(Berkeley, California) 18 April 1996 -- Head Coach and General Manager Jack Clark today announced that the USA National Rugby Team has revised its 1996 schedule.
Instead of playing in the Pan Pacific Rugby Series, the Eagles will join in a round-robin, home-and-away competition that features Hong Kong, Japan, and Canada as well as the United States. The change reflects the cancellation of the PPRS, and the determination of four would-be contestants to go through with creating an international season for Pacific Rim countries.
The Eagles' schedule now lists home matches on May 11 against Canada, June 29 against Hong Kong, and July 6 against Japan. Away matches fall on May 18 against Canada, June 9 against Hong Kong, and June 16 against Japan. Three of the six fixtures are unchanged, and San Francisco remains the US venue.
The yet unnamed championship was officially introduced by Dave Roberts, Chief Operating Officer of the Hong Kong RFU, on behalf of the four participating unions. Like the PPRS, the championship will take place in late spring and early summer; but unlike the abortive startup league, it will be sponsored and controlled by these unions and require no commercial resources.
Self-management promises greater financial success than PPRS offered these four highly marketable national teams, but for now the emphasis is squarely focused on the playing field. "The United States is committed to developing an annual rugby competition in the Pacific Rim, and we regard the setback to the Pan Pacific Rugby Series as minor," Clark stated. "Our three partners, Hong Kong, Japan, and Canada, are as committed as we are to a 1996 competition, and it will happen. Full stop.
"As the competition matures, other countries will be added as their own resources improve, or as the competition becomes capable of financing their participation."
Earlier on Thursday, lack of commercial sponsorship forced PPRS organizers to announce cancellation. Hopes had run high for the new league, which was to include Argentina, Canada, Fiji, Hong Kong, Japan, Tonga, and Western Samoa as well as the USA, but the competition found itself unable to rely on Carnegie Sports International, its commercial partner, for nearly all of its financial backing. "It was a valiant and ambitious effort to create an eight-team competition in six months," Clark noted, "and it barely fell short."
The revised US schedule is as follows: