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Friday, March 30, 2012

California Dreamin'

As the fledgling San Juan Sivlerbacks try to set up a match with the New Mexico Brujos on April 14th, my life just took another turn.

Life is funny. I was just minding my own business  and thinking that I was going to do a couple more travel nurse jobs and then settle here in New Mexico-because truth be told, my wife and I have really been enjoying the lifestyle here in New Mexico. Out of the blue, I was offered a job at Los Angeles Childrens Hospital, where I will start working in June. Obviously, I am going to have to check out the rugby scene in Los Angeles and Southern California. To be continued as I finish off my last  3 weeks here in New Mexico.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

London Calling( And Barcelona, Montpellier, Among Others...)

Well, It's Official: My wife and I bought our plane tickets to go to Europe in May. We'll fly into Barcelona, from where we will take a cruise that will stop in Marseille, Cannes, Livorno, and Naples.
We will spend a week in France, split between Montpellier and Aix en Provence. Our next plan is to take the train from Paris to London. While in England, we plan on having stays in Liverpool, London. and Birmingham.

I have two rugby-centric goals on this trip: To see Twickenham and to go to the city of Rugby, the birthplace of Beautiful Game. I would love to catch a professional game in France or England, but in taking an initial glance at the calendar, I think most of the leagues will have wrapped up by the time I get to France and England.

It's OK. I think we can find SOMETHING to do or see in Europe.

Monday, March 19, 2012

American-Born Props Support Lancaster....

First of all, congratulations to Wales for winning the 6 Nations in Grand Slam style.

My advice to Welsh fans would be to enjoy the trophy and the celebration parties in Cardiff, Wrexham and Llanelli. Enjoy it, because England looks to be approaching in the rear-view mirror at warp-speed.

After a very disappointing Rugby World Cup, on and off the pitch; after getting pilloried in the press, having several top flight players retire from international play, many England fans had very, very low expectations, indeed.

The RFU provisionally gave the rudder to this aimless English cruiser to Stuart Lancaster for the duration of the 6 Nations while they looked for a more "suitable" Head Coach. Names like Nick Mallet and Jake White have been discussed. The new skipper was compelled to work with some inexperienced players as his sailors.

I could not watch England-Ireland live on Saturday, because I was playing here in New Mexico,
 but I watched a recording of the match on Sunday. I have been trying to find the right words to express my feelings since then.

In past few weeks, I have seen England beat a very experienced French side(many of whom came THIS close to beating the All Blacks in the RWC final) in Paris in Paris, give the favored Welsh all they could handle in a 7 point loss, and on Saturday in Twickenham, gave the Irish front row a beat-down the likes that I have not seen in a long, long time in a 30-9 demolition at Twickenham. After faltering first steps in a tight wins at Scotland and Italy, England improved as the tournament went on. The Saint Patrick's Day throttling of Ireland at Twickenham should have erased any doubt about if Stuart Lancaster should have the 'Interim coach' title removed from his name.

When I looked at the rugby news on the web today, I was still astonished to see that the RFU is still dragging it's feet in signing Lancaster to a full-time deal.

It seems that I am not the only American-born prop who thinks that the RFU should get on with it and give the full time England job to Stuart Lancaster. Alex Corbisero, the New York City-born England Prop (who had a great tournament) also went on record with the same opinion:

Corbisero is not the only England player who has thrown their support behind Stuart. Frankly, I don't know what else the guy can do to curry favor with the stuffed shirts at the RFU. In my opinion, this is one of the best rebuilding jobs in Europe that did not have "Marshall Plan" next to it. Lancaster has these young kids playing well and they have his back. They will only get better. I just don't see these players leaving it on the field for Nick Mallet, Jake White, or any other imported coach.

If I'm an England fan, I am screaming at the RFU to get on with it and hire this guy as you build towards the rugby orgy that will be RWC England 2015.

For the record, Buddha, my American-born Olde English Bulldog thinks Lancaster should get the job, too.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Chee Spreads the Gospel of Rugby to Native American Kids

I am currently working as a contract nurse at the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, New Mexico. Anybody who picks up  newspaper can be blown away by the amount of bad news on the Navajo Reservation: alcoholism, diabetes, obesity, poverty, spouse abuse, depression, violence (usually while under the influence of alcohol) and kids dropping out of school.

There are some positive things that I have noticed in working with the Navajo people: among the Navajo people, it is considered a loss of face and self control to yell at somebody. (In 7 weeks, I have yet to have a Navajo be rude to me, something I cannot say in any other place I have lived) The Navajo are very differential to their elderly. The Navajo take great pride in military service. True, it's a way off "The Rez", but the warrior spirit lives on. Wrestling, Basketball, mixed-martial arts and cross-country running are very popular among Navajo youth.

A man named Chee Montano has been doing his part of spreading the gospel of rugby to Native American kids in his native Gallup, New Mexico. He is aided and abetted by his charming wife Timaris. As if that was not enough, Chee has also had his hand into trying to get the San Juan Silverbacks Rugby Football Club in Farmington on it's feet. Chee actually found me through Facebook when I posted a question on the New Mexico Brujos page. 

I have been going to some practices here in Farmington. We have a handful of players who show up for practice. We do what we can to work on skills, but have not had too much of a chance to do full-contact practice. 

On Saturday, a game was arranged between Fort Lewis College from Durango, Colorado(about a 45 minute drive from Farmington) and a combined team of San Juan and Chee's high school players from Gallup- a little over 2 hour drive. All sides were missing some players, so we had Fort Lewis play a combined Silverback/Gallup High School team. We ended up playing 11 on 11, and Chee was the referee.

My wife, Rebekah found the perfect use of her R2D2 that she won in a drawing at a local supermarket. She packed it with water, Gatorade and soda for the players. The kids got a big kick out of their high-tech cooler....

At 51,I was in the unique situation of being well over the combined age of my two fellow front-rowers. (Both had to be 15-16) I have to say, I was very impressed with how brave these two kids were in the scrums going against bigger, stronger, more mature college kids. They never whined or bitched about it "not being fair" or anything like that. These kids played hard the entire game, even though Fort Lewis won it going away, something like 44-15. 

Yeah, I was sore walking off the pitch, but I thought that this was something involving Native American kids that was so positive, that somebody needs to read about it. Chee and Timaris Montana give their heart and soul-to say nothing of time and money- to these kids and the sport of rugby. The Fort Lewis College players were also good sports-they knew they were much bigger and stronger than the Gallup kids, and did not try to obliterate them when tackling them. 

On a St. Patrick's day in the high desert of Northwest New Mexico, rugby showed once again why it's such a great game, and that it attracts some of the nicest people. The sport of rugby in the USA is richer by having people like Chee and Timaris Montano spreading the gospel of the oval ball. 

The only St. Patrick's day casualty was R2D2's bladder from holding all of the ice and liquid refreshment...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Battle of Albuquerque: Advantage Aardvarks

My wife and I drove down to Albuquerque with the goal of trying a couple of restaurants, going up the Sandia Tramway -and seeing the Albuquerque Aardvarks play the New Mexico Brujos in a "Battle of Albuquerque".
The two rivals have had conflicting fortunes. The Aardvarks were recently USA National runners-up in Division II. The Brujos have been fighting for respectability.

Early on, the Aardvarks enjoyed possession based on some great play by their forwards...
The Aardvarks went up 14-0, then the Brujos got back in the game with two tries of their own...
This back for the Brujos had a great line break, then chipped and touched the ball down for a try...
At 14-14 early in the second half, it seemed like it was game on.

The score seemed to get the attention of the Aardvarks, who seemed to wear down the Brujos with a deeper bench, and greater physicality -it was soon one-way traffic against the Brujos
A tight game ended with a 55-14 win for the Aardvarks on a blustery day in Albuquerque. For 50 minutes, it was a closer game than the score would have indicated

...the game was not a dog...
And any rugby game in Albuquerque is not complete without a visit to Wally Minoli's place, Gecko's. Wally is just a hard working guy who does a lot for the rugby community in New Mexico.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

6 Nations: Kissing Your Sister in Paris

This weekend had just one match in the Six Nations, a make up from a couple of weeks ago when France-Ireland was cancelled at the 59th minute of the 11th hour due to a frozen pitch at the Stade de France.

There is an expression in the US that a match that finishes in a tie is "like kissing your sister"-not as bad a loss-BUT...

Today's 17-17 draw was a very entertaining match that was really a tale of two halves.

The first half was the Tommie Bowe show, who scored two tries for the men in green: The first when he intercepted a moon-ball lofted up Aurelien Rogerie-an early St. Patrick's day gift for the Irish winger. The second score came from nothing when he took a pass from Keith Earles, then chipped over the French defense, and benefitted from a fortunate bounce, then outpaced the French to touch the ball down for a second try.

Ireland did dodge a major bullet in the first half when prop Cian Healy interfered with a promising French Attack from a blatantly off side position.  France was slow out of the box and Ireland made them pay with a 17-6 lead at half time.

France come out with a lot more intensity in the second half. Morgan Parra had a good kicking day for France on day when conditions were not optimal at the Stade de France. Wesley Fontana had a great individual effort for France, showing great pace to score on a forty meter diagonal run from some loose play near midfield. Game on.

French Coach St. André brought on Lionel Beauxis for Poitrenaud at fullback. Late in the second half, the French forwards did great work to get Beauxis in position for not one, but two drop goal attempts when they were getting deeper into Irish territory with time running out. The first attempt was a grubber that skidded through the try zone. The second was charged down by Ferris.

Both defenses kept their discipline to not give away any penalties with time running out. In the end, the 17-all draw was a fair result. Ireland had the better of the first half, France the second. There will be no Grand Slam for France this year, but they still can possibly when the Six Nations if they win their last two matches-the last one should be a great match in Cardiff against Wales. Don't think that the two sides will have forgotten their passionate and tight semifinal from RWC 2011 in Wellington.  It won't be a World Cup, but a Six Nations title will be a welcome addition to either Welsh Headquarters in Cardiff, or French  headquarters in Paris.