San Diego, CA (February 12, 2007) – Wednesday, February 7, the United States Rugby Foundation hosted the Steinlager USA Sevens Kickoff Reception. The reception was held from 5:00-7:00 pm at the USRF headquarters, within the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum in beautiful Balboa Park. Over 200 local rugby fans came out to meet and greet the players from all 16 teams taking part in the competition.
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders welcomed the teams to America’s Finest City and let them know how important the event was to San Diego and that the city was behind the tournament 100%. USA Sevens LLC representatives Ray Peterson and Dan Lyle also welcomed those in attendance and stated how they too were looking forward to the tournament and what to expect at PETCO Park.
In addition to Steinlager, other event sponsors included Hooker Wines, the House of Blues, Coca Cola Bottling of San Diego, Cox Communications, Wells Fargo Bank, the San Diego Hall of Champions and Kleege Industries.
On Saturday, February 10, the picturesque San Diego Yacht Club was the setting for this year’s appreciation and fund raising dinner, hosted by the Trustees of the United States Rugby Foundation. Its purpose was to recruit additional members to the USRF Board of Directors, expose potential donors to the mission of the USRF and pay tribute to many who have been involved in the development of rugby in the United States.
As part of the weekend activities, twenty-one members from all across the country came to San Diego for a USRF Board meeting. Recognizing the early efforts of many of the existing USRF Board, over 80 guests, namely friends of the Rugby Foundation, joined the evening’s festivities to enjoy the food, drink and camaraderie.
The dinner was part of the historic inaugural USA Sevens Tournament, now slated to be played in San Diego through 2010. Guests enjoyed a Saturday full of rugby from three suites at the beautiful PETCO Park, venue for the USA Sevens tournament. With the US Eagles smashing victory over Kenya fresh in their memories, many in the Foundation suites made their way to the yacht club on San Diego Bay.
After dinner, USRF Executive Director Brian Vizard welcomed the board members and their guests to the occasion. Vizard also recognized some of the guests who were in attendance, including, the New Zealand Ambassador to the United States, Roy Ferguson; USA Sevens, LLC founder, Jon Prusmack, who was joined by his wife, Patti; USA Rugby board members Vic Hilarov, who served as the Union’s first president in 1975, Bob Latham, Dave Hodges and USA Rugby’s CEO Nigel Melville.
Also in the crowd were some of the USA’s earliest Eagles, including USRF Board members Tom Selfridge, Bill Fraumann and Lin Walton.
USRF Chairman, Bob Watkins, then outlined the progress of the Foundation and the direction it will be taking in the future. He then turned the floor over to the United States Eagles first ever coach, Dennis Storer, who received the biggest ovation of the evening.
Dennis brought up the fact that it was just over 31 years ago that the first Eagles team assembled for the first test match against Australia. He remembered that it was tough trying to find an opposing team to play against the Eagles in that first test. But after the impressive display against the Wallabies, followed up by another close defeat to France, he said teams from all around the globe wanted to play the Eagles.
Dennis went on to thank all those in the crowd who took some part in those early years in US rugby, as there were many who are still involved in USA Rugby and were guests in the audience. After his eloquent speech, Dennis was honored with a standing ovation, a thank you for all he has done for the game in the United States. It was the highlight of the evening.
Brad Andrews, another early Eagle who made his debut in the Eagles’ first ever win, against Canada in 1978, was the evening’s keynote speaker. Brad talked about what the sport of rugby meant to him and the role it’s played in helping shape his life.
There was one last special guest speaker of note, USA Eagles Sevens Coach Al Caravelli, who stopped by to say a few words about the Eagles first day of play in the tournament. He acknowledged that the team made some mistakes against Australia in the opener, that there were glimmers of reached expectations against England, and that the team finally put things together against Kenya in the day’s final match. He said he expected more good things in Day Two.
Before the festive evening came to a close, USRF board member Dave Sitton played auctioneer as three items went up for bid. The first was a framed autographed New Zealand All Blacks Sean Fitzpatrick jersey. The second item on auction was a display of England great Fran Cotton memorabilia, including an England jersey, Lions blazer and an assortment or England and Lions ties. The last item on the auction block was a photo of the 1924 USA Gold medal winning rugby team.
It was a wonderful evening and with the USA Sevens set for San Diego for the next few years will only get bigger and better.
The USRF is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization established in 1963. Although its main focus is supporting youth and high school rugby, the Foundation also provides grants to coaches and referees; establishes international student exchanges and college scholarships, has assisted the United States Collegiate All-Americans and Boys Under-19 teams, and also provides grants to Safety and Risk Management Research.
For more information about the Foundation, go to its website at: www.usrugbyfoundation.org.