This Is How Big Rugby Is Getting In The US Now
Story from: 2oceansvibe.com
When Americans decide they like something they usually go all-in, and it looks like rugby could be the next sport to grip the country’s attention.
A while back CNN took a look at the efforts of the Chinese to grow rugby at home (HERE), and now they’ve done a similar in-depth look at the sport’s growth in the land of Trump.
You might remember the Blitzbokke won the Las Vegas Sevens two weeks back, but what you might not be aware of is how the numbers of those playing the game has taken off.
Some of those numbers, from CNN:
Las Vegas welcomed record crowds to its international tournament for the seventh year in a row.
But, aside from the 80 000-plus fans attending across the three days, there was another significant barometer of the game’s hopes of cracking the lucrative US sports market.
While 32 men’s and women’s sides took part in the main sevens events at the Sam Boyd Stadium, some 3,000 players and 260 teams competed at nearby venues in North America’s largest rugby competition.
They ranged from under-14 level to seniors, and included one highly-rated college football star who has turned down offers from NFL teams to focus on rugby.
USA Rugby chief executive Dan Payne calls this younger generation his sport’s “401K retirement vehicle” — a major investment for future success.
Those are some pretty phenomenal numbers, and the return of rugby to the Olympics has had a great deal to do with that.
The Review Journal spoke to John Hinkin, the Las Vegas Sevens Tournament Director, about why that is:
Hinkin called rugby’s return to the Olympics a “coup” for the sport.
“Rugby and rugby sevens have been going on for over 140 years, but anytime you can get (in) the Olympics and people can understand that aspect, it’s just so much easier for the American public to wrap their head around,” Hinkin said. “And so really, a good thing to promote the growth of the game here in the U.S. was qualifying for the Olympics.”
Those who know the game in the US have chosen to focus on grassroots development, with the country targeting kids aged between five and 13.
One of the people they have enlisted to help do that is Fijian Sevens legend Waisale Serevi:
“When I was young, I didn’t have the opportunity for top rugby players to come and help me go to the next level,” the 48-year-old [said]
“So I thought after I retired, without rugby there’s no Waisale Serevi — I would love to give back … to get young kids, to introduce them to rugby and then try to teach from all different kinds of levels.”
“Not all people can play football, not all people can play soccer, but rugby is a great opportunity for any shapes and sizes,” Serevi says. “Whether you are a big guy or a small guy like me, you still have an opportunity to play rugby.
Quite the coup to enlist the help of Serevi, who will forever be remembered by rugby fans across the world.
So far the country has yet to produce their own rugby superstar, but current Super Bowl champion Nate Ebner could be the man to step up.
Ebner took a break from playing for the New England Patriots in the NFL to represent the US rugby team, and believes that the latter can only go from strength to strength:
“Rugby has the hearts of Americans, no doubt,” Ebner [below right with Tom Brady] adds. “The excitement and the feedback that I got from (people) watching in Rio, that have never watched rugby, that watched simply because they heard my story with the Patriots and they were watching the Olympics … it has been amazing.
“Everyone that plays rugby in the United States loves it, diehard, they bleed rugby if they play it. The people that are watching think it’s an extremely exciting game, especially the seven-a-side — they don’t have the understanding of 15s yet, so sevens has been a great tool for the United States to really get the game out there.”
There’s still a fair bit I haven’t touched on in that CNN piece, so if your interest is piqued head HERE and get stuck in.
As long as we never see adverts being shown between plays I’m all for the US loving their rugby.
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