Money meant little to Clever

Fri, 06 Apr 2018 08:00

EXCLUSIVE: In a time when money drives many players to leave their homeland to make a living in the big European leagues, former USA Eagles captain reveals why he turned down a European contract in favour of one with the Lions.

Clever speaks about his playing journey from the 16th minute!

Opportunities to make a living from the sport you love was non-existent in the United States of America in the early 2000s, leading Todd Clever to chase his dreams in other parts of the world.

Growing up in California, Clever represented the University of Nevada where he was named as a three-time collegiate All-American from 2002 until 2004. However, he wanted to travel the world and play the sport at the highest possible level, which saw him heading to New Zealand.

"I left University early to play in New Zealand, had a couple of years there where I made the NPC team to play for North Harbour - had a great time but couldn't cut into the Super Rugby franchise," he said.

Playing Super Rugby was a life-long dream for the loose forward who now boasts the accolade of being the most capped USA Eagle. By opting to follow his dream of playing in the premier Southern Hemisphere competition, he rejected offers from Europe.

"When I first started playing rugby at high school and college in the States, we only got Super Rugby and Tri-Nations. So it was always a goal to play Super Rugby. 

"2007 came around - USA vs South Africa at the World Cup - had a pretty good showing and got the invite after that to come down [to Johannesburg] for the next Super Rugby season. 

"I took the opportunity, which obviously wasn't comparable to the euro and the pound where I had a couple of opportunities too but when I first started playing rugby, my goal was to travel the world and have a good time while playing high level and reach my goals.

"To play Super Rugby, it didn't matter whether it was in Johannesburg for the Lions or in New Zealand or Australia, that was it [the dream]. So I took that opportunity, came down to the Lions and a great couple of years," he added.

However, Clever realised his dream of playing at a high level all over the world as he took up contracts in Japan with Sungoliath (2010-2012) and Shining Arcs from 2012-2015. He then signed with Newcastle Falcons in the Premiership before calling time on his career.

Clever helped the United States qualify for the 2019 World Cup when they defeated arch-rivals Canada 52-16 on 21 June 2017 in 

Clever announced his international retirement on June 21 and his last game - on July 1 - saw him captain the Eagles to a 52–16 win over Canada in his home state of California, to see the United States qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup as Americas 1.

The 35-year-old racked up 76 international caps for the USA Eagles to go with 24 appearances for the USA Sevens team.

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