How the US is Embracing Rugby

The Rise of US Rugby

Figure 1 The US is hoping to become a top level rugby nation

When you think of international rugby, the Six Nations springs to mind. You may be a big fan of the All Blacks, or enjoy the intense competition of the Gallagher Premiership. But not even the most ardent of rugby fans will immediately think of the USA.

But it might be that US television networks and California sports betting sites will be taking more of an interest in the game in the next few years. The sport is growing at an impressive rate and America has just been awarded the 2031 and 2033 Rugby Cups – in the men’s and women’s game. So, will the US be ready to accept a ‘new’ sport?

The History of Rugby in the US

Although rugby is a fast-growing sport in the US, there are whole swathes of the population that have hardly even heard of it, let alone played or watched it. That was not always the case though. Rugby was first introduced in the late 19th century and the US even won gold at the Olympics of 1920 and 1924.

But then came American football and rugby almost disappeared entirely as the new sport became popular. There was a slight resurgence in the 1960s and 70s but it is only recently that rugby has started to come back. Now there is an even greater chance for it to make a name for itself.

Major League Rugby

As much as everyone enjoys the international side of the game, it is the grassroots and local leagues that inspire future players and grow the sport. That’s why it was so important that Major League Rugby was launched in 2018. Although there had been leagues before, MLR was what was needed for the modern game in the US.

Traditional rugby strongholds, such as New York and San Francisco, have been joined by teams from across the country (and one in Canada) playing at an elite level. There are overseas players helping to improve the standard further – and attendances are continually growing.

Figure 2 Domestic and international success will inspire future generations

International Rugby in the States

The US Eagles continue to fly the flag on an international stage for rugby too. We have grown accustomed to watching the US in the men’s and women’s World Cups over the years and the hope is that the men’s team can beat Chile in July to qualify for next year’s tournament. The women have already booked their place at the World Cup in New Zealand later this year.

There have been some big victories too. The women actually won the first ever World Cup in 1991. Although they have not managed to repeat that feat, they have consistently done well. The men beat Scotland in 2018 but were thrashed by New Zealand last year.

Problems to Overcome

There will be some hard work needed to convince the American public about the sport though. The game needs further investment in training facilities – and the travel demands of a national league in such a big country are immense.

There are a lot of dedicated rugby professionals and fans working hard for the sport to succeed though. Critics laughed when the US was awarded the football World Cup in 1994 but it has now become a major player on the world stage. US Rugby will hope that there is a similar outcome for them.

The Future Looks Bright

The award of the two World Cups have been a major boost for rugby in the States. The advances that have been made will need to continue though, with a momentum to be carried through until they kick off in nine years’ time.

In such a large and diverse country, there is the potential for this sleeping giant to become a major player in the sport. The desire is definitely there – we will see how far that takes US rugby in the coming years.

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