Can USA rugby ever be competitive? By competitive I mean not breaking into the top 10, of the world rankings and giving teams like Scotland (No offense Scottish fans) a go for their money. No I mean can USA rugby really be competitive, in the sense of becoming the number 1 team in the world. Before we try to answer the question lets first exam where USA rugby is today
Currently USA rugby is ranked 14th in the world. USA rugby has competed in numerous world cups but has never looked like making the playoffs. With a large country, and some equally large athletes it comes as a surprise that USA rugby has not been more competitive today. Numerous sources has revealed that rugby is currently the fastest growing sport in USA but despite this it is still far behind sports like American football or basketball.
The reason for the above is obvious. Rugby in the USA is not popular amongst the population. If USA rugby can grow the game at the grassroots introducing rugby at public schools we can expect to see a rapid grow within the next 10 years.
Introducing USA Rugby To The Masses
But how can you get young athletes to choose rugby above American football? This will be up to the current USA rugby team. They need to achieve. They need to get a notable win. Perhaps making the playoffs in the next rugby world cup is a good start. If they can make it to the quarter finals there is no reason why they can’t make it to the semi finals. Providing they play against one of the weaker teams.
Can you imagine the sort of coverage USA rugby will get back home, in the US, if they can make it to the rugby world cup semi finals? The American public will take notice, millions watching the game. Once they see what rugby is, USA rugby popularity will grow rapidly.
Lets face it rugby is a much more free flowing sport than American football. While I am not trying to start a debate on which sport is better. I believe viewers fill find the quicker and more physical nature of rugby more intriguing than the stop start nature which is American football. If the rugby bug can bite in the USA. USA rugby will become enormously strong.
Can USA rugby realistically make it to the quarterfinals in the next world cup? Definitely! Providing they select a strong squad, are motivated enough and most importantly believe that USA rugby can make it to the playoffs. If I was in charge of USA rugby I would also make a large investment to recruit a world class coach like Jake White to guide the team, making sure they employ the correct tactics.
Making USA Rugby Competitive
So what will happen if rugby picks up in the USA? It will become competitive. The USA has world class athletes who are ranked number 1 in various sports. American football players are massive imagine USA rugby having a 140kg monster on the wing that runs 100 meters in under 10 seconds. Throw into the mix a couple of “basketball tall locks” and a massive forward pack and USA rugby will prosper. The eagles will be unstoppable.
USA rugby, doing good in the rugby world cup will not be enough though. USA rugby will not turn into a powerhouse overnight it will need proper resources and the correct structures for this to happen. Fortunately USA rugby is on the right track. The NFL has recently announced they will be partnering with USA rugby league limited. This could very well result in the dawning of USA rugby’s professional era.
USA rugby has an enormous amount of prospective professional rugby players they just don’t know it yet. If you look at the stats there are approximately 18 000 college football players across the USA. A large number of those players are exceptional athletes with a lot of promise but only a handful will go on to make it to the NFL, 1.5% according to official statistics. That is 262 players out of 18 000!
The unfortunate thing is many of the promising players who do not make the cut are lost to American sport forever. Should USA rugby become a professional sport many of those athletes needs to filter through to USA rugby!
Secondly it will be important to get a strong provincial competition in place. As history has showed us the teams who traditionally perform well in rugby union are the teams with a competitive provincial tournament which forms the base of any national team. Think ITM cup in New Zealand and Currie Cup in South Africa.
If USA rugby can find a way to recruit some of those 18 000 college football players they will form the foundation of a competitive provincial tournament, giving USA’s national rugby selectors so much more options thus laying the foundation to a strong national team.
I will keep a close eye on USA rugby’s progress over the next 4-years building up to the rugby world cup in Japan 2019. Let’s hope USA rugby does well and that USA rugby administrators take advantage of the new deal between the NFL and USA rugby league limited.
With some time, smart decision making and enough exposure to rugby there is no reason why USA rugby can’t make it to number 1, in the rugby world rankings, within the next 10-years. At the end of the day not only will USA rugby benefit, but world rugby as a whole will benefit enormously!