(Berkeley, California) 16 February 2000 -- American rugby great Tom Billups is the National Team's new Strength & Conditioning Coach, USA Rugby announced today.
In the first personnel move by new head coach Duncan Hall, the recently retired Eagle hooker is now charged with bringing the current crop of players to international standards of fitness.
"I know plenty of rugby professionals who understand the conditioning demands of the modern game, but only one who also knows the demands of American rugby," said Hall on announcing the part-time appointment. "Tom was one of America's first professional players and has a background in conditioning that will be a valuable asset and resource to the National squad.
"To be competitive at the professional level of rugby requires fitness levels that we may have only dreamed about in the past. For the National Team to develop into a winning team we will have to find players who are willing to do the hard work that this success will require. Tom is integral to this strategy, to develop the program and to encourage personal best performance. I welcome him to the coaching staff and look forward to working with him."
Billups, the former US captain who earned 44 caps, is known worldwide for his commitment to physical preparation. Prior to his professional playing seasons in Europe, the Iowa native spent 10 years as a professional fitness coach. Certified by the American Council on Exercise, Billups is also a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Billups's supporters include Irish rugby star Keith Wood, who engaged in friendly competition with Billups for starting time at London Harlequins. Wood acknowledges his American training partner as a key to his success with Ireland.
"I played 12 years of American club rugby and I understand how difficult it is to train, work and play rugby," said Billups. "But our players will now have focused workouts and plenty of help with motivation. We will create some monsters."
The appointment is a minor milestone for the Eagles program, proof of its
increasingly professional approach to the game. "When I started as a
player, we were a fully amateur team that had a couple of fixtures a year,"
noted Billups. "We have made great technical advances since then, now to
include the resources for a conditioning coach. We will make the most of
this new opportunity."
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