USA hooker Phil Thiel has signed a representation deal with Premier Rugby Management, a US-based agency that is looking to place American players on pro teams overseas.
Run by Alexander Gatzoulis and Jesse Martineau, the New Hampshire-based agency already has John Cullen signed on.
|Phil Thiel made his test debut for the USA against Uruguay Nov. 14, 2009|
He has played 17 times for the USA, starting 11 times.
Three of his caps have come at prop, the rest at hooker.
“I want to play professionally overseas,” said Thiel, 29, who started playing for a U19 team in Traverse City, Mich. and went on to play for Life University. “But the biggest thing I am hoping for is to help PRM represent American-based players and help them move the game forward. When I was younger, you might get some help from coaches or USA Rugby when they could, but really there was nobody out there willing to stick their neck out from an agency or marketing level. It’s really nice to know there’s an organization who’s got your back.”
While Thiel has been talking about outreach to US players and working to help other players get representation and contracts, PRM said the top priority for Thiel is getting him a contract.
“Our number-one goal is to make sure Phil is playing at a high level, and helping him navigate that process,” said Gatzoulis, PRM’s President .
Players looking to get a contract in Europe need to get a starting cap to secure the right visa. PRM is reportedly looking for ways to get around that, but leveraging other talents, connections, or processes.
“One o the biggest things you’re running into is the visa issue,” said Thiel. “When I turned 21 I went over on a traveler’s visa and said I was on vacation. But you can’t do that as a plan. Graham Harriman was all set to go to a club, but his visa stumbled him up, and you see that a lot. The younger guys coming up are so good, they really should all be playing somewhere.
“John Cullen is an exceptional athlete and he worked really hard to get into rugby-playing shape after playing football,” said Thiel about his PRM partner. “Now if you get a guy like that into a professional outfit, there’s no telling what he could do. Look at Blaine Scully. He gets over there [to Leicester] and just explodes. We have so many young guys like that.”
As for Thiel, he may be 29, but he has not played so much rugby that he is run down. He took a break after the 2011 Rugby World Cup to play rugby league, but after working his way back into rugby union fitness, he not only made the Eagles, he has secured the starting hooker position.
Front-rowers can last a long time in rugby professional rugby if they take care of themselves, and Thiel could certainly be seen as young in front row terms – young but experienced.
Thiel said he signed with Premier Rugby Management because they are Americans who know the American rugby landscape and will work hard on his behalf. Reports are that PRM will be signing more US-based rugby players in the coming weeks.