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EIRA Gets Going with Fall Sessions

irish rugby tours

EIRA Gets Going with Fall Sessions

The Eagle Impact Rugby Academies are underway around the country with a few more ready to get started.

The EIRA chapters are designed to give high school players who have aspirations in the game a stronger grounding in rugby skills and a better understanding of the game.

“We are trying to elevate skills and helping kids find schools,” said EIRA Director and head of Player Development Salty Thompson. “We want to produce players who can contribute to the game at university level or higher.”

Scenes from the Texas EIRA session in September.
Texas EIRA
Texas EIRA
Texas EIRA

The Southern California EIRA program is up and running with around 70 kids signed up to assemble on periodic Sunday’s to work on rugby. In the state of Washington, Steve Brennan and Dave Miller will welcome guest coach Scott Bracken to help start their EIRA season this coming weekend.

Brendan Keane kicked off the North Carolina chapter on Sunday, but before he did that he went up to New York to help Pelham Matt Persanis get EIRA New York started.

Lindenwood’s EIRA is kicking off next weekend and will serve talented young players from St. Louis, Kansas City, and throughout Missouri. Texas had its first session in September.

In Texas, Rob Potter has run the EIRA program and he also coaches the Texas HP teams. Two-day monthly training sessions are set for Houston, Dallas, and Austin, with a two-day camp in December in College Station. Monthly sessions are planned through May. They’ve added a strength and conditioning coach in Ed Cosner, who has worked with professional athletes from a variety of sports. He has worked with four-time Olympic gold medal runner Michael Johnson, and his specialty is working with rugby players, including All Blacks.

This is the sort of thing that will be going on at EIRA sessions.

One of the key parts of this, added Thompson, is that while Thompson is the HS All American coach, this is not a HS All American program.

“You do not have to be in EIRA to be a HS All American,” said Thompson. “We’re not in every state, and some players are doing other things, like playing football.”

A quick look at recent HSAA teams shows players such as Vili Helu, Ben Cima, Chase Bixby, Matt Brennan, Calvin Whiting, and Wes Parker who have made the HS All American team and not been in EIRA.

These periodic, regional academies are a private venture, but they ave a bigger, global significance. Argentina is in the Rugby World Cup semifinals, and the EIRA system is modeled in part after the Argentina academy system. That system was spearheaded, in part, by former England international flyhalf Lester Cusworth. Thompson met with Cusworth when he took the High School All Americans to Argentina, and they discussed at length the idea of having academies that take talented players and make them better.

There are differences - Argentine rugby is concentrated heavily around just a few cities, but the athletic facilities at their disposal are not as good as those in the USA.

“Argentina has a national-run system,” said Thompson. “This isn’t a nationally-run system, but we are trying to create a network. There are other academies out there - what Paul Keeler is going in Northern California is great. But you see the value of having an academy system based on the performance of Argentina in the World Cup.”