US Head Coach Eddie O’Sullivan has said that improving US grassroots rugby is key to bettering the ranking and quality of the country’s national team.
The former Ireland head coach who was officially announced as US head coach on March 4th of this year said that the US collegiate programs are quickly improving but that further development is necessary.
Speaking to Reuters O’Sullivan said that: "In the 10 years I was away from the game in America it certainly changed for the better and it's got stonger and has a better structure.
"The (big) difference between the '90s and now is that the collegiate programs are getting much better, there are more of them (and) a lot of those players play their first game of rugby at college. They may have been (American) football players at high school but begin to play rugby in college.
"So those collegiate programs are very, very important (because) a lot of those players come out of the collegiate program and go straight into the Eagles."
Among recent advancements in US Rugby was a recent decision by NBC to broadcast a collegiate rugby competition, a first in America.
The Irishman said that the problem, rather, was selling the concepts of ‘clubs’ to America, as rugby’s closest sporting counterpart, American football, is largely limited to college teams and professional sides.
"Teams like Cal-Berkeley, Utah, Notre Dame -- they're easy to sell to the American public because they're marquee colleges.
"Whereas trying to sell a club to America is tough -- no-one knows about clubs, but they all understand the collegiate system," said the ex-Ireland coach.
The coach said that although the grassroots system was taking off, there was still a lot of work to be done before the standard of play and competition would produce players of a strong standing who could compete internationally with more success:
"It's like pushing a rock up a hill. Sometimes it's two steps forward then it rolls back a step," he said of starting up the grassroots clubs scene.
The coach said that one of the first and most urgent steps to be taken was the establishment of a professional league, something which is currently lacking in the US. “Even Russia has one,” concluded O’Sullivan.