USA Rugby – inspiring America to fall in love with Rugby.
Based in Boulder Colorado, USA Rugby is the organisation which oversees the sport in North America. Responsible for the game at all ages and formats, from junior to Elite, 7s and 15s, men and women – it has also tasked itself with inspiring America to fall in love with rugby.
USA Rugby may have high ambitions but their efforts and those around the country involved in the game at all levels have helped make rugby the fastest growing team sport in the country.
Their promotion and development of the sport involves initiative such as the USA Rugby Rookie Rugby programme which has introduced the game to 2 million kids, the Coaching Clinics and courses which aim to improve technical skills in the game and their referee and administrator training programmes to help on and off field run smoothly.
USA Rugby Teams
The Men’s and Women’s Senior team are known as the Eagles.
The Women’s team have enjoyed success at the highest level, winning the World Cup in 1991 and coming second in 1994 & 1998. Their success has helped develop the women’s game both domestically and globally.
The Men have had less success on the International stage. Facing opposition with years more experience, professional playing contracts with domestic clubs and experience of regular international tournaments such as the Six Nations in Europe and The Rugby Championship in the Southern Hemisphere they were not facing an easy task. They have qualified for all but one of the Rugby World Cups held since 1987 and have won games against Japan and Russia but have yet to progress beyond the Pool stages.
In 2012, the USA was added to the IRB International Tours and Tournaments schedule with Italy, Georgia and Canada playing a series of friendlies. Ireland and Scotland have played games in the States as part of their summer tour schedules. 2014 saw the Eagles take on the All Blacks in an Autumn international at a packed Soldiers Field and a global TV audience.
With more players joining overseas professional leagues and exposure to regular competitive games with top tier international teams the Eagles should soar.
The USA Rugby Strip takes its inspiration from the flag. With the rugby gear consisting of a kit of either white or blue, both with accents of red.
The 2012 International Friendlies saw the return of the popular stars and stripes design which is a fans favourite.
USA Rugby: Stadium
The unofficial home is Infinity Park in Denver, Colorado but matches featuring the Eagles have taken place across the US to highlight the sport in new areas.
USA Rugby Professional Contracts
The first professional player contracts were awarded in January 2012 when 15 men and 8 women in the Sevens squad were signed up. Based at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista California the players have top class facilities to help develop their skills.
“As we prepare as a nation for Rio 2016, making our men’s and women’s sevens teams fulltime is a crucial step for our sport,” said USA Rugby CEO, Nigel Melville.
USA Rugby Sevens
The biggest annual rugby event in America is held in February in Las Vegas when the HSBC Sevens Tournament comes to town. The 2011 saw records crowds over the 3 day event. The seven player format of the game is helping to grow a fan base for the sport not only in the States but globally. A party atmosphere prevails at all the stops on the World Tour and fans are known for their elaborate costumes and vocal support of their teams.
The sevens rugby format of the game is doing much to grow the sport domestically and internationally. With college tournaments being televised and the Olympics ahead, star names like Zach Test, leading career try scorer, and former track athlete Carlin Isles are doing their bit to inspire America.
USA Rugby & the Olympics
2016 sees rugby back as an Olympic sport and the current USA Rugby Sevens team are focused on qualification for the event in Rio. The US does have a good track record as they are current double Olympic champions in the XV format of the game thanks to the efforts of an adventurous team of amateurs in the 1920s.
Their first victory came in the 1920s when the highly unfavoured Americans beat France 8-0. The team had never played outside the US and indeed never faced international competition before so the French thought it a one-off performance and challenged them to a four game tour, which the Americans won 3-1.
The French were again waiting in 1924. Some of the USA Rugby players from the 1920s side returned but they struggled to find experienced players so were accompanied by American Footballers who had never even seen the sport before. Again they went into the finals as underdogs and emerged victorious in front of a crowd of 30,000.
Shortly after rugby was removed from the Olympic schedule and with the growth of American Football the sport all but disappeared in North America until the four unions joined to form USA Rugby in 1975.
Salt Lake City hosted the Junior World Rugby Trophy in June 2012. The Tournament highlights the top young talent in the emerging rugby nations and to the winner goes the opportunity to play in the Top Tier Tournament, the Junior World Championship.
The USA Rugby Junior All-Americans played a two match series against northern neighbours Canada as a warm up the the main event. Despite only having a few practice sessions ahead of the clash, the U20s won both tight contests. They showed impressive resiliance to comeback from a 21-0 deficit in the second game to win which showed real spirit.
This was evident throughout the teams performance in the JWRT when they held off the Japanese in the Final to lift the trophy.
USA Rugby and the future
World Rugby see America as a huge potential market for the sport and the award of the JWRT and the Rugby World Cup Sevens is seen by many as an indication that the country will be chosen to host the Rugby World Cup in 2027.