Emerick wants US to fill the void

Dragons centre Paul Emerick believes the lack of a professional league has left the USA trailing their Test rivals, and thus at a major disadvantage heading into the Rugby World Cup.

Emerick is just one of seven full-time professional players available to the Eagles with five of them playing in last night’s 13-9 Churchill Cup defeat by Scotland ‘A’ in Henley.

USA Rugby chief executive Nigel Melville is planning to set-up a domestic professional league in the hope of attracting talent from the large pool of college gridiron players who fail to land paid contracts.

That will come too late for this year’s World Cup, butMelville hopes the competition will be in place next year and Emerick maintains it will be crucial to the development of the national team as they head towards a likely spot in New Zealand in 2011.

“Most of the players we face are professional and they are exposed to league rugby for an entire season,” he said in the aftermath of the Eagles’ close defeat to Scotland A on Wednesday.

“The standard in England, Scotland and Wales for example is far higher than anything we have domestically in the US, where everything is still amateur.

“Our players need to experience that level of competition and that will help our speed of execution.

“We’re trying to close the gap and bring these boys up to speed – having a professional league will help that enormously.”

The Eagles ran a Scottish side containing 10 capped internationals close at Henley last night, distancing memories of their nightmare 51-3 thrashing by England Saxons in their tournament opener last Friday.

“I was pleased with our display against Scotland,” said the 27-year-old.

“We showed a lot of guts and it was definitely a step in the right direction after the defeat by England.

“We’re still missing something tactically but that can be coached into the players. Our first-up tackles have improved, as has our running.

“Sometimes we run out of ideas but that is something that can also be coached.”

Emerick, who scored the match-winning try for the Dragons in last Friday’s Heineken Cup play-off against Calvisano, is enjoying his role as one of the USA’s senior players.

“It’s been challenging for me. I’ve taken on more of a hands-on approach, trying to organise the boys,” he said.

“My role with the Dragons is more about taking directions. Having that responsibility doesn’t hurt. I’m happy to help out in any way if it speeds up our development.”


365 Digital

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