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Thursday, December 1, 2011

USA Rugby Gets Some Love from the USOC

USA Prop Mike MacDonald sharing some love at the Ruby World Cup after Italy-USA
When the IOC voted to make rugby sevens a part of the Olymics in Rio in 2016, the hope of a lot of American rugby fans was that where the Olympics are, financial funding is not too far away. First, the Network NBC started showing live action from the Las Vegas Sevens last year. This year they showed some matches from Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand. They showed the USA-Ireland match on September 11th, and they showed the final between the All Blacks and France. For American rugby, this was huge just getting the sport on network TV.

Rugby sevens may not get a lot of respect in the rugby world, but it's a start for the sport as far as increasing the exposure of the sport. The other truism is that where there is TV and Sport, there is also money. Because rugby is now part of the Olympic movement, the US Olympic committee has just announced it will commence its first residency program commencing January, 2012. This will involve the placement of 15 men and 8 women into a full-time residency program at the Olympic Training Centre, Chula Vista, San Diego. Having a full time residency program for developing American players is an important step. American players like Todd Clever and Chris Wyles have been able to parlay their USA sevens experience to be able to play professionally overseas in the 15 man game.
USA-Australia: National Anthems at The Cake Tin in Wellington from RWC 2011

The US has some catch up work to do. In the last Pan-American Games in Mexico, the USA Sevens team took a Bronze medal, finishing behind the Gold-medal winning Canadians and the Silver-winning Argentinians.

No question that the best place for American players to develop is to be able to play professionally either in Europe, or in one of the SANZAR countries, but it's kind of a chicken and egg problem of which comes first, developing the skills to get noticed overseas, or getting American players good coaching and competition while they are young. The residency program care of the USOC will at least be a good start for American rugby.

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