This week PRO Rugby announced that it will be holding its 2nd pro-combine in San Francisco later this month. PRO Rugby held its first combine last month (December 19-20th) in southern California. PRO Rugby’s 2nd ever combine is being held Sunday January 31st in San Francisco. We spoke with PRO Rugby’s Director of Rugby Operations to learn a bit more.
The inaugural PRO Rugby season is coming up in the just three months, and across the country the season for most senior men’s and college clubs have also started play and or will by this weekend, which is partly why the combine is just one day on Sunday versus two.
The second combine will have limited spacing and there is a deadline for registration. Those seeking to participate will need to register by January 16, 2016. You may use this link to register for the up coming combine.
In the first of the PRO Rugby combine, the guys from Tiger Rugby facilitated the combine for PRO Rugby in Southern California. For this coming combine Lewis reported that PRO Rugby will be organizing the even, with the assistance of Tiger Rugby coaches. One of the PRO Rugby coaches, Paul Keeler who will head up the San Francisco club is based out of the bay area is the Santa Clara University's Coach and a NorCal Pelicans Coach will likely be part of the PRO Rugby team that will be out there.
Now the San Francisco Bay Area not only has a number of clubs to pull from (PRP, DI, DII, DIII) there are also a number of powerhouse collegiate programs that can also supply players (Cal, St. Mary’s’, Santa Clara, UC Davis, etc.). In his interview last month with the American Rugby Podcast, he had said that PRO Rugby was not going to pull non-seniors for play, but we wanted to get clarity on that so we asked Lewis if PRO Rugby still didn’t want to pull non-seniors from the colleges? Lewis said “Its not a “not wanting”, if players are good enough we want them, but I am mindful that young men get their degrees first and think pro rugby later. I do not want to disrupt anyone’s academic career”.
We know there is a lot of talent across the county, but we also know that California is home to a lot of talent as well. There are a number of national power collegiate programs, high school programs, PRP clubs, as well as national contenders from the various divisional clubs, and now there are Select Sides/All Stars in both NorCal and Southern California, so how viable can those players who have made those selects sides (who come from PRP all the way down to DII and DIII clubs) play into the mix or the combine? Lewis reported that he personally had not looked at any specific players from the ranks of the Pelicans Selects (NorCal), but he is happy to take a look. He did say PRO Rugby has been working with many of those coaches (Paul Keeler and Adriaan Ferris Life West/Pelicans) and that he’s sure any players good enough for the pro level will be recommended.
PRO Rugby is holding its 2nd combine in California again, but you also have to consider that there are two teams already set in northern California (San Francisco, and Sacramento), serious talk of the last going in to the San Diego area. There is also the large pool for players that exist in northern California as well. We did wonder if this meant that players identified in this combine could end up being placed with the local teams. Lewis also answered our question on that saying “All the players are centrally contracted by the league (PRO Rugby). However, we want to keep people where they are happiest, if they’re California kids, we want to assign them to a California teams when possible".
We asked Lewis what they are hoping to identify with this combine. We know they’ll be looking at actual skills, experience, talent, as well as ability, but are they also looking at guys who can represent the league and its possible sponsors? Lewis simply replied “all of the above. Plus I want good citizens”. Remember at this level the teams aren’t looking to teach rugby, but are looking at players to play at the highest level possible here in the USA so the expectations are high, but the players will also be promoting the PRO Rugby brand, and so that’s where the league's consideration of character also factors in.
Lewis informed us that this will be the last combine in the California area, before the inaugural season, so it is the last chance for some players who think they can play at this level and have not been identified to show the coaches that they can play at that level. PRO Rugby is actively working to hold two to three more combines elsewhere which they hope to announce this week. Currently possible combine locations are Ohio, Texas, and North Carolina.
So ruggers in the California Republic who want to get a shot at the PRO Rugby have a change to showcase their skills this month in San Francisco. Remember there are a limited amount of slots, and those interested must register for the combine.
Thanks again to Steve Lewis from PRO Rugby, for his time. We hope this is some useful insight for those considering a shot at the pros.