NELSON, NZ – Far away from the hustle and bustle of America, in a small city on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay with a population of about 60,000, Team USA’s Eagles played World Cup Rugby. Note the emphasis on the word played; they didn’t just play in the RWC, they played World Cup-level rugby. The difference, means everything. As a matter of fact, they played their hearts out against a surprisingly solid Team Italy. 27-10 was the final score and the hooter’s familiar sound ended not only the game, but the Rugby World Cup for the 2011 American squad.
Yet, while the tournament may be over for this now-seasoned group – many of whom will be returning to their day jobs – the impact they have made on Rugby in America is just beginning. The replay of this NBC/Universal broadcast will not be like the last one – a sound drubbing by a re-energized Australian team. Instead, it will leave the audience like it left us… wanting more.
That in itself is the the highest accolade we can give to this ensemble of athletic, fearless and tough-as-nails rugby players. They sacrificed their bodies time and time again, they took uppercuts and body blows and would not go down. Just as the opponent would stagger them with a sure knockout punch, they fought back. In the process they not only won over their hungry fan base, but they also earned the respect and rightful praise of the world’s rugby community – which is an achievement that is not to be taken lightly.
Congratulations Team USA, you’ve earned your stripes and made your country proud.