Bring on the Rugby Sevens
While the international USA rugby team has never had the greatest of successes in major competitions and against the nations traditionally associated with the sport, all that may be changing. This is largely down the inclusion of rugby sevens as an Olympic sport from 2016 and the renewed interest in the sport this has created.
Can the USA be a Rugby force?
Sources say that this has been a question with rugby and the USA for a number of generations but there is a growing awareness amongst young players that rugby is a viable alternative to American Football and basketball.
Part of this growing awareness comes from the understanding that some of the skills learned in playing particularly American Football can be utilised in rugby. So all those players that didn’t quite make the professional leagues in football have a second chance at sporting fame by turning their skills to rugby. All these things could one day lead to kids asking for a rugby ball at Christmas instead of a skateboards or a football.
The sevens has the potential to be the spark. The women’s team are already pushing for a medal and the men’s side beat Samoa in a recent tournament, then drew with the eventual champions Fiji. Most of the 25 rugby players that train full time in the Olympic training centre in California are sevens players.
It may also be helped by some of the biggest names in the game not quite taking in that there are medals to be won and prestige to be earned at the next Olympics with the sevens game. New Zealand Rugby Union have an Olympic programme in place as do the England team but little has been announced by some of the other big names. This means, potentially, the USA could be ahead of the likes of South Africa or France in their preparations.
There are countless potential rugby players out there just waiting for the inspiration to take up the sport. As mentioned, those who train for American football are ideally placed to change sports. Think of the NFL Draft; 250 college players annually are drafted which leaves around 8,750 without any playing future.
Many college programmes create athletes who can’t quite make the grade but are supreme sprinters and add these to the football players not collected in the draft that that’s quite a talent pool to select from.
It is only a matter of time until many of the US colleges begin to start their rugby sevens programmes to specifically aim for players for future Olympic teams.
With the full game become more popular, the New Zealand team is touring in 2014 and this game will probably break the records for spectator attendance in the sport. Plus with talk of a company called RugbyLaw establishing a professional club tournament with a former Ireland coach in charge, the future of rugby in the USA is certainly looking brighter than most people would have expected.