Please welcome Rocky Brown to the RWU Cache of Contributors. RB is a rugby lifer and pundit. He’s a funny talker now living in the metro-NYC area.
NEW YORK, NY – For over 20 years now I’ve heard people say that the USA is the sleeping giant of world rugby. A country blessed with great athletes, many of who don’t make it in the pro football ranks and are ripe for the picking to bolster our rugby playing stocks.
Guess what? I’m sick of hearing this. Rugby in this country will not be taken seriously until it takes itself seriously. Many of our top talent is forced to play overseas to make a viable living and our best domestic talent must play at the highest level while still holding down a full-time job.
I liken this situation to the same one the Italians and Argentinians found themselves in a number of years ago where they had a passionate base of rugby players but with no career path in their home country. So what did they do? Italy successfully lobbied to gain access to the exclusive 5 Nations Championship, and in 2000 became the 6th playing nation. Argentina successfully joined the Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championship in 2012 and secured a 16–16 draw with South Africa in only their second game.
Of equal importance is the fact that an Italian team now plays in the European Club Rugby Champions Cup and an Argentinian team with join Super Rugby in 2016, along with Japan, a nation of similar international ranking to the US.
So why do we continue to have an innocuous rugby 15’s program in this country where second rate club sides, often coached by ordinary ex-pat coaches play for a meaningless championship? Could it be because USA Rugby doesn’t have its act together?
Accepting the geographical challenges of the fact that we are a vast nation, why don’t we aim high – a west coast team playing Super Rugby and an east Coast team playing European Championship? Think of this as a show case for developing and retaining talent, not to mention the ability to draw multi-national sponsorship dollars. And then the big one; let’s aim to make the 6 Nations the 7 Nations, with a US Eagles team competing from say 2018.
It’s not until we start thinking and operating like a true rugby nation that we will actually become one. While success on the 7’s tour is wonderful for the game in this country, 15’s must still be our primary focus and the benchmark for how we judge ourselves internationally.
So come on USA Rugby, let’s get rid of the politics, show some leadership and start pushing the envelope to become a potential giant in the game rather than the sleeping giant we continued to be labeled as. After all if you don’t believe you can, you won’t!