FanDuel - WFBC

July 13, 2006

Hope for North American rugby?: As part of a three year commitment to expand the sport in North America, the International Rugby Board has begun sponsoring an annual tournament between two Canadian and two American represenative teams. The tournament is underway with the Canadians out in front. Will this be enough to boost the status of two of rugby's minnows?

posted by Bulgaroktonos to other at 11:21 PM - 19 comments

i just know a little about rugby and i have to tell you that i don't think it will "take" in the U.S. at least. probably for some of the same reasons that soccer hasn't. we already have football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. not to mention golf, tennis, etc. rugby will probably always remain a club sport with many but not enough interest to go around.

posted by jakeamo15 at 01:07 AM on July 14

Looks like an attempt to replicate the 'provincial' competition in the southern hemisphere (Super 14). While rugby isn't all that popular in North America, Canada and the US regularly get to the Rugby World Cup (the top 20 nations qualify), so while they don't win against the big teams, they are not really 'minnows'. One of the design faults of rugby (especially since the advent of the professional era) is that there are very few upsets and it is increasingly hard for lesser nations to do well at the Rugby World Cup. I find it hard to believe there will be another Manu Samoa circa 1991 and 1995.

posted by owlhouse at 01:55 AM on July 14

I don't think it'll take in the states either. Too similar to American football. Although, imo, rugby is one of the best games out there. I *heart* my Munster players.

posted by Fence at 03:00 AM on July 14

I think Rugby has a legitimate shot at being one of the "big" sports. It is everything we short-attention spanned Americans want. A fast moving game (how many people are getting turned off of NFL because it is too slow), a rough game - with fighting (hockey lost the fighting aspect) and high scoring - since we can't seem to appreciate a 0-0 score or a 1-0 score. I love rugby, loved it from the first time I tried to play it - broke my nose and dislocated my shoulder, all in my first game. The best way to boost the game in my opinion - Bring over the Tri-Nations. Let Americans see the New Zealand All Blacks do their pre-game ritual. (it is actually scary facing it. We played a New Zealand team when I was in Arizona and they did that prior to the game. It is disconcerting to watch from just opposite them on the field). Maybe turn International Rugby play into 3 divisions? North/South American Europe/Africa Asia/Australia I would love to see this game hit it big in the States!

posted by Stealth_72 at 06:59 AM on July 14

Well, rugby has a toehold in a certain community here in the US. A friend of mine plays for the linked-to team.

posted by NoMich at 07:42 AM on July 14

Well, rugby has a toehold in a certain community here in the US. A friend of mine plays for the linked-to team. Crap, I clicked on the link and I am at work :(

posted by Stealth_72 at 07:47 AM on July 14

i played for 12 years from '81-'93, and there were many times we played tournaments (3 or 4 games on w/e) with just 15-16 players. now there are numerous high school teams that are producing college bound ruggers, and some of those college grads are coaching the high schools. it will grow in the u.s., but it will take time. it is the best sport to teach sportsmanship, humility and respect. bar none.

posted by chiefff at 07:49 AM on July 14

Whenever the RWC rolls around every 4 years, I'm always disappointed how badly the US and Canada perform. It seems like North America has been mooted as the next new rugby frontier for as long as I can remember. With your background in American football, you would think that there already exists a base of possible players that could be groomed for a faster, rougher game like rugby, but it never happens. Rugby is definitely a sport that needs a wider international appeal, because the RWC always end up being contested by the tri-nations, France and England, with the group matches being utterly pointless (100-0 thrashings are regular occurrences). I think the US and Canada need to enter a yearly continental championship, with Argentina and Uruguay. Maybe even add the pacific nations like Samoa, Fiji and Tonga. The way to progress the international game is regular competition between evenly matched nations. One-sided hammerings help no-one.

posted by afx237vi at 08:15 AM on July 14

This tournament alone will not be enough to boost our national ranking. BUT, the concerted effort of the numerous Men's and Women's rugby clubs in the US to bring rugby to the youth level should pay dividends in the future. As more players are introduced to and commit to playing rugby, the more experience our players and coaches will be able to take to the national level in the future. It may take many years, but I do beleive it will happen. FYI, there are now more youth rugby clubs in California than there are Men's level clubs - and there has not been a decline in the number of Men's rugby clubs! A very positive step forward for the future of US Rugby.

posted by PropIr at 08:17 AM on July 14

"Will this be enough to boost the status of two of rugby's minnows?" Short answer: No. But it's a start. Twenty years ago NOBODY ever saw Australia almost upsetting Italy at a FIFA World Cup, so why can't a North American team compete in rugby? The real problem for XV-man test rugby in North America is that it isn't shown on TV. Without television exposure, new audiences won't know about the game, can't get excited about the game, can't begin to understand the miasma of laws of the game. ~~~~~~~ "i don't think it will "take" in the U.S. at least. probably for some of the same reasons that soccer hasn't." Soccer is played by more Americans than football and basketball combined. The TV audiences aren't there yet, but just because American Idol is popular doesn't mean other people aren't interested in Nova and The American Experience on PBS. Soccer is immensely popular in the United States. Having said that, it's unlikely rugby will grow in participation the way soccer has. It looks too suicidal for most people who think of it as football without the helmets. That's a very simplistic interpretation, but that's the perception. ~~~~~~~ "One of the design faults of rugby (especially since the advent of the professional era) is that there are very few upsets and it is increasingly hard for lesser nations to do well at the Rugby World Cup." There is some truth to that (see below) but who's to say that isn't a minor hiccup? Factoid 1: There have been EIGHTEEN FIFA World Cup tournaments. And yet, there have been only SEVEN winners of that tournament. If you discount Uruguay, who haven't been competitive for 50 years, the number falls to SIX. For a sport that is far-and-away the most popular of 200 nations on the planet, that's not a lot of parity. Factoid 2: There have been FIVE IRB World Cups, and there have been FOUR winners. I believe the parity compares well, especially since Rugby Union is the number one sport is all of about five nations on earth (and three of those nations are tiny Samoa, Tonga and Fiji). Prediction: The next RWC is next year, and I would put good money on the host nation being the 5th different nation to win that trophy in 6 tournies. That's not bad parity at all for a "fringe" sport. You could say the exact same thing about ice hockey, cricket, basketball and baseball, that only a handful of nations have a realistic chance at winning World Cup or Olympic glory in those sports. Same for rugby. ~~~~~~~ "I don't think it'll take in the states either. Too similar to American football." Fair enough comment, I suppose, once we get past the idea that rugby doesn't stop for 35-second breaks after every 7 seconds of action, and once we get past the idea that rugby doesn't allow unlimited rotating player substitution, and once we get passed the idea that rugby players don't wear helmets and allow the forward pass. It's a curious part of American sporting history that until McGill invited Harvard to play rugby, American colleges wanted to play soccer. Harvard took the rugby they learned from McGill, and the other Ivy League found it wa-a-a-a-ay more exciting. They abandoned soccer quickly and threw their weight behind the "running" game. A few years later Walter Camp at Yale decided the game had to be uniquely American, so re-wrote the rules and basically introduced the foundation of what we know today as American football (or "gridiron"). There's no reason football players who don't like standing on sidelines more than half the game, who want to run with the ball *and* tackle and maybe even score a real "touchdown" instead of letting the same 3-4 players out of a 45-man roster do all the scoring, shouldn't want to give the game a go, and they'll probably be more adept at it than most other nations. ~~~~~~~ "it is the best sport to teach sportsmanship, humility and respect. bar none." Agree completely. After the Dodgers bowed out of the 2004 NL wild card against St. Louis, it was remarked that Dodger manager Jim Tracy made his players go out to the field in a single file and shake the hands of the opponents. He said it was a mark of respect he learned from NHL playoffs. But they only do that at the end of playoff series in hockey. In rugby, after you've beaten the tar out of your opponent for the previous 80 minutes, you line up and do a post-match meet-and-greet handshake with opponents AFTER EVERY MATCH, not just the conclusion of a series. Also worth remarking -- a recent study showed Rugby players are held in high esteem by those who follow the game, according to new research carried out by UK Sport and the University of Gloucestershire to assess public attitudes towards the conduct of top sportsmen and women. "A whopping 89 percent of Rugby Union spectators and 88 percent of Rugby League spectators said that their players act in a fair and sporting way. This compares favourably to an average of 80 percent for the four sports surveyed during phase one of UK Sport's Sporting Conduct study - football (soccer), cricket, tennis and golf. "Encouragingly, 89 percent of league and 83 percent of union spectators regard the players of the two rugby codes as good role models for children - significantly higher scores than those recorded for football and cricket." In short, the public and players see better role models and respect in rugby than cricket, golf and tennis. ~~~~~~~ "Whenever the RWC rolls around every 4 years, I'm always disappointed how badly the US and Canada perform. [...] "Rugby is definitely a sport that needs a wider international appeal, because the RWC always end up being contested by the tri-nations, France and England, with the group matches being utterly pointless (100-0 thrashings are regular occurrences)." That's the reality of professional rugby. At the 1991 RWC, Canada beat Fiji and lost narrowly to super-power France (19-13), advanced to the QF where they took the defending champion All Blacks to a close decision, losing 29-13. Then at the 1995 RWC they lost to two-time champ Australia 27-11 and then fell to the host nation and eventual winners South Africa 20-0. Those were close respectable contests. In the late 80s and early 90s, Canada beat Wales and France. So to say Canada was disappointing is not true, they punched well above their weight. The sad reality for Canadian rugby players was that the year 1995 Rugby Union went professional, and it hasn't been the same since, there's no way Canada could compete against NZ, SA, Aus and France now. But with some structure and development of the sport over the next 20 years, it is in fact possible that a Canadian national rugby team could surprise a few people. Maybe the new S4 championship is a start. Maybe some of those players will receive professional contracts to play union in Europe. Maybe this will lead to rugby returning to our tv sets instead of being forced to share (read: steal) broadcasts from bit-torrent files. The game needs a profile right now, and there is dick-all. That's counter-productive. I agree with you that 100-point thrashings aren't helpful. But until TV here starts showing the sport at the highest professional levels, then our players are never going to know how to play the game, youngsters won't participate because they don't even know what the game is, and hammerings are inevitable.

posted by the red terror at 09:22 AM on July 14

i don't know about you guys but rugby is on my t.v. everyday!!!!!!!!! i get rugby union, woman's rugby, etc.. and i saw the match between ireland and england, i believe, but i missed the final between scotland and ?????????, in a international competition. it's a great game. but get real it is not going to replace american football. unless of course there's a revolution and great britain takes back the colonies which it rightfully still owns?!!! lol

posted by jakeamo15 at 11:40 AM on July 14

Well, rugby has a toehold in a certain community here in the US. A friend of mine plays for the linked-to team. Crap, I clicked on the link and I am at work :( I'm sorry. When I made the comment there weren't any NSFW ads on the site. Still aren't any as far as I know. Or does your workplace frown upon gay sports teams' Web sites?

posted by NoMich at 01:01 PM on July 14

I think its really saying something when more people in the US play soccer but nobody gives it any love.

posted by Drallig9399 at 01:19 PM on July 14

Re: "Rugby is definitely a sport that needs a wider international appeal, because the RWC always end up being contested by the tri-nations, France and England, with the group matches being utterly pointless (100-0 thrashings are regular occurrences)." It's worth remembering that of the super-powers, England beat SA by 50 a couple years ago. Last weekend NZ beat Oz 32-12. Earlier today, that same Oz side slaughtered SA 49-0. So hammerings occur even at the elite level. And ... it isn't beyond the realm of possibility that next week the humiliated Boks will show up and defeat NZ. That's the way rugby is. It happens in other sports too. In 1990/91 the Buffalo Bills beat the NY Giants during the late regular season at Giants Stadium, and then a few weeks later crushed the Raiders by a cricket score in the AFC Championship game, only to fall to the underdog Giants (the team Buffalo beat weeks before) in the SB a week later. Moral of the story: when you play a violent game of physical contact that awards 7-points for a converted TD, and you play that game with a pointed ball that creates unpredictable bounces, sometimes the tide runs your way and you can run up big scores. Then a month later you can lose to the same team you just annihilated.

posted by the red terror at 09:46 AM on July 15

Moral of the story: when you play a violent game of physical contact that awards 7-points for a converted TD, and you play that game with a pointed ball that creates unpredictable bounces, sometimes the tide runs your way and you can run up big scores. Then a month later you can lose to the same team you just annihilated. But I wouldn't base a betting strategy on this!

posted by owlhouse at 06:08 PM on July 16

I would love to see a team of ruggers drafted from a pool of running backs, linebackers, defensive backs and receivers from the NFL. It could be a lot of fun to see what they could do. I've always been surprised that rugby did not get more traction among players that were good high school football players, but weren't good enough to get scholarship money to play NCAA football. Seems like there's a large untapped market of talent out there in this country at least. Would just take a little $$. As far as rugby being "a faster, rougher game", I'm not sure I agree. It's different. Rugby kind of all ebbs and flows in the same direction. Hard collisions can and do happen, but these are not quite as cataclysmic as what you see in American football. In the latter, huge behemoths that can run 40 yards in less than 6 seconds line up and run at each other at full speed and repeat this same ritual over and over again.

posted by psmealey at 01:46 PM on July 17

Re: "a faster, rougher" game. I don't think I ever made that statement. But regards the speed, sure, the NFL player can run a quicker 40. But instead of asking yourself who the quicker player is, ask yourself what the faster "game" is: a) an 80-minute game played in two halves: average duration of game: less than two hours; or b) a 60-minute game played in four quarters: average duration of game: over three hours? Rugby has more continuity. The "speed" or "tempo" of a rugby game moves much faster than an NFL game. In the time an average NFL team makes a 7-second play, advances the ball a couple yards, huddles for 35 seconds, has another 8-second play that might be a pass that gets a first-down, move the chains, wait for another 35-second huddle, etc., a rugby play could have both teams sweeping end-to-end-and-back-again with the ball moving 250 yards. I love football. But I have to conceed that as a viewer of the NFL, I probably spend more time watching replays than actual snaps, and probably as many minutes watching Dodge and Budweiser commercials as actual "ball in play" minutes. NFL football is a game I can go to the refridgerator, make sandwiches, grab beers, take piss breaks, make phone calls, change channels to get other scores, roll doobies, whatever, and not miss a single play. I've tried doing the same during rugby tests and to do likewise is infinitely less possible. The game moves too fast and I might miss something, so I take care of all that business before the game and during half-time intermission. And pay particular attention to the last two minutes of a rugby test when a game is on the line, with time ticking down and players running off their feet having to improvise with their own brains in real time; versus the last two minutes of a close football game with multiple huddles and time stoppages and players running over to get their oxygen and player substitution and coaches running in fresh players with set plays and umps moving the sticks and promos for the Simpsons and Ally McBeal or whatever -- that last two minutes of an NFL game sometimes takes 15. The last two minutes in a rugby test generally lasts two minutes, so you have to bite your nails much faster. Both sports have rough violent physical contact and collisions. Boxing, ice-hockey and rodeo do as well.

posted by the red terror at 05:40 PM on July 17

I don't think I ever made that statement. No, you didn't, afx237vi did. I didn't want to take issue with that, as I love rugby, in fact I much prefer it to American football for all the reasons you mention. This is just what I have heard from all my buddies in France and the UK, that because ruggers didn't wear such body armor, they were somehow tougher than American football players. I think that if you were to put today's NFL player in full contact games without pads and helmets, during the course of one 16 game regular season, you would probably see a dozen or so deaths, and many more permanent spinal cord injuries. Such things do happen in rugby, but they are (fortunately) very rare. Rugby is no walk in the park, to be sure, and I have no quarrel with your views and those of others on here, just hanging on a very small point in the thread.

posted by psmealey at 06:59 PM on July 17

re: "I think that if you were to put today's NFL player in full contact games without pads and helmets, during the course of one 16 game regular season, you would probably see a dozen or so deaths." I think you could say the exact same thing about NASCAR drivers and jockeys. They wear helmets for the same reason (for the former, seatbelts and rollbars, too). Does that mean Richard Petty and Willie Shoemaker were "tougher" than Lawrence Taylor or Colin Meads? I dunno. Maybe it does. From my own participation, I played both rugby and football. I never got a concussion playing football. I did, however, take knees, elbows and head collisions to my noggin playing rugby, totalled three concussions over my last two seasons, so decided to retire and took up football. There I was made a starter in the secondary because I had speed and could tackle. I gave the sport up after a couple seasons, because it got too boring standing on the sideline half the game, and doing nothing but covering and tackling when playing. I like to get my hands on the ball, and unfortunately football isn't a game that shares the ball. Football is kinda like NASCAR in the respect that a "special" player gets to drive and receives all the glory and the rest of the team toils in obscurity in the pits doing grunt work that is appreciated and recognised by hardly anybody. I also like a chance to get my name on the scoresheet and dot down TDs as part of the offense. In football, I was explicitly defense and told my job was to tackle. I love watching both sports, and it's hard to pull me away from watching my beloved Bills every Sunday, even when they suck which is pretty much their history in the 21st century. NFL may actually be my fave sport to watch on TV. But as a participant, I much preferred playing rugby, despite the full impact knees to the head. If I'm not mistaken, rugby has the highest prevalence of spinal cord injuries. Look at the pressure exerted on the back of a front-rowers neck when a scrum collapses -- it's about 2000 pounds of torque applied on the neck from each side, potentially 4000 pounds of pressure. Expecting your neck to withstand three to four tons is scary, and many unions want to ban contested scrums because they are too dangerous. (Thank my genes that I never had the bulk for a coach to throw me in the engine room! Some of the injuries I saw my front-row teammates receive made me shudder.) Max Brito famously got paralyzed from the neck down in a World Cup match. His neck vertebra were pulverized under the weight of a ruck. It happens too frequently at club level as well.

posted by the red terror at 10:00 AM on July 18

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