – USA Rugby has today announced its campaign plan to help the Women’s National Team 15s maximize potential at Rugby World Cup New Zealand 2021. Following a comprehensive review throughout 2018, Women’s High Performance staff have identified and addressed key issues to put the program and its players in the best possible position to succeed.
With the first step of hiring a full-time Head Coach fulfilled when Rob Cain was appointed in May, the program acknowledged three additional important needs: a set annual structure which includes more competition windows and a clear outline of development, opportunity and assembly periods; more time for players and coaches to meet together and interact; as well as a tiered player pool structure to increase transparency and streamline resources.
To fill these needs, the Women’s National Team program will launch three initiatives in the beginning of 2019 that will span the duration of the 2021 World Cup cycle. Additional programming will be layered in eight months prior to the competition in New Zealand.
Beginning this month, an annual calendar will be put into motion which accounts for all 12 months of the year and includes periods for preseason, development, two competition windows and offseason.
Competition windows will feature an increased number of test matches with teams ranked higher than USA before they meet at the World Cup in 2021. Also included are games that sit between the domestic club level (Women’s Premier League) and the international test level termed as “Club Plus” matches, played as developmental Women’s Selects games.
January through March will serve as a preseason with April and May set as development and opportunity windows. The first of the two competition windows will run in early summer.
August will give staff and players time to review before another development and opportunity window spans September and October alongside the Women’s Premier League and collegiate fall seasons. The final competition window will kickoff in November after which December will be an offseason period to again review and reset.
To address the second key need, the program will re-introduce a Regional Training Program aimed specifically at increasing interactions between coaches and players outside of competition.
The Regional Training Program will be a two-fold supportive process, consisting of both Regional Training Centers and Regional Training Weekends. Centers are strategically placed at five locations across the United States in areas where a high concentration of players reside. There, coaches and athletes will meet one-on-one for a set number of hours during preseason to work on individual areas and development of core skills under pressure. All players within the tiered pool structure, including age-grade athletes, will attend sessions at Regional Training Centers.
Regional Training Weekends will be held on four different occasions in March and again in October where larger sets of players and coaches will meet together for a full weekend. During weekends, players will put individual skills developed at Training Centers into practice within bigger groups. The program will use Training Weekends to evaluate which athletes should be invited to high performance camps and full competitions thereafter.
In addressing the final need for the program, the Women’s National Team will soon reveal a tiered player pool structure that includes integration with the Women’s Sevens Residency program. The structure will include three levels with a top Performance Pool that is consistent in status with a Performance Pool to be announced for the Men’s National Team 15s. All three levels will receive support from Women’s High Performance, however support and accountability will be highest for the top Performance Pool.
General Manager for Women’s High Performance, Emilie Bydwell said: “2018 was an important year for the Women’s 15s as it allowed us to reflect and set a platform for the 2021 World Cup Campaign. Women’s 15s has unique challenges, different from the other three national teams as the program does not have an annual competition structure like the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series or the Men’s 15s Americas Rugby Championship.
“In conjunction with World Rugby’s hard work to advance Women’s 15s competitions, we believe it is a priority to establish a yearlong infrastructure and communicate it to our players and community. While increasing test matches is critical, it can only be one pillar of our strategy. We need a plan that underpins the match schedule to truly maximize the opportunity of those additional fixtures.
We believe that this strategy will allow our program to make the necessary progress in these two crucial development years of 2019 and 2020. Next we will be rolling out a similar infrastructure for our age-grade program that aligns and feeds into the senior plan.”
Though 2019 budgets and resources have been allocated to support the annual calendar and Regional Training Program, fundraising is still necessary to execute all facets of the plan. While the program has worked tirelessly to create a stable infrastructure, financial constraints remain a daily challenge. As USA Rugby commits to this Campaign plan for the next three years, financial support from the community will be critical to ensure assemblies take place as outlined.
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January – March | Pre-season
- Midwest Regional Training Weekend | March 9-10
- West Regional Training Weekend | March 16-17
- Pacific Regional Training Weekend | March 23-24
- Atlantic Regional Training Weekend | March 30-31
April – May | Development Camp & Opportunity Window
- Women’s High Performance Development Camp | April 20-28
- Women’s High Performance Development Camp | May 15-25
June – July | Competition Window
August | Break
September – October | Development Camp & Opportunity Window
- Regional Training Weekend | dates TBA
November | Competition Window
December | Program Review and Reset
*Exact assembly dates subject to change