USA Men’s U20s look ahead to a pivotal 2024 with World Rugby Trophy qualification and reinforcing long-term goals

Wed, Apr 3, 2024, 12:53 AM
by Calder Cahill.

2023 was a reviving year for the USA Men’s and Women’s Pathways with each age-grade program assembled in some capacity, both at home and across the world.

Since taking the interim USA Men’s Eagles Head Coach and General Manager position in late 2022, and officially appointed this February, Scott Lawrence has continued to put a focus on the U20s program as a critical vehicle for Rugby World Cup success in 2027 and at home in 2031. Men’s U20s Head Coach, Neethling Gericke and Pathways Manager Brendan Keane now look forward to a momentous 2024 off the back of great foundations set last year. A critical piece to the puzzle in long-term planning is a fundraising and support initiative aimed at offering the most time and resources possible to the Junior National Teams.


Lawrence said on the upcoming goals, “The idea of more Americans playing more minutes of rugby is something we have been working towards for some time now. We’re hopeful to have the funding and infrastructure to bring the U20s into a professional environment for a total of 7.5 weeks this year, because that’s what it takes. It takes eight years to build an international rugby player in the right environment, so we’re laying the bricks now for Rugby World Cup 2031.”

In 2023, the Men’s U20s saw an extended camp in late spring parlay the squad into the World Rugby North American Qualifier against Canada, winning both games and heading off for the development tournament for the first time since 2016. Landing in Kenya and facing off with Scotland, Uruguay and Zimbabwe. Since competing, the same core group has remained engaged under Gericke with a Winter Camp assembly and monthly virtual check-ins to keep culture and connectivity at the forefront. Starting April 7th, the wider group will connect every other week to ramp up into summer.

Gericke said of the team’s activities since last year, “The group of players have been great at finding time to communicate with the coaches for one-on-one check-ins. They have stayed fit and have kept us updated on how they are doing at their respected programs. During Winter Camp, we spoke about being selfless players and being selfless doesn’t come overnight, it is cultivated. For this amazing group of athletes to be the best they can on the world stage, they need to play for each other and want success for one another.”

The upcoming year has begun to take shape since World Rugby announced the 2024 U20s Trophy will be hosted in Scotland this July. A full squad is expected to be confirmed in April, ahead of qualifier prep assemblies in mid-May following the collegiate championships. The USA will play Canada in a two-match series this June, this edition hosted by Rugby Canada with dates, locations and tickets to be confirmed shortly. If able to qualify, Gericke and Co. have planned another two week lead up camp into a hopeful trip to Scotland. Aligned with the goals of a multi-year development of core players, many returning names are expected to be called into the April squad list, with a few up and comers from the U18s and collegiate ranks. Two 2023 pool players in Dylan Fortune and Braemar Murray were similarly added to the Anthem RC player pool this year with Major League Rugby.

Fundraising has become a primary component of the program's plan with increased assembly time and infrastructure needed to succeed. Lawrence has laid out a grid of necessities that goes into funding a single player in the expected 52 names to be brought in this year. From travel, accommodations, coaching and supplies, there is a significant amount of player support required. While World Rugby grants support the team for competition windows, gifts from generous donors are a crucial part of the plan, and ultimate growth for the USA Eagles on the world stage.