Growth of US Rugby team builds more exposure
After returning home from the USA Sevens international rugby tournament in Las Vegas last week, I’ve been feeling rather confident about the sport’s chances at catching the average American sports fan’s attention.
First, there’s the matter of the explosion of college rugby. College rugby represents the largest section of USA Rugby, and Forbes reports that there are more than 1,000 colleges that feature a club. Of course, this is rugby union, this game is played with 15 players on a team and 40-minute halves.
This is nothing compared to what USA Rugby Sevens stands to become following the announcement that it will be making its Olympic debut in 2016 in Brazil. Sevens is the same sport with a bit of a twist. There are only seven players on a team, on the same sized field as rugby union and with seven-minute halves. As one can imagine, this makes for a faster paced, high-octane match with big plays and a lot of space to run.
Literally thousands of rugby fans attended the recent USA Rugby Sevens tournament in Las Vegas, where The Eagles Sevens won the Shield Final — the lowest tier of the finals. Their performance wasn’t exactly sterling, but to come away with hardware still represents an improvement. With two more years, who knows what U.S. can accomplish?
Not much is more beneficial to the sport’s exposure than the Olympics. But the cherry on top might just be Carlin Isles, Eagles Sevens’ wing and former world-class track runner, entering the National Football League.
Isles announced following the USA Shield Final victory in Las Vegas that he would be leaving for the Detroit Lions practice squad. While losing the lightning fast Isles is a blow to the Eagles Sevens in the short-term, it may build exposure for the sport that acted as Isles’ bridge between the track and the gridiron. That is, if Isles can make a name for himself in the NFL instead of just hovering around on practice squads.
Regardless, U.S. has a solid captain in Zack Test and a big stage waiting for them in Brazil. If they continue improving, which given the current college rugby atmosphere I imagine they will, we could be looking at an opportunity to make rugby — at least sevens — a primetime affair in the United States.
Adam Uzialko is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in political science and Staff Writer for The Daily Targum.